Court orders CFMEU & CEPU to pay $65,000 in penalties in FWBC case

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia has ordered the CFMEU and CEPU to pay penalties totaling $65,000 for their involvement in unlawful industrial action taken against Brookfield Multiplex.

Fair Work Building & Construction (FWBC) Director Val Gostencnik said the case related to unlawful industrial action taken at two sites in Queensland in February 2011 as part of a campaign by the CFMEU.

Thirty-seven workers stopped work for a day-and-a-half at the Gold Coast Hilton site after CFMEU representatives told them Brookfield Multiplex was engaged in sham contracting. Sham contracting involves wrongly treating employees as sub-contractors. As a result, the worker may miss out on entitlements such as paid leave and superannuation.

On the same day, 65 workers stopped work at the Wintergarden shopping precinct in Brisbane. Two CFMEU and one CEPU official told the workers Brookfield Multiplex was engaged in sham contracting. The workers returned to work the following day.

“The CFMEU and CEPU’s conduct constituted unlawful industrial action,” Mr Gostencnik said.

“It is unacceptable to ignore established dispute settlement procedures and other lawful avenues and instead to pursue grievances through unlawful means. We will not tolerate unlawful industrial action occurring on Australian building sites.”

“The CFMEU and CEPU had a range of lawful options available to them to pursue their concerns.  By choosing to respond in an unlawful manner, each organisation exposed itself to significant penalties and damaged the reputation of the industry.  Members’ money should be spent on servicing their needs rather than paying court imposed penalties for unlawful conduct.”

The Court ordered the CFMEU to pay $50,000 in penalties and the CEPU to pay $15,000.  Those penalties were based upon an agreement between FWBC, the CFMEU and the CEPU about the outcome of the matter.

Brookfield Multiplex has not been found to have engaged in sham contracting.

FWBC is the independent, standalone regulator of workplace laws in Australia’s construction industry.

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