Federal Court fines CFMEU official Jimmy O'Connor $12,000 for contempt of court

The Federal Court’s Justice Mansfield this afternoon ordered CFMEU official Jimmy O’Connor to pay a $12,000 fine for contempt of court after he threatened a subcontractor that the CFMEU would “go to war” unless the subcontractor employed a particular person affiliated with the CFMEU. His Honour also ordered Mr O’Connor to pay Fair Work Building & Constructions’ costs, which exceed $100,000.

In October 2014, Justice Mansfield fined the CFMEU and five of its current and former officials a total of $152,500 for acting in an improper manner while seeking to exercise their rights to enter an Adelaide building site at 50 Flinders Street. Mr O’Connor was personally fined $6000. In the same decision, His Honour ordered that CFMEU officials were prohibited from entering both 50 Flinders Street and the New Royal Adelaide Hospital site (as they were both managed by the same head-contractor), unless they were lawfully exercising their right of entry rights.

In this decision, the court said “The CFMEU has a significant history of non-compliance with the provisions of industrial legislation...I have remarked upon the fact that each of the individual respondents’ conduct indicates that each (with the exception of Stephenson) simply did not care about complying with the entry provisions.”

The court found Mr O’Connor was in contempt of these orders when he unlawfully entered the New Royal Adelaide Hospital site on 13 May 2014. During the course of this entry, Mr O’Connor threatened a subcontractor that the CFMEU would “go to war” unless the subcontractor employed a Mr Jason Clarke as a labourer. Mr Clarke was a member of the South Australian branch of the CFMEU’s committee of management.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said he understood union officials had important work to do and that all his agency asks is that they conduct that work within the law. “It is abhorrent enough to threaten someone in a bid to coerce them, but to take such action after you have been given specific directions by the court to obey the law is appalling. The agency is pleased with the outcome of this case, however it is just one of many currently before the courts. In fact FWBC currently has more than 50 cases in the courts, which is a record high not only for this agency but for its predecessor agencies,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

As a result of Justice Mansfield’s decision in October last year, FWBC applied to have Mr O’Connor’s permit suspended. The Fair Work Commission suspended his permit on 4 May 2015 for six months.

Mr O’Connor is on FWBC’s No Permit List. The list names current or former union officials who do not currently hold a valid right of entry permit or have had their permit suspended. Some of them have a history of entering building and construction sites unlawfully. Of the 29 people currently on the list, 27 are affiliated with the CFMEU.

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