On 28 April the Federal Court handed down penalties totaling $193,000 against the CFMMEU and one of its organisers Anthony Sloane after Mr Sloane stopped work on a Sydney construction site in February 2018 over a one hour pay claim.
Mr Sloane organised a number of workers from Westform Formwork to unlawfully stop work on the Mezzo Stage 2 Project in Bay Street, Glebe over a disputed claim that the workers were entitled to one hour’s pay for a period of wet weather.
The Court found Mr Sloane addressed the workers at a pre-start meeting where he advised Westform that work would not continue until the payment was made.
At the time Mr Sloane said words to the effect that: “You can call the Police, the ABCC or even God, but I will not be moving from this site until the payments I’ve requested have been paid. I’m going to park myself here on the job and cause issues for Westform if you don’t fix this.”
The Court found the CFMMEU and Mr Sloane:
- contravened section 46 of the BCIIP Act, by organising unlawful industrial action, and
- section 500 of the Fair Work Act by hindering and obstructing, and otherwise acting in an improper manner, when preventing Westform workers from commencing and performing their duties.
In his judgment Justice Flick said:
“The conduct giving rise to the contraventions was engaged in by a senior officer of the CFMMEU and arose in a context which it may be assumed occasioned some disruption to a workforce on a significant building site.
In commenting on the level of penalties Justice Flick said:
“… the penalties to be imposed should be at the very maximum of that agreed [between the parties] when attention is given, albeit not in any detailed manner, to such considerations as:
- the size and nature of the CFMMEU;
- the fact that the CFMMEU has repeatedly engaged in comparable conduct in the past;
- the fact that Mr Sloane has also engaged in comparable conduct in the past;
- the fact that it is admitted that the dispute regarding payment was a pay claim without merit; and
- the fact that neither the CFMMEU nor Mr Sloane have expressed any regret or remorse for having engaged in the conduct now in issue.”
ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney noted the detrimental impact Mr Sloane’s conduct had on the very workers he was purporting to represent.
“In most Australian workplaces, issues such as pay disputes are resolved amicably through dispute resolution procedures and observing mutual respect and engagement,” Mr McBurney said.
“All too often in the building and construction industry, we see the resort to behaviour of the type exhibited by Mr Sloane and the CFMMEU in this case.
“It is both unacceptable and unlawful to make threats of this nature and to prevent workers from attending work to perform their duties.”
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