CFMEU loses appeal against compensation

An ex union official has won his appeal for compensation against the Queensland CFMEU over work-related stress leading to a mental breakdown in 2010.

On Friday last week the Queensland Industrial Relations commissioner found in favour of the 2013 decision by the Worker’s Compensation Regulator, that Stuart Vaccaneo was entitled to compensation for stress, and dismissed the appeal lodged by the CFMEU.

Qld CFMEU has been ordered to pay costs of the respondents, including the Workers’ Compensation Regulator, and can be subject of a further application to the commission.

Vaccaneo told Australian Mining he has made a claim against Queensland Workcover for workers compensation up to $1.5 million, and is not suing the CFMEU.

“The CFMEU have been deliberately and incorrectly saying that for years I am suing the union,” he said.

“That has been one of the ways that Smyth and company have been dragging my status with the rank and file.

“It is also the basis on which they have justified spending Union money to continue their attack on me.”

Commissioner Graeme Neate acknowledged the difficulty of assessing the case, due to the “unsatisfactory state of the evidence” relating to “vexatious and derogatory” emails alleged to have been sent by Mackay union inspectors Steve Smyth and Timothy Whyte.

Vaccaneo, a member of the CFMEU for more than 30 years, suffered a mental breakdown on 11 August 2010 and did not return to work, staying on sick leave until 28 August 2011 when he signed a deed of settlement and release.

In January The Australian reported that Vaccaneo had pledged to provide evidence of corruption and unlawful industrial action to the royal commission into unions.

“It is my firm intention that the CFMEU will be investigated along with the Australian Workers Union and the Health Services Union by the royal commission because the only way the organisation is going to be cleaned up is for someone to have a very hard look and force these people to answer questions,” Vaccaneo said.

The Queensland CFMEU was given 20 days to appeal the judgement.

CFMEU general secretary Andrew Vickers was unable to confirm whether the union would again appeal the decision, but indicated advice was being taken.

"The matter is a Qld District matter and becasue of District autonomy under our rules, the final decision to appeal will be a matter for the district. I am aware the district is taking advice from lawyers in terms of an appeal," he said.

Vickers said the union did not condone derogatory or seriously expletive language, but did not have the power to bring disciplinary action against district officials.

"The structure of the union only permits the National Office to give advice, not to initiate action against district officials," he said.

The union chief also claimed he was "personally aware of serious falsehoods" in the case.

"I am advised the union strongly opposes the worker's comp claim as it firmly believes the claim is a sham," he said.

"The union has a long and proud history of supporting our members who have bona fide compensation claims. We have not been afraid to tell members with questionable or false claims that the union will not support them."

Image: ABC

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