- CFMMEU, Brendan Holl, Justin Hobson
- Non-compliance with right of entry laws
The Federal Court on 30 November 2021 penalised the CFMMEU and two of its officials $554,600 after finding they targeted Newcastle crane company Wheeler Cranes because it did not have an enterprise agreement with the union.
The penalty is one of the largest handed out to the CFMMEU and follows the union’s campaign to coerce NSW crane companies to sign up to CFMMEU enterprise agreements.
The penalty takes to more than $2 million the amount the union has been ordered to pay in three separate Federal Court judgments this year for unlawful conduct targeting NSW crane companies.
The campaign against Wheeler Cranes saw CFMMEU officials Brendan Holl and Justin Hobson contravene right of entry laws and engage in coercive conduct at three Newcastle building sites in October 2018 in a bid to have the crane company removed from the projects.
Up to 30 men wearing CFMMEU hoodies and waving banners protested at the sites.
On 18 October 2018, Mr Holl and others blocked access to the Kooragang Coal Terminal. Mr Holl told site representatives the protesters would not leave until a crane belonging to Wheeler Cranes was removed from the site. Police were called after the officials refused to leave.
On 19 October protestors wearing CFMMEU branded clothing and chanting slogans assembled at the San Clemente High School site. The protestors blocked driveways preventing vehicles from entering or exiting the site.
Mr Holl and Mr Hobson entered the site where they prevented the Wheelers’ crane from operating. The pair refused to leave unless the crane was removed. Due to the officials’ conduct work on the site was stopped.
On 22 October 2018, groups of men wearing CFMMEU branded clothing again assembled outside Kooragang Coal Terminal gates. A number of the protesters prevented a Wheeler Cranes mobile crane and a truck from entering the site.
During a discussion with site management Mr Holl said: “It’s going to get ugly today if Wheeler Cranes come on site”.
Justice Abraham said of the officials’ actions:
“I accept the characterisation of the conduct by the ABCC. The conduct was deliberate, premeditated, coordinated, and for clearly prohibited purposes. …it was clearly intended to exert coercive pressure against third parties which was ultimately directed at Wheeler Cranes, through the overt and covert industrial muscle of the union, to get Wheeler Cranes to give in to the CFMMEU’s demands in respect of the EBA.
“…the conduct of Mr Holl, Mr Hobson and the CFMMEU involved the misuse of the powers of Mr Holl as a permit holder so as to intentionally hinder and obstruct the performance of work at the various sites, and Mr Hobson aided and abetted Mr Holl’s misuse of such power.
“Mr Holl, Mr Hobson and the CFMMEU have deliberately flouted the law in taking coercive action to secure a desired result by that unlawful means.”
Justice Abraham said of the CFMMEU:
“…The contravention record speaks for itself in evidencing the CFMMEU’s recidivism. The CFMMEU’s repeated failure to obey Commonwealth workplace relations legislation is self-evident.
In summing up the level of penalties Justice Abraham said:
“… The CFMMEU has not adduced any evidence of having taken any corrective action such as training, instruction or direction such as to ensure compliance with the law, or at least limit or minimise the prospect of future contraventions. There is no expression of remorse or regret. Considerations of deterrence loom large.”
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