- Dean Rielly
- Adverse action
On 28 January 2022 the Federal Circuit and Family Court penalised the CFMMEU $80,000 and its official Dean Rielly $10,000 for threatening, inciting and encouraging a contractor to enter into an enterprise agreement with the CFMMEU and terminate its contract with a labour hire company because the company did not have a CFMMEU agreement.
The Court made declarations of four contraventions by Mr Rielly and four contraventions by the CFMMEU under the Fair Work Act.
When completed towards the end of 2022, the Coffs Harbour Hospital expansion project will provide the community with a new emergency department, operating theatres, additional critical care and inpatient beds and increased capacity for chemotherapy and renal dialysis. It is an important regional health project which at the time the Court noted was valued at $120 million.
At a meeting on 5 March 2019, Mr Rielly threatened the contractor that unless all workers including labour hire at the precast facility were covered by a CFMMEU enterprise agreement, then any precast manufactured for the Coffs Harbour Hospital would be turned around at the gate and not unloaded. The threats by Mr Reilly were made in a deliberate and direct manner and delivered in an at times heated conversation in which Mr Rielly swore and raised his voice.
Mr Rielly also demanded that the contractor ensure all employees at the yard leave the AWU and join the CFMMEU or he would arrange for a labour hire company covered by a CFMMEU enterprise agreement to replace the employer.
Mr Rielly cited previous blockades effected by the CFMMEU of precast deliveries to construction sites to give force and substance to his threats. The ABCC alleged these were a reference to the Grafton Gaol Project and a Gold Coast project.
The Court found that the threats were not a one-off isolated utterance. They were made by Mr Rielly over a period of time to several senior representatives of the contractor.
If carried out, the threatened action would have real and serious consequences. It would have caused serious disruption to the contractor and the project by bringing about the stoppage of work, delaying practical completion, causing workers to lose their jobs, standing down of the contractor’s own employees and the wastage of transport costs and manufactured precast products that were destined for the project.
Judge Driver in his penalty judgment described Mr Rielly’s conduct as premeditated and said:
The Union was in the midst of a demarcation dispute with its rival union, the Australian Workers Union, which was a motivation behind Mr Rielly’s conduct in addition to the usual industrial objectives of the Union, to “organise” worksites and secure CFMMEU EBAs with employers and employees in what it regarded as its sphere of influence. The campaign by Mr Rielly was premeditated and proceeded over a period of time from when he first heard about CPB obtaining the contract for the precast work, increasing in frequency and pressure at the very time CPB was negotiating a new EBA with its employees in March 2019, a form of “industrial stalking” of employers considered “non-compliant” with the Union’s industrial objectives.
Judge Driver commented on the CFMMEU’s behaviour:
The Union has provided no evidence that, as a consequence of any of these contraventions, or the burgeoning number of them that suggests it has a serious problem in both it and its officials complying with the law, it has instituted any corrective training or reform of its recruiting or employment procedures to better ensure compliance with industrial legislation or its obligations under such legislation. Its ongoing conduct is institutionalised.
The size and nature of the Union is significant. It has real power and influence in the building and construction industry. Indeed, a preoccupation with the perception of the Union’s power may well explain the nature of the conduct engaged in on this occasion.
Judge Driver went on to say:
The respondents have given no evidence of remorse or contrition for the conduct leading to the contraventions.
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