The civil court hearing in which construction giant Abigroup, part of the Lend Lease empire, is claiming damages over the Queensland Children’s Hospital construction site strike of August-October last year, has been postponed to 4 February 2014. It will run for ten days.
The case was due to come to court on 21 October, but has been postponed because of a legal argument relating to another case, raised by the CEPU union.
Abigroup’s claim is for many millions in damages — to cover its losses from the strike — against the CEPU, the CFMEU and BLF unions, and also against Bob Carnegie, an individual trade-unionist and socialist (and Workers’ Liberty Australia member) who helped as a community activist in the workers’ dispute.
Earlier this year Bob faced contempt-of-court charges over the nine-week dispute, in which the workers won their demand for a union-negotiated site agreement, after a nine-week stoppage.
After a strong campaign, in which construction sites in Brisbane and other Australian capital cities were twice shut down by protest strikes, Bob was acquitted on the contempt charges. But in the civil case the test of evidence is “balance of probability”, not “beyond reasonable doubt”. Unless we organise a strong campaign to alert the labour movement and public opinion to the issues, Bob could face crushing fines and damages.
The point of suing Bob is not that Abigroup has any chance of getting millions of dollars out of an individual worker. It is to inflict exemplary punishment which will deter other activists in future from helping workers in dispute.
The legal delay gives us three months to organise and campaign. Supporters are asked to begin by downloading and distributing the new campaign leaflet at Defend Bob Carnegie.