Jason Frecklington has told how his coffee shop was put out of business by an Electrical Trades Union boycott targeting his wife Deb. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Jason Frecklington has told how his coffee shop was put out of business by an Electrical Trades Union boycott targeting his wife Deb. Picture: Jamie Hanson

Jason Frecklington close to tears over redundancies boycott

THE husband of LNP Leader Deb Frecklington has revealed how a union campaign targeting their family business caused them financial distress and left him on the brink of mental breakdown.

Speaking out for the first time, Jason Frecklington has told The Sunday Mail of his brush with depression as he battled against a boycott orchestrated by the Electrical Trades Union of his coffee shop in the iconic Queensland town of Kingaroy.

The father of three, who now works with indigenous families in Cherbourg, fought back tears and visibly shook as he described how the family was targeted during the height of the Newman government.

"It was bloody tough," Mr Frecklington said.

"The union attacks were incredibly stressful and took a pretty big personal toll.

"To be put in a position that I may have to lose hardworking staff just because these thugs were targeting us for political reasons."

The family’s fledgling Gloria Jean’s franchise in the town’s shopping mall was popular with locals, employing nine staff and turning a profit, Mr Frecklington said.
The family’s fledgling Gloria Jean’s franchise in the town’s shopping mall was popular with locals, employing nine staff and turning a profit, Mr Frecklington said.

The family's fledgling Gloria Jean's franchise in the town's shopping mall was popular with locals, employing nine staff and turning a profit, Mr Frecklington said.

"It was still a start-up business, we were still building clients," he said.

"And some will say the coffee was crap and you shouldn't be going there anyway. You get that, but it was successful."

Turnover dropped 20 per cent almost overnight in late 2012 when union officials ordered workers at the nearby Tarong power station to shun the shop as payback for the State Government-owned com­pany's decision to offer its staff voluntary redundancies.

"We had some wives coming in saying that their husbands would kill them if they knew they were in the shop," he said. "It was fairly obvious that you couldn't see the hi-vis shirts coming in and then you weren't seeing their partners."

Mr Frecklington said most locals were too polite to mention the boycott.

"Everyone knew it was happening," he said. "It is like everything, if you can't say something good, you don't say anything at all, really."

The union whispering campaign worked and the business never recovered.

"Once you lose people, it's hard to get people back," Mr Frecklington said.

"They go and they take their friends with them because most people come as a couple or a group.

"If one union member had three friends, then they all go somewhere else."

Mr Frecklington's hands shook uncontrollably and he fought back tears as he described how he had to take another job just to keep the business running and to avoid having to sack staff.

The shop eventually closed last year when the franchise agreement expired.

"We had five schoolkids as well as gap-year kids come through and do a year (as staff) and we had a couple of single mums," he said.

Union officials ordered workers at the nearby Tarong power station to shun the shop as payback for the State Government-owned com­pany’s decision to offer its staff voluntary redundancies. Picture: David Martinelli
Union officials ordered workers at the nearby Tarong power station to shun the shop as payback for the State Government-owned com­pany’s decision to offer its staff voluntary redundancies. Picture: David Martinelli

"I doubt these union guys have ever had to write a pay cheque or be stressed about it.

"The thing is a lot of small businesses run on such a tight margin anyway - you lose 10 per cent and you're off."

The Frecklingtons' three daughters knew what was going on and were targeted at school over their mother's role in the Newman government.

Mr Frecklington said he was proud of his wife and had no regrets about her decision to enter politics.

Mrs Frecklington, who became Opposition Leader late last year, said the unions had targeted her family simply because they could.

"This was a business that was employing locals, we never made it political," she said.

"We supported local sporting groups and were active in the community."

The family is now moving on from the experience, but Mrs Frecklington said it was a harsh lesson for a first-term politician to deal with.

"Our kids don't choose for us to be in politics and Jason didn't choose, although he agreed and supported me," she said. "It was distressing - and way more distressing for Jason because he is not the politician."

 



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