Federal Court orders $1 million penalties in FWBC Western Australia case

Workers who participated in unlawful industrial action on a West Australian building site have been ordered to pay penalties totalling $1,068,000.

The respondents in the case were 117 CBI Construction Pty Ltd (CBI) employees at the Woodside LNG Expansion Project on the Burrup Peninsula in October 2008.

The workers took action in support of a claim they were entitled to redundancy payments under union collective agreements, and to re-employment on the next phase of the project. CBI denied the claim on the grounds that the project had not entered its new phase.

Justice Gilmour found that the eight days of unlawful industrial action had resulted in significant economic losses and project delays. He said the action was in defiance of an Australian Industrial Relations Commission return to work order issued after the first day of the action.

FWBC Director Val Gostencnik said that the agency was committed to taking action against unlawful industrial action and focused on the public interest.

“The significance of these penalties shows how seriously the court takes unlawful industrial action,” Mr Gostencnik said. Justice Gilmour ordered a total of $680,125 of the penalties be paid within 60 days. The remaining $387,875 will be suspended.

Workers who obeyed the AIRC injunction and who have not engaged in subsequent contravening conduct had 50 per cent of their penalties suspended for three years.

The Court apportioned penalties according to the number of days on which the 117 individuals had taken unlawful industrial action.

  • 85 of the 117 employees took strike action for the entire eight days
    • 24 of those 85 are liable to pay $10,000 within 60 days (no suspension)
    • The remaining 61 received a 50% suspension are therefore liable to pay $5000 within 60 days
  • 32 of the 117 employees who took strike action for between one and seven days were ordered to pay penalties ranging from $1000 to $8750
    • 24 of those 32 received a 50 % suspension

FWBC is the regulator for workplace laws in Australia’s construction industry.

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PDF icon Federal Court orders $1 million penalties in FWBC Western Australia case.pdf