CFMEU loses appeal against former union boss

THE CFMEU has lost an appeal against a compensation claim by a former Central Queensland union boss who made allegations of dirty tricks, guerrilla-style tactics and corruption in the organisation.

Brisbane-based union boss and whistleblower Stuart Vaccaneo launched his compensation bid in 2011 after he quit the organisation following a serious breakdown from what he said was workplace stress and bullying.

Mr Vaccaneo told a Q-Comp hearing in 2013 he was the subject of defamatory emails and a guerrilla campaign following his criticism of the sector at the height of the 2009 global financial crisis.

Mr Vaccaneo at the time was highly critical of BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance's decision to slash 1000 jobs from its suite of mines in the Bowen Basin near Mackay and Rockhampton.

He subsequently won his battle after Q-Comp found there was overwhelming evidence Mr Vaccaneo suffered an injury and a breakdown after being subjected to union attacks, but stopped short of saying it was targeted.

He was awarded an undisclosed compensation amount, but the CFMEU appealed the decision to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

Last year during a hearing the commission was told Mr Vaccaneo been diagnosed with a serious psychological disorder as a result of his treatment at the hands of the union.

The commission heard that one of four stressors Mr Vaccaneo's case relied on was a series of emails sent in December 2008, including several that Mackay-based union boss Steven Smyth sent, raising concerns about a product being used in underground coal mines.

In the emails the external company and its executives were referred to as low life scabs, dogs, grubs and Judas.

The company the emails were about obtained them, thus exposing the union to defamation proceedings in court.

Mr Vaccaneo claimed the emails, especially the use of the word scab, was highly derogatory and offensive.

In order to be successful in its appeal, the union had to prove that Mr Vaccaneo's injuries were not caused at work but rather were caused externally.

It failed to do so.

Industrial Commissioner Graham Neate, in dismissing the union's appeal, said the evidence supported a finding that Mr Vaccaneo's injuries arose out of, or in the course of, his employment and that his employment was a significant contributing factor to the development of his injury.

Commissioner Neate further ordered the union pay Mr Vaccaneo's costs.

- APN NEWSDESK.



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