15 January 2015“Coordinated and strategic” law breaking costs CFMEU & organisers $205,100

CFMEU’s track record in court is “dismal”: Judge    

The Federal Court’s Justice White has penalised the CFMEU and 10 of its current and former officials a total of $205,100 for illegal activity on four Adelaide construction sites, describing their behavior as “coordinated and strategic”.  This includes a $5000 penalty for CFMEU organiser John Perkovic, who tried to physically intimidate a Government employee, including calling the Government employee a “f**king piece of sh*t”, at the Ibis Hotel construction site.

“Mr Perkovic’s conduct in the…incident was particularly egregious. He instigated the incident and engaged in sustained intimidatory and abusive conduct towards [the Government employee],” the Court said in the penalty judgment. “Mr Perkovic attempted to belittle, humiliate and intimidate [the Government employee]…It is on the contrary to [the Government employee’s] credit that he stood his ground and did not respond in kind. Mr Perkovic created circumstances which could easily have developed into something more serious…Mr Perkovic positioned himself so closely to [the Government employee] during the incident as to attempt physical intimidation.” The Court said Government employees should be free to go about their work free from “harassment, bullying or intimidation”.

Mr Perkovic was one of six CFMEU organisers who broke the law at the Ibis Hotel site on 1 May 2014. “The very number of CFMEU organisers attending the Grenfell Street Site on 1 May 2014 suggests coordinated and strategic action by the CFMEU resulting in deliberate contraventions of Section 500,” The Court said. Section 500 of the Fair Work Act, states that Federal right of entry permit holders must not hinder, obstruct or act in an improper manner when on site.

The penalties of $205,100 are for right of entry breaches at Resthaven Aged Care Facility, Minda Homes Master Plan Stage 1 and the Ibis Hotel site in March, April and May last year. It includes a $4,000 penalty for CFMEU SA’s Assistant Secretary Michael McDermott.

In relation to CFMEU organiser David Bolton’s illegal conduct at the Minda Homes Master Plans Stage 1 project on 7 April, the Court said: “This was Mr Bolton’s third contravention of s500 within a period of three weeks. He had had the opportunity to reflect upon the wrongfulness of his actions. Accordingly, his conduct on 7 April 2014 after he had entered the Somerton Park site seems to evidence a deliberate persistence by him in unlawful conduct.”

The Court described the CFMEU’s record in the courts as “dismal”. “The element of deterrence is particularly important in the present case because of the CFMEU’s long record of non-compliance with industrial legislation…It is apparent that the penalties imposed in the past have not caused the CFMEU and its officials to comply with the requirements of the FW Act…”.

In relation to Mr Perkovic’s conduct, the Court said: “In the criminal sentencing context, assaults against members of the police force and others involved in law enforcement are regarded as serious criminal offences warranting severe penalties. The Courts recognise that they should do what they can to protect those who, like police officers, are engaged in the protection of the community itself…In my opinion, similar considerations should inform the fixing of penalty in relation to conduct in contravention of Section 500 of the Fair Work Act which is directed at a FWBI (Fair Work Building Industry) Inspector.”

Mr Hadgkiss said it was very concerning for Australia’s construction industry that the CFMEU continued to disregard the law. “We are dealing with a union which based on court records seems completely indifferent to complying with the law. Just as FWBC cannot pick and choose who we bring before the courts, the CFMEU cannot pick and choose when it obeys the law,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

Mr Hadgkiss described Mr Perkovic’s conduct as alarming. “I am increasingly concerned that my investigators are being abused in the course of doing their jobs. I am amazed that Mr Perkovic behaved this way particularly when he knew he was being videod,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

Penalties issued in the Federal Court of Australia, Adelaide

31 March 2014 - Resthaven Aged Care Facility

Luke Stephenson

$1,700

Troy Smart

$1,000

CFMEU

$25,000

Total

$27,700

   

31 March 2014 - Minda Homes Master Plan Stage 1

David Bolton

$1,800

Michael Huddy

$800

CFMEU

$25,000

Total

$27,600

   

7 April 2014 - Minda Homes Master Plan Stage 1

David Bolton

$2,000

Anthony Vitler

$1,100

CFMEU

$30,000

Total

$33,100

   

1 May 2014 - Ibis Hotel

 

Michael McDermott

$4,000

Luke Stephenson

$2,300

Anthony Jarrett

$800

Anthony Sloane

$1,100

Brendan Pitt

$3,500

John Perkovic

$5,000

CFMEU

$100,000

Total

$116,700

 

Luke Stephenson, Michael Huddy and Anthony Jarrett are no longer employed by the CFMEU.

More information is available in the Media Backgrounder.

 

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