Case name
Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union & Ors
Known as
Forrestfield Airport Link
Commonwealth Courts Portal reference and link


Australian Building and Construction Commissioner
  • CFMMEU, Michael Buchan, Graham Pallot, Walter Molina
Date filed
Alleged breach(es)
Industrial action
Date finalised

On 18 November the Federal Court in Perth imposed $180,000 in penalties against the CFMMEU and three of its officials for organising a half-day strike during construction of the Forrestfield to Perth Airport rail link in December 2018.

The Court also imposed $156,000 in penalties against 39 employees engaged on the project.

CFMMEU WA state secretary Michael Buchan, former assistant state secretary Graham Pallot and organiser Walter Molina were found to have organised unlawful industrial action across three Perth Airport rail sites.

The officials’ actions led to 39 employees walking off the job, with a large group of employees at the Forrestfield site leaving work after feeling “unwell” and later attending a meeting in the carpark of the project’s head office that was organised by the CFMMEU officials.

The employees’ actions resulted in work stopping at the projects’ Forrestfield, Redcliffe and Bayswater sites.

In delivering judgment Justice Colvin said:

“The circumstances of the present case manifest a willingness on the part of the Union to disobey the requirements of the Act. The strike was plainly unlawful. The action was taken without any attempt to negotiate. It was encouraged by very senior officials of the Union. It was taken in circumstances where Salini had asked for time to consider the claim and where there was an agreed mechanism for resolution of disputes as to entitlements under the EA such as a claim to redundancy pay.

“The issue was raised with Salini on a Friday and the walk-off occurred on the following Monday. There is no suggestion of any immediacy to the issue raised that was of a kind that might provide some semblance of explanation for the conduct. In particular, there was no issue about safety or ongoing physical work conditions or present payments. There was no suggestion that Salini was not engaging with the issue. A formal response was provided to the employees on the Monday.”

In relation to the prior offending of the CFMMEU, Justice Colvin said:

“The Union has a long history of unlawful industrial action that is well known in this Court. In the present instance, the Union, relevant officials and workers admit that their actions involved unlawful industrial action contrary to s 46 of the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (Cth) (Act).”

Historical content

18 Nov 2020 - Federal Court imposes $336,000 in penalties over Perth Airport link unlawful industrial action