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Two CQ men win David and Goliath case against mining giant

TWO Central Queensland coalminers have won their long-running unfair dismissal case against BHP Billiton Mitsubishi with the Federal Court ruling the multi-national mining giant breached the Fair Work Act.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union's win against BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance meant the two workers had their sackings ruled "null and void" two years after losing their jobs. Both Justin Winter and Kevin Adams were union officials at BMA's Peak Downs open-cut mine in Central Queensland

The marathon fight began when each separately spoke to colleague Robert Cramond about his decision to leave the coalmining union in August 2008.

Two days later, Mr Cramond said he spoke with Mr Winter about the same issue. Mr Cramond complained to managers that he was "concerned about his job and the safety of himself and his wife" after the encounters.

At the time, he claimed he was intimidated and harassed, but a BMA investigation turned up little.

It was not until three years later, after a failed defamation case from Mr Adams against Mr Cramond, that the allegations were resurrected.

On August 5, 2011, Peak Downs mine manager Brandon Craig sacked both Mr Winter and Mr Adams.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union launched its claim that the two were wrongly terminated.

This legal action was against a background of a bitter enterprise bargaining dispute, in which BMA and unions clashed both on the site through strikes and protests and in court.

On Friday, Justice Berna Collier found this context likely influenced the company's decision to sack the two union workers.

Mr Winter and Mr Adams, she said, were simply working as union delegates when dealing with Mr Cramond.

She described Mr Cramond as "prone to exaggeration".

Justice Collier said that although Mr Craig followed the rules of the BMA, she said the earlier defamation case gave him justification for terminating the workers.

In both cases, she found in favour of the CMFEU's case that BMA breached the Fair Work Act for targeting them for being officers in a union.

A spokeswoman for BMA said the company was aware of the decision and would consider its options.

A CFMEU spokesman said the union should not have to go to the Federal Court to get justice for its workers.

Topics:  bhp billiton mitsubishi alliance business cfmeu fair work act federal court mining


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