Case name
Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union & Ors
Known as
EQ Tower Project
Commonwealth Courts Portal reference and link

VID347/2018

Date filed
27 March 2018
State/Territory
VIC
Breach(es) found
Adverse action, Coercion, Freedom of association
Status
Finalised
Link to penalty judgment

Prolac : Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (No 2) [2019] FCA 938

CFMMEU: Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union [2019] FCA 468

Summary of court decision

On 17 June 2019, Commercial painting business Prolac P/L and its director Tim Petrusic were penalised $16,200 for terminating a subcontractor’s contract on the EQ Tower project in Melbourne‘s CBD in 2017. 

Prolac had admitted to taking adverse action against the painting subcontractor when it terminated his contract because he was not up to date with his CFMMEU fees.  

In the same matter, the Federal Court on 4 April 2019 imposed $78,000 in penalties against the CFMMEU and shop stewards Maurice Campanaro and Joe Caratozzolo after they were found to have coerced the subcontractor to pay his outstanding fees. 

Mr Campanaro and Mr Caratozzolo both admitted to coercing the worker to pay union membership fees before he was allowed to commence work at the Trillium Project and EQ Tower construction sites.

On 25 November 2016, union shop steward Mr Campanaro met with the painting contractor at the Trillium Project. During that meeting Mr Campanaro told the worker he had to pay fees to the CFMMEU in order to commence working at the site. 

After paying the fees to the CFMMEU, the worker was then allowed to commence work. 

On 15 February 2017, Mr Caratozzolo met the worker shortly after he had been inducted on the EQ Project site. During that meeting, Mr Caratozzolo told the worker he needed to pay outstanding fees to the CFMMEU and would not be permitted to work at the site until he did so.

Despite paying his fees on 15 February 2017, Prolac terminated the contract with the subcontractor the following day. 

In his penalty judgment against the CFMMEU on 4 April 2019, Justice O’Callaghan said:

Mr Campanaro coerced [the worker] into paying fees to the CFMMEU in order to commence working. Contraventions of the FW Act involving coercive conduct are particularly serious…” 

“In arriving at an appropriate penalty for the CFMMEU, I take into account its prior history, its apparent willingness to contravene the FW Act in a serious way to impose its will, and the need for deterrence of an organisation of its size and financial resources.”

Of Prolac’s conduct, Justice Wheelahan in his penalty judgment on 17 June 2019 described the conduct as serious and deliberate:

“In my view, there was nothing inadvertent or accidental about what occurred. Both respondents have significant experience in the construction industry in Melbourne, and it is reasonable to expect that they should have had some understanding of the protections under the Fair Work Act which relate to freedom of association.” 

“The content of the words used by Mr Petrusic … evidence a preparedness to assist the CFMMEU in furthering its “closed shop” policy at the EQ Project site.”

Penalties
Penalties awarded against Penalties awarded
CFMMEU $70,000
Joe Caratozzolo $4,000
Maurice Campanaro $4,000
Total $78,000
Prolac P/L $13,500
Tim Petrusic $2,700
Total $16,200

 

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Media release - Federal Court penalises CFMMEU $78,000 after coercing worker to pay union fees