CFMEU Victorian secretary John Setka and his deputy Shaun Reardon are facing blackmail charges after being arrested on Sunday in separate operations that a senior union official said “reek of overkill”.
The union slammed the way the men were arrested in front of their family and children.
“The CFMEU has cooperated with every request from the royal commission and the police could have conducted their business at the office during working hours,” CFMEU construction division national secretary Dave Noonan said in a statement.
Mr Noonan said both men would plead not guilty to the charges.
The pair were investigated by Taskforce Heracles, a joint Victorian and federal police unit that takes on cases referred from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption and Governance.
In a statement on Sunday, Victoria Police said it had arrested a 51-year-old from West Footscray and a 47-year-old from Ocean Grove and charged each with one count of blackmail.
The charges are understood to relate to Boral and its supply of concrete to Grocon, a developer that has been the target of CFMEU industrial action.
In a statement, Mr Noonan said “treating union officials like fugitives on the run was obviously designed to create maximum political damage to the union with little regard for their families”.
“The community expects more of the police. We should be able to trust that our police are not doing the grunt work of a Government desperate to mount an attack on the working rights of people in this country,” he said.
“The Federal Liberal Government has taken 57 police and assigned them to a taskforce whose only achievements to date include two theatrical raids whose legality is in doubt, the prolonged questioning and harassment of staff in their homes, the failed pursuit of Johnny Lomax without any evidence and now, the hyper-staged arrests of two senior officers of the union.”
Victoria Police said a “lengthy investigation” had led to the charges.
Both men have been granted bail and will appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.