Case name
Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union & Ors
Known as
West Gate Tunnel Case
Commonwealth Courts Portal reference and link


Australian Building and Construction Commissioner
  • CFMMEU, Paul Tzimas, Ron Buckley
Date filed
Alleged breach(es)
Non-compliance with right of entry laws

The ABCC filed proceedings in the Federal Court on 16 September 2020 alleging the CFMMEU and two of its officials committed 46 contraventions when they disrupted night construction work and ignored Victoria Police and WorkSafe instructions at the $6.7 billion West Gate Tunnel Project in December 2019.

The ABCC is alleging CFMMEU officials Paul Tzimas and Ron Buckley entered the site, climbed on top of a scaffold deck in an exclusion zone and refused to leave, despite multiple requests from project management, a WorkSafe Inspector and Victoria Police.

The scaffold deck had been erected to support the installation of five,16 tonne bridge beams. A section of the West Gate Freeway had been closed from 9.30pm to 4.00am to allow the works to occur.

In its statement of claim, the ABCC alleges the unlawful action occurred over a six-hour period during night works spanning 3 and 4 December 2019:

  • At about 10.00pm, Tzimas and Buckley positioned themselves in the slew zone of the scaffold deck (where the 16-tonne beams would need to land and turn around prior to installation).
  • By reason of their presence in the scaffold area, particularly on the scaffold deck (being an exclusion zone), it was unsafe for John Holland to proceed with any beam lift and the scheduled works immediately ceased.

The site superintendent and Mr Tzimas had an exchange to the following effect:

Superintendent: You can’t stay here. We can’t land that beam with you here.

Tzimas: I’m going to stop the job.

Superintendent: No you can’t.

Tzimas: I’ll advise my members. You’ve got no f**ing chance of landing beams.

Superintendent: You can’t stay here. We can’t land that beam with you here.

It is also alleged while disrupting work the officials filmed workers on site.

At 11.30pm two Victoria Police officers attended the site and at 12.15am a WorkSafe Inspector also attended.

Despite repeated requests from the WorkSafe Inspector and Victoria Police to climb down from the scaffold deck the officials allegedly refused to comply. Mr Tzimas allegedly accused the WorkSafe Inspector of being a “lap dog” of the head contractor. A short time later additional police were called to attend the site.

It is alleged that at 2.20am, the two officials eventually left the site only to return a matter of minutes later claiming additional safety concerns. Once again, Mr Tzimas climbed on to the scaffold deck despite it being barricaded off.

The WorkSafe inspector and a police officer followed Mr Tzimas up the scaffolding and asked him to get off the scaffold deck, and the following exchange is alleged to have taken place:

Police:             Right. He's [WorkSafe inspector] just going to explain something to you.

Tzimas:           I don't care what he's got to say. I'm not interested.

Police:             Well, we are. We are.

Tzimas:           Well, he can talk with youse. I'm not interested.

Police:             We are. Will you just tell - explain that to him again and then we'll get him to move on.

WorkSafe:       At this point in time, I don't believe there's no [sic] immediate risk.

Tzimas:           I don't care what you've got to say. You already made that assessment, before you even came down.

WorkSafe:       There is no immediate risk.

Tzimas:           I don't care what you've got to say. …

WorkSafe:       I've said what I needed to say.

Tzimas:           Right.  So why won't you conduct the inspection, because you're corrupt; that's why. 

It is alleged, Buckley later referred to Victoria Police as being on the head contractor’s “payroll” and referred to the actions of Victoria Police as “corruption at its finest”. Tzimas and Buckley eventually left the site at 3am. As a result of the actions of the officials, none of the bridge beams were lifted or landed during the course of the scheduled night works.

The CFMMEU and its two officials are facing 46 alleged contraventions. The maximum penalty for each contravention of the Fair Work Act 2009 is $63,000 for a body corporate and $12,600 for an individual.

Historical content

25 Sep 2020 - ABCC alleges CFMMEU officials obstruct critical West Gate Tunnel work