Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker report in The Age
The second most powerful official in the NSW construction union has been arrested and charged for buying cocaine from two other officials who were allegedly dealing drugs from a union car.
NSW Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union assistant secretary Michael Greenfield - the son of state secretary Darren Greenfield - and union organisers Nicholas Rekes and Simon Gutierrez were arrested in April by plain-clothes NSW detectives as part of an operation targeting cocaine trafficking in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Mr Rekes and Mr Gutierrez are both facing charges of supplying cocaine and dealing with the proceeds of crime. Mr Rekes is also facing an additional charge of trafficking an indictable quantity of cannabis.
In a statement to The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday afternoon, the NSW branch of the union said the trio had received a "first and final warning" and were required to undergo drug testing twice a week as well as counselling.
It is understood that Mr Greenfield is alleged to be a customer of the pair and is accused of purchasing a gram of cocaine during the police operation.
The car from which Mr Rekes and Mr Gutierrez were allegedly selling drugs was believed to have been registered with the CFMEU.
Information released by the NSW Department of Justice states that Mr Greenfield intends to plead guilty to possessing cocaine.
The allegations will rock the CFMEU, including the claim - yet to be tested in court - that Mr Greenfield was charged in circumstances connected to the suspected involvement of two of his union subordinates in serious criminal activity.
In its statement, the NSW branch of the union said the drug testing and counselling measures the trio were facing while the court processes continued went beyond the CFMEU's normal requirements for dealing with employees' illicit drug use.
"The CFMEU argues for the right to fair process for its members in such circumstances, and is applying those same rights to its own employees while sending a very clear message it does not tolerate illicit drug use," the NSW branch statement said.
The cocaine charges will be a serious political challenge for Labor leader Anthony Albanese, as the Morrison government is understood to be considering reviving stalled legislation aimed at increasing the oversight and regulation of unions.
The proposed legislation has previously been described by the Labor movement as undemocratic and overzealous union-busting.
The CFMEU donates millions of dollars to the ALP and had extracted a commitment from Labor to abolish the building industry regulator if it won office.
The controversial union has recently come under fierce scrutiny in Victoria, where state secretary John Setka recently indicated he would plead guilty to harassing a female.
The union has privately accused state and federal police of doing the Coalition’s bidding, an accusation that reached fever pitch after the prosecution of Mr Setka for blackmail collapsed in 2018 in a major embarrassment for Victoria Police.
Attorney General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the charging of Mr Greenfield and the two NSW union organisers with drug offences involved “very serious criminal allegations”.
Mr Porter said the CFMEU had repeatedly breached industrial relations laws.
Mr Porter said there was “no more fundamental question for Labor” than whether it would continue its relationship with the CFMEU, including receiving huge donations from the union.
In NSW, the union has previously faced serious accusations involving Michael Greenfield’s father and boss, state secretary Darren Greenfield.
Darren Greenfield was accused during the royal commission into unions in 2015 of bribery and making death threats, but he was never charged and was later elected to head the CFMEU’s NSW branch.
Mr Greenfield had previously said the accusations he faced before the royal commission were “a witch hunt”.