CFMEU’s Joe McDonald allegedly leads strike action after head contractor obeys the law

CFMEU assistant state secretary Joseph (Joe) McDonald is facing Federal Court action after he allegedly organised industrial action at a West Australian construction site, in response to the head-contractor complying with Fair Work laws. FWBC has also launched proceedings against 49 employees who were involved in the strike action.

FWBC is alleging that Mr McDonald and two other CFMEU officials held a pre-work meeting with workers on the Lakeside Joondalup Redevelopment project which ran into work time. The meeting began at 6.45am, when work was scheduled to start, and continued until 7.07am. Mr McDonald later said the meeting was used to discuss whether workers would work at the site on a rostered day off. The $208 million project has transformed Joondalup into WA’s largest shopping destination.

By law, the head-contractor was required to dock the workers’ pay. A few days later, when the site senior construction manager told Mr McDonald that as per the Fair Work Act “The workers will not receive the four hours pay,” Mr McDonald allegedly said “There will be another meeting tomorrow morning with the workforce to discuss”.

The following day, Mr McDonald, again in the presence of other CFMEU officials, and again straying into work time, allegedly addressed up to 60 workers who had gathered outside one of the entrance gates to the site. Mr McDonald allegedly told them they had been docked four hours’ pay for the 30 May meeting and that if the head contractor had told them immediately, they would have sat in the sheds for the full four hours.

Mr McDonald then met with the senior construction manager who again said that “[The head contractor] will comply with the Fair Work Act and requirements concerning payment for unprotected industrial action.” He indicated that workers would also be docked pay for the meeting that had just occurred as it had again run into work time. If the head contractor had paid the workers, it would be classed as strike pay, which is unlawful.

Immediately following this conversation, it is alleged Mr McDonald returned to the group of workers at the gates and said “What do you want to do?” “We’ve had enough of this, let’s put it to a vote”. “Everyone in favour of going home raise your hands”. About 70 per cent of the crowd raised their hand in favour of striking. Mr McDonald then allegedly said: “Everyone against going home raise your hands”.  It is alleged 10 workers put up their hands. FWBC alleges Mr McDonald then said “That’s it. Everyone go home. There’ll be no meeting tomorrow and just go back to work tomorrow as normal.” Following this meeting, the crowd of workers failed to attend for work.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said “My agency takes reports of unlawful industrial action very seriously. Reports of strike action because the head-contractor is following the law are particularly shocking.”


The maximum penalties available to the Court in this case are $10,200 for an individual, and $51,000 for a union per breach. FWBC is alleging the CFMEU broke the law two times and Mr McDonald two times. It is alleged 36 of the employees broke the law once and 13 employees broke the law twice.

A directions hearing is scheduled for 7 August 2015 in the WA Federal Court. More information can be found in the media backgrounder.

PDF icon Media Release - CFMEUs Joe McDonald allegedly leads strike action after head contractor follows the law.pdf