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ACTU wants inquiry into blackmail charges

by
May 17, 2018

Two construction union bosses have had blackmail charges dropped after a long legal battle.

A failed blackmail case against two CFMEU officials has been called a politically-motivated "farce" designed to hurt unionism after Victorian prosecutors dropped charges.

CFMEU state leader John Setka and his deputy Shaun Reardon were fighting allegations they blackmailed Boral managers Paul Dalton and Peter Head at a coffee shop meeting in Melbourne in April 2013.

It was alleged the pair threatened to blockade Boral plants and trucks if the company refused to meet union demands.

But after considering the evidence, prosecutors withdrew the charges on Wednesday mid-way through a pre-trial hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Outside court, Setka said the decision was a win for workers, and called the case an attempt by the coalition government and others to criminalise union activities.

"It's definitely a witch-hunt," he told reporters.

"You've got all sorts of organisations that were involved in this conspiracy."

The Victorian Trades Hall Council labelled it a "a politically motivated farce", designed to smear the Australian union movement.

"Malcolm Turnbull should be the first person to apologise," secretary Luke Hilakari said.

But Federal Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash denied the decision was embarrassing to the government, saying it was a police matter.

The case centred on a North Melbourne cafe meeting called by Boral in the hope the union would lift a black ban on its cement deliveries.

At the time, Boral was the subject of a boycott linked to the union's industrial fight with building giant Grocon over safety concerns.

During the committal hearing, which was meant to determine whether Setka and Reardon would stand trial, questions were raised about the Boral managers destroying meeting notes.

It was also revealed some key witnesses redrafted their statements time after time, one doing as many as 41 drafts.

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