The Interim Building Industry Taskforce, which later became the Building Industry Taskforce (BIT), was established on 1 October 2002 in response to the Cole Royal Commission's findings that the industry was characterised by a widespread disregard for the law and that existing bodies had insufficient powers and resources to enforce the law.
The BIT operated until the establishment of the Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC). The ABCC was charged with continuing work initiated by the BIT including court proceedings and investigations.
During its three years of operation, the BIT brought the following matters before the courts.
Alfred v CFMEU
CFMEU fined $2,000 for coercion
In October 2002, the CFMEU took unlawful industrial action to coerce a head contractor at the Sutherland Hospital site to sign an EBA. The CFMEU was found by the District Court of NSW to have breached the WR Act. A penalty of $2,000 was imposed.
Alfred v AMWU
AMWU fined $2,000 for coercion
In January 2003, the AMWU took industrial action to coerce a contractor to sign a new EBA at Shoalhaven District Hospital site. AMWU was found by the Chief Industrial Magistrates Court of NSW to have contravened the WR Act and ordered to pay $2,000.
R v Setka
Union Organiser Setka fined $500 for intimidation
In October/November 2002, CFMEU organiser, John Setka, threatened and intimidated a project manager prior to his appearance before the AIRC. Setka was found guilty in the Magistrates Court of Victoria on 5 November 2003 and fined $500.
Hadgkiss v Blevin, McGahan & CFMEU
CFMEU fined $5,500 and CFMEU organisers Blevin and McGahan fined $1,100 each for coercion
In November 2002, the CFMEU, CFMEU organiser Joe McGahan and site delegate Alan Blevin, demanded that a worker join the CFMEU or leave the site. In July 2004, the Federal Court (Sydney) fined the CFMEU $5,500 and ordered them to refund $200 in union dues. Blevin and McGahan were fined $1,100 each and, along with the union, required to make up almost $1,100 in lost pay.
Alfred v CFMEU & Ors
CFMEU fined $7,500 for breach of anti-coercion provisions
In April 2003, the CFMEU threatened to disrupt the work of a major subcontracting company because the subcontractor chose not to enter the CFMEU endorsed EBA. The CFMEU conceded that official, David Kelly, and delegate Scott Wilcox, breached the WR Act anti-coercion provisions. The Federal Court (Sydney) imposed a total of $7,500 in penalties on the CFMEU.
Clarke v CFMEU, Molina & Powell
CFMEU fined $6,000 and union organisers Molina and Powell ordered to pay $1,500 and $1,000 respectively
In July and August 2004, a number of workers took industrial action on the Thornlie railway station site in WA. The Industrial Magistrates Court found the CFMEU and two of its officials, Walter Molina and Michael Powell, engaged in illegal industrial action and also breached the dispute settlement procedures of CA. The CFMEU had a penalty of $6,000 imposed, with union organisers penalised $1,500 and $1,000 respectively.
Ponzio v McLean
CFMEU Shop Steward McLean fined $750 for failure to comply with dispute settlement procedures
In July 2003, Peter McLean, a CFMEU shop steward, failed to comply with the dispute resolution procedures in a certified agreement by closing a building site and refusing entry of subcontractors. Mr McLean admitted to the breach and was fined $750 by the Mildura Magistrates Court.
Freedom of Association
Hadgkiss v Barclay Mowlem
Barclay Mowlem fined $6,000
In November 2002, Barclay Mowlem reversed a decision to award a tender for earthworks worth $1.2m to an excavation subcontractor. It was found that the decision was made because the subcontractor did not have a union-endorsed EBA. Justice Branson imposed a penalty of $6,000 on Barclay Mowlem.
MX Constructions Pty Ltd & Alfred v ADCO Constructions Pty Ltd & David Rix
ADCO ordered to pay $2,000
In March 2003, ADCO Constructions failed to proceed with a contract after a subcontractor disclosed that it did not have a union endorsed agreement and because the subcontractor threatened to complain to an Inspector with the Taskforce. ADCO and its site manager, David Rix, were found to have contravened the WR Act by the Federal Court (Sydney). Penalty of $2,000 imposed on ADCO by Justice Wilcox. Furthermore, the Judge noted that ADCO had paid the subcontractor $40,000 in compensation, and agreed to accept its tenders for future projects.
Clarke v Baulderstone Hornibrook
Baulderstone Hornibrook fined $1,000 for paying strike pay
In 2001, following industrial action on a Perth CBD site, Baulderstone Hornibrook paid strike pay. Baulderstone Hornibrook was ordered by the Federal Court (Perth) to pay $1,000 ($10,000 maximum penalty).
Pine, Ponzio & Furlong v Multiplex Constructions (Vic) Pty Ltd, CFMEU, CEPU, ETU, and Ors
In August 2003, there was unprotected industrial action at a Melbourne construction site. The Taskforce commenced proceedings against various respondents regarding breaches of the WR Act including claiming, paying and receiving strike pay and failing to comply with dispute resolution clauses of Certified Agreements.
Between March and June 2005, a head contractor and several subcontractors were found to have breached the WR Act by paying strike pay.
Schiavello (Vic) Pty Ltd were given a penalty in the form of a "good behaviour bond" of $1,000 to be paid by the company if there was a further contravention of the Act within 12 months.
BVM Builders and Maxim were given a penalty of $200 and $1,750 respectively.
No penalty was imposed on Seelite Windows & Doors, Firebase Sprinkler Systems, D&E Air Conditioning, Expoconti, WJ Pratt or Casello Constructions, however it was declared that their conduct was a contravention of the WR Act.
A penalty of $800 was imposed on Austress Freyssinet. Multiplex Constructions (Vic) Pty Ltd admitted to paying strike pay and was fined $4,000.
Cahill, Ponzio & Cruse v Freshmore (Vic) Pty Ltd, C L Godfrey Pty Ltd and Maxim Electrical Services (Aust) Pty Ltd
Freshmore fined $1,000 for paying strike pay
In August 2003, it is alleged that there was unprotected industrial action at the Three Towers construction site in Melbourne. Freshmore (Vic) Pty Ltd were found to have breached the WR Act by paying strike pay. A penalty of $1,000 was imposed. Further, Maxim Electrical Services (Aust) Pty Ltd were also found to have breached the WR Act. A penalty of $900 was imposed.
Failure to produce
Cruse v APN Group
In March 2004, the Taskforce required the production of documents from APN Group Pty Ltd. It was alleged that the APN Group did not comply with the requirement to produce. Action resolved upon APN Group advising they did not hold the documents.
Hadgkiss v State of Victoria
In February 2003, the Victorian Government chose not to invite a certain company to tender for a demolition contract. A Full Court decision required the Victorian Government to produce documents to the Taskforce about that decision including whether FOA provisions of WR Act been complied with.
R v Cattenazzi
In August 2003, there was unprotected industrial action at a Melbourne construction site. Mr Phillip Cattenazzi of Melbourne Parquetry Specialists failed to produce documents relating to the industrial action to the Taskforce. The Heidelberg Magistrates' Court ordered that Mr Cattenazzi be placed on a 6 month good behaviour bond, pay the court costs, and also pay $500 into the court fund.
Need more information?
For further information, advice or assistance please contact the ABCC at 1800 003 338 or enquiry [at] abcc.gov.au.