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The Federal Court has ordered controversial union boss John Setka to stop poaching members from the rival faction of recently resigned national secretary Michael O'Connor.
Mr O'Connor, who remains secretary of the CFMMEU's national manufacturing division, went back to the courts after failing in his initial bid to stop about 200 glaziers, cabinetmakers and floor workers from joining Mr Setka's construction division to sure up his numbers.
Former CFMMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor resigned from the position last week.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
In an appeal judgement handed down on Wednesday, Justices Debra Mortimer, Darryl Rangiah and Richard White ordered Mr Setka, the state secretary of the union's construction and general division, to cease and desist from "inducing, encouraging or advising" members of the manufacturing division to switch sides.
The dispute arose in about August last year when, according to the court judgement, the respondents – including Mr Setka – began to encourage members of the manufacturing division in Victoria to resign and join the construction division instead.
More than 200 members employed on construction sites and working in floor laying, glass and cabinetmaking switched divisions, the judgement said.
Mr O'Connor's position, presented by Slater & Gordon Lawyers, was that members couldn't choose which division they were a part of and could only belong to the one that related to their profession.
CFMEU Victorian secretary John Setka.Credit:Chris Hopkins
Lawyers from Maurice Blackburn, for Mr Setka, argued a section of the union's rules implied that these professions could be included in his construction and general division.
The court initially came down in favour of Mr Setka in April before Mr O'Connor appealed.
Mr O'Connor has sought further court orders, including the repayment of membership fees the construction division collected, but the Federal Court on Wednesday said relief would be decided by the original judge who oversaw the initial application.
The court stoush revealed internal conflicts within the union amid the more recent public power plays.
Mr O'Connor resigned as national secretary last week, citing irreconcilable differences, warning of damage to the union movement if the CFMMEU lost its unity.
"Sadly, what has been an effective organisation, united in purpose, is now totally dysfunctional," his draft resignation statement, as reported by The Age, said.
"The organisation has now failed the test of political maturity with people unwilling to work together, listen to each other or compromise for the sake of the organisation and the members' interests," the draft statement said.
It follows a fight over Mr Setka's influence after he pleaded guilty last year to harassing his wife, which led to calls for his resignation from the union and the Labor Party.
Mr Setka handed in his Labor party membership last year, withdrawing an appeal against a Supreme Court decision that allowed his expulsion.
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