A tradie’s attempt to use “sovereign citizen” tactics to stop union staff from inspecting a Melbourne building site riddled with occupational health and safety breaches backfired miserably after authorities arrived.
Two staff members from Victorian and Tasmanian trade union CFMEU visited the Keyway building site to survey a number of potential safety violations when they were confronted by the uncooperative site manager.
In a video posted by the union to Facebook, a female union employee can be heard explaining her right to enter the site before being interrupted by the manager.
“You’re not serving me, you’re serving the company if that’s who you’re contracting with,” the manager said, with the female inspector responding by explaining her role with the CFMEU.
The inspectors were first approached by this site manager. Picture: Facebook / CFMEU
The manager is then filmed doing air-quote hand gestures while mumbling bogus sovereign-like jargon.
“You’re acting under a pretence of a contract, you have a contractual right, obligation, authority,” he said.
The inspectors appeared to laugh off the statement with the female employee asking, “what are you talking about? We could make movies out of this”.
The manager continued with his bizarre reasoning, before concluding his tirade by saying: “you have to take your allegations and your presumptions with the builder”.
Baffled by this response, the inspectors explained to the man he was “the builder” they needed to speak to given he had identified himself as the site manager on construction site signage.
The man then waved his hand as if he was brushing off the claim, before describing himself as a “labourer” and “all kinds of things”.
The video then cuts to a new clip of the employee eventually admitting he is the site manager, before declining to take the female inspector’s notice of suspected contravention.
“You have to take that up with the building,” he said.
The female inspector called the site office a “tin hut”. Picture: Facebook / CFMEUTwo more employees at the site also clashed with the inspectors. Picture: Facebook / CFMEU
The female inspector explained to the man how his failure to comply meant he was “hindering and obstructing” their right to enter the premises, with the video cutting to a new scene after the manager walked away.
Shortly after, the union employees spoke to another builder who, along with the site manager, threatened to call the police on the CFMEU pair.
Once police were called, another employee approached the pair demanding they “get off (their) property”.
“Go wait outside,” the man, who appeared to not be wearing any high-visibility or PPE gear, told the inspectors who were waiting for WorkSafe to arrive.
“We’re waiting at the entrance, technically we should be waiting at the site office,” the female inspector responded.
In the scene that followed, the inspector recording the footage explaining the construction company had locked everyone out of the site while identifying a number of OH&S violations.
These included no water in the barriers, site hoarding incorrectly installed with inappropriate excavation work underneath and insecure fencing.
Inspectors found a support beam was being held by only a few rocks. Picture: Facebook / CFMEUThe inspectors found the workers have excavated under the hoarding. Picture: Facebook / CFMEU
A brace that was supposed to be supporting a wall was also incorrectly secured, with a couple of rocks put in place to hold up the beam supporting it.
In regards to the health of employees, no water or shade was located on site with builders forced to work in the sun and the first-aid area was set up in the same room as the site office which the inspector called a “tin hut”.
“Apparently we’ve got no reason to worry about anything that’s happening on this site, that’s now locked,” the female inspector said.
Victoria police were filmed talking to one of the work site managers and eventually the inspectors were allowed to evaluate the site.
The conditions of the site and behaviour of its building managers bewildered fellow tradies and other viewers of the video, with many calling for the workplace to be shut down before someone gets seriously injured.
“What are we going back 50 years? Shut them down before someone does get hurt, keep them honest. Thanks CFMEU. Be strong,” one man replied.
“It‘s disturbing how certain builders think it’s OK to operate this way. Work is getting worse with these dodgy companies these days!,” another commenter said.
A third added: “Astonishingly, they think they can breach these rules, and rather than addressing them and getting on with the job it has to be escalated to WorkSafe and the police, compounding the issue.”
A tradie called the police to the site but plans backfired when the inspectors were allowed in. Picture: Facebook / CFMEU
Meanwhile others praised the female inspector for the way she handled the situation amid comments the union were overstepping.
“If we didn’t have people like her, whose job it is to confront shoddy worksites, we would have more fatal accidents and personal and family grief,” one person said.
A second added: “She was doing her job, it’s up to her to make sure that nobody dies and everyone goes home at the end of the day.”
The incident follows a spate of encounters between authorities and sovereign citizens, who believe they are immune from the rule of law.
Recently, most confrontations have occurred between people who identify themselves as a “living man” and police, with many landing in court over their ordeals.
One of the latest incidents involved a man filming his encounter with two members of Victoria Police after they pulled him over for not wearing a seatbelt.
He refused to provide his name and address so the constables could send him an infringement notice, however he was quickly outwitted when they found his details after looking up his vehicle registration.
Another incident in December involved a police officer smashing a driver’s window in South Australia after he failed to provide his driver’s licence.
Meanwhile, a woman who was driving without a licence or number plates claimed she didn’t need them when she was pulled over by NSW police because she was “going sovereign”.
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News.com.au has contacted Victoria Police and CFMEU for comment.
Keyway built declined to comment on the matter.
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