One of controversial union boss John Setka's closest allies has quit his roles in preparation for taking on the top job in the mega-union representing 150,000 construction, forestry, maritime, mining and energy workers.
Militant Maritime Union of Australia president Christy Cain resigned from that role and as the union's West Australian state secretary at a meeting in December before his planned ascension to national secretary of the CFMMEU.
Christy Cain has been hailed by union allies as “effectively the national secretary-elect of the CFMMEU”.Credit:Philip Gostelow
Mr Cain's move solidifies control of one of the nation's largest and most powerful unions – even as its mining and manufacturing divisions appear likely to split off – in a faction with a record of firebrand unionism but poor ties with large sections of the Labor Party.
In an internal report to members, obtained by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, the maritime union said Mr Cain chose to step down effective January 25 "to remove any further conflicts of interest that arose with [former national CFMMEU secretary] Michael O'Connor's resignation".
Christy Cain (centre) is close to John Setka (right).
Mr O'Connor resigned late last year before a vote by unionists allied to Mr Setka, the Victorian construction secretary of the CFMMEU, to push him out amid a long-running internal conflict.
It was sparked by Mr Setka's belief that others in the union had done too little to support him against calls for his resignation after a 2019 conviction for harassing his wife in a series of text messages.
One claim Mr Setka's backers levelled against Mr O'Connor, the brother of federal Labor frontbencher Brendan O'Connor, is that he had a conflict of interest by representing both the manufacturing division and running the national union, which the maritime union's statement revives.
However, the union's rules state that only the boss of one of the divisions is eligible for the national secretary position, which could cause legal problems for Mr Cain because he does not hold such a role. He declined to comment, as did Mr O'Connor.
The maritime union celebrated Mr Cain's likely transition into the national secretary role, which could be enabled by a change to the union's rules.
"Comrade Chris Cain is now effectively the national secretary-elect of the CFMMEU, bringing to the job MUA values and the determination to make our broader union a fighting organisation that provides leadership to working people and the entire trade union movement," the union's message to members reads.
Mr Cain called on Labor leader Anthony Albanese to consider resigning in June 2019 after he moved to expel Mr Setka from the ALP for comments he made about anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty, which Mr Cain said were "misconstrued… false allegations".
He is also in conflict with West Australian Labor Premier Mark McGowan over plans to build a more automated port in the state.
In a Facebook post in December, Mr Cain said Mr Setka was one of the "most fair dinkum union people in this country".
Mr Cain's move triggered a round of appointments within the maritime union at its national, Sydney, West Australian and South Australian offices.
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