FWBC has record number of cases before the courts

As a result of two new cases announced yesterday, Fair Work Building & Construction (FWBC) now has 52 cases before the courts across Australia.  This figure means more matters than FWBC, or its predecessor agencies - the Building Industry Taskforce (BIT) and the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has ever had before the courts at any one time.

FWBC is the Federal agency responsible for enforcing coercion, unlawful industrial action, right of entry, discrimination and freedom of association laws on building and construction sites across Australia.

Of the 52 cases currently in court, six have employers named as respondents and eight matters involve employees. Forty-six of the 52 cases (88 per cent) have the CFMEU and/or CFMEU officials named as respondents.  This figure includes 62 CFMEU representatives, including National Secretary Dave Noonan, five State Secretaries, seven Assistant State Secretaries, one President and one Vice President.

In addition, there are 14 CFMEU officials facing the Fair Work Commission in relation to federal right of entry submissions made by FWBC.  This agency has put to the Commission that these 14 union officials should not be granted a permit, should have conditions imposed on their permit or that their permit should be revoked or suspended because they are not a fit and proper person to hold one.  FWBC bases its submissions on evidence of prior law-breaking.

In total there are 69 CFMEU representatives who are either before the courts, the Fair Work Commission, or both.  Of the 52 cases before the courts, the majority relate to alleged coercion, unlawful industrial action and right of entry breaches.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said the record number of court cases was a reflection of what was happening in the industry. “Our investigative and legal teams are snowed under,” Mr Hadgkiss said. “We have been forced to recruit more staff to keep up with the increasing work load.”

“In the last 12 months we received 248 complaints from the public which fell within our jurisdiction. Of these complaints, 196 involved unions or union officials (79%). When we receive complaints they are treated equally regardless of whether they are in relation to conduct by unions, union officials, employers or employees,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

Mr Hadgkiss said in the last financial year, the courts issued $1.396 million in penalties in FWBC cases. The vast majority ($1.179 million) were fines against the CFMEU and its affiliates. This amount included $697,500 in penalties for coercion, $356,900 in penalties for right of entry breaches and a $125,000 penalty for contempt of court.

The CFMEU and its affiliates have been fined a total $6.1 million in cases brought by the BIT, ABCC and FWBC.

The agency and its predecessors have enjoyed a 91% success rate before the courts in a total of 170 matters.

Notwithstanding these successes and the large number of court actions mounted by FWBC “We are winning many battles in court against unlawful behaviour, but we are not winning the war to stamp out unlawful behaviour,” Mr Hadgkiss said. “Unlawful conduct is worse than ever across the nation’s building sites.  Moreover, the majority of those we continue to put before the courts are repeat offenders, which the courts have noted have failed to show contrition.” “In 2015 Australia no worker or other building industry participant should be the victim of this deplorable conduct”.

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