CFMEU rift forced early departure

A total relationship breakdown within local Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union ranks has been blamed for the shock departure of former secretary Greg Hardy in the midst of the intense 2013 Yallourn Power Station operator lockout.

In a resignation letter to national president Tony Maher, dated 8 July, and recently provided to The Express, Mr Hardy detailed the interference the rift was having on the high profile industrial dispute; “I have tried to work around the relationship problem and get on with my various roles both administrative and industrial. Unfortunately, it is now interfering with industrial matters,” Mr Hardy wrote.

While not explicitly mentioned in the letter, a fallout between Mr Hardy and CFMEU Victorian mining and energy president Luke van der Meulen has been widely discussed within union and workforce quarters.

“A couple of years ago, I saw what I believed to be wrong-doing within the district. As the person in the best position to both recognise and do something about it, I intervened,” Mr Hardy said in the letter.

“This led to a total breakdown of a long established relationship within the office.”

Last month it emerged Mr van der Meulen had been under in-house investigation over the alleged misuse of his union credit card for personal travel expenses – after Mr Hardy initially approached Mr Van der Meulen about the matter in 2012.

Mr Hardy’s intentions to resign publicly emerged two months into the Yallourn lockout, which saw 75 operators barred from entering work without pay after a bitter enterprise bargaining dispute reached an impasse.

The Express understands with industrial proceedings at a fierce stalemate, it was viewed among union quarters the stand off would struggle to overcome fierce personality clashes between Mr Hardy and EnergyAustralia’s industrial representatives.

Concerns were also raised about Mr Hardy’s “militant” and “hard line” approach.

In his resignation letter, Mr Hardy said his efforts in the Yallourn dispute had been undermined, which was negatively impacting on the bargaining position.

“Although the timing of my resignation is regrettable, I believe the undermining of the campaign will cease with my resignation and thus it is in the best interests of those members.”

While numerous sources have dismissed the letters’ references to “undermining” as a storm in a teacup, it is understood Mr van der Meulen made approaches to the locked out workforce to gauge their views on Mr hardy’s leadership – under which some workers were preparing to camp in protest outside Yallourn until Christmas to shame the company into submission.

Mr van der Meulen subsequently took over the dispute in August, and was able to see parties return to the negotiation table, before an agreement was reached on 27 September.

It is understood the in-house investigation into Mr van der Meulen – which included an alleged $108 payment made on a union credit card on a personal trip to Buchan in 2012 – is now being looked at by the division’s head office in Sydney.

Mr van der Muelen last month said he has consistently welcomed any investigation.

“I have never used the union credit for personal business. Of course if I have used the wrong card mistakenly, I will pay back whatever I owe the union,” Mr Van der Meulen wrote to Mr Hardy when asked about the payment in 2012.

“I was not alleging anything corrupt. I was simply doing my job and advising you of an apparent error… You have on multiple occasions used the union credit card for personal business,” Mr Hardy responded at the time.

Mr Hardy and Mr van der Meulen were unavailable for comment.