Jade Ingham Assistant Secretary of the CFMEU has been appointed to the Queensland Building and Construction Board. Picture: Claudia Baxter
Jade Ingham Assistant Secretary of the CFMEU has been appointed to the Queensland Building and Construction Board. Picture: Claudia Baxter

Foul-mouthed bully handed board reward

A SENIOR CFMEU official with a history of industrial unlawfulness, civil disobedience and appalling verbal abuse has been appointed by the Palaszczuk Government to the powerful body that oversees the building and construction industry in Queensland.

In a move that has shocked the industry, State Cabinet accepted the recommendation of Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni for the appointment of CFMEU assistant secretary Jade Ingham to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission board.

His term took effect last Thursday and ends on November 30, 2019.

Ingham is notorious for his abusive language.

During the dispute with building giant John Holland, he barked at construction manager Stephen Riches.

"You've said your piece, now f--- off".

He told a union rally: "We just like a f---ing blue."

On Monday, just four days after his $18,000 a year appointment, Ingham appeared in the Federal Court after the Australian Building and Construction Commission alleged he and five CFMEU officials had organised six unlawful work stoppages at the 180 Brisbane office tower.

The ABCC alleges the site visits constituted unlawful industrial action and breached the Fair Work Act. A decision is pending.

Jade Ingham Assistant Secretary of the CFMEU has been appointed to the Queensland Building and Construction Board. Picture: Claudia Baxter
Jade Ingham Assistant Secretary of the CFMEU has been appointed to the Queensland Building and Construction Board. Picture: Claudia Baxter

Ingham has been singled out by the Federal Court for his role in industrial disputes, including stopping for six days the John Holland $777 million Enoggera Army Barracks project and the $60 million QUT Kelvin Grove campus.

Fined $817,500 by the Federal Court, the CFMEU and 19 of its officials shut down the two major Brisbane sites in a "deliberate, flagrant and systematic" campaign aimed at forcing the sites' head contractor to sign a CFMEU enterprise agreement.

A high level source said he was left stunned by the appointment.

"It is nearly inconceivable that the Queensland Government would appoint a person who has shown so little regard for the law, to a board which is responsible for applying the rule of law.

"It's little different to putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank and wondering where all the blood went."

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said it was a "prime example of how this is a government run by the unions for the unions".

"I can't believe they would put someone into a regulatory role that has such a flagrant disregard for the way the building industry is run in this state,'' she said.

There are fears builders, already frustrated with the way the CFMEU wields its power, will move interstate after the Ingham appointment.

Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni last night said he welcomed the board appointments.

Minister for Housing and Public Works, Mick de Brenni, appointed CFMEU assistant secretary Jade Ingham to the Queensland Building and Construction Board. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Minister for Housing and Public Works, Mick de Brenni, appointed CFMEU assistant secretary Jade Ingham to the Queensland Building and Construction Board. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

"Each of the new board members is nominated by peak organisations representing workers, subcontractors, and builders, and I welcome their appointment," Mr de Brenni said.

The Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) is the state's building and construction industry regulator.

It is a statutory body and was established under the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991 (QBCC Act) to regulate the building industry.

Its charter includes "advising the Minister for Housing and Public Works on issues affecting the building industry and consumers'' and advising the Minister about "unfair or unconscionable trading practices affecting security of payments to subcontractors".

Ingham is generally regarded within the industry as the right-hand man of the CFMEU's state secretary Michael Ravbar.

Mr Ravbar was last night unavailable for comment.

In a Federal Court case determination in March this year involving the army barracks and QUT projects, Ingham was fined $30,000 for 11 contraventions of the Act.

Work stoppages took place over several months in 2013.

The industrial action ­continued until the head ­contractor signed the CFMEU enterprise agreement. Union officials at the QUT site stood in front of cars and prevented workers who wanted to work from accessing the site.

They held up signs labelling the workers "gutless grubs" "scabs" "dogs" and "weak as p-ss". In November 2012, the CFMEU published an article referring to the head contractor as "the last major tier one builder to knock over" in terms of signing a CFMEU enterprise agreement.

The court heard that when work first stopped at the QUT site on March 8, 2013, Ingham warned the head contractor's operations manager: "This is just the start of it, the sooner you sign the agreement, the sooner it will stop."

 

Jade Ingham leads a CFMEU protest against CUB. Picture: Mark Calleja
Jade Ingham leads a CFMEU protest against CUB. Picture: Mark Calleja

At a meeting of workers on November 7, 2013, after a ­further stoppage of work, some workers raised the ­prospect of returning to work with Ingham.

According to court documents, Ingham responded with words to the effect: "Look, I'm running this meeting, keep quiet."

The workers left the site on November 7 and did not return until December 20, 2013. In its judgment, the court "(made) it clear that coercion and intimidation contrary to law will not be tolerated and will be the subject of significant sanctions".

Justice Darryl Rangiah said that the union's conduct was "deliberate, flagrant and ­systematic", with "no evidence of any attempts by the CFMEU to take corrective steps to ensure that (CFMEU officials) and agents comply with the law".

Justice Rangiah said the union's conduct and breaches of the FWA (Fair Work Act) must be regarded as very serious and deserving of very significant penalties. "The contraventions affected two major projects and impacted upon a large number of subcontractors and workers.''

"The behaviour of the respondents who contravened s343 of the FWA was confronting, threatening and intimidatory.''

ABC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said that "the sustained campaign on the head contractor impacted ­important major projects and risked the livelihoods of those who wanted to work". "The level of intimidation directed at both the head contractor and the workers is alarming," Mr McBurney said.

In July, 2016, Federal Court Judge Michael Jarrett imposed more than $50,000 in fines on the CFMEU and several of its members over unlawful industrial action at a Fortitude Valley work site.

Ingham was hit with a $2500 penalty after the CFMEU placed pressure on the head contractor to re-­employ or reinstate a CFMEU delegate on the $105 million Brooklyn project.

After a meeting offsite, no "productive'' building work was done on the site between April 7 and April 12, which cost contractor Hindmarsh and its sub-contractors.

Judge Jarrett said the CFMEU through its officers and employees had "a long and sorry history'' of industrial unlawfulness and said that "choosing unlawful means to further its industrial objectives''.

Other appointees last week were builder Yvonne Pengilly and Andrew Hickman, a construction company manager.



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