Case name
Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Jim O'Connor & Ors
Known as
Royal Adelaide Hospital
Commonwealth Courts Portal reference and link


Australian Building and Construction Commissioner
  • CFMEU, Jim O’Connor, Jack Merkx
Date filed
Breach(es) found
Coercion, Non-compliance with right of entry laws
Date finalised
Link to liability judgment

Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v O’Connor (No 3) [2018] FCA 43

Link to penalty judgment

Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v O’Connor (No 4) [2018] FCA 1293

Summary of court decision

The Federal Court on 27 August 2018 penalised the CFMMEU $81,600 for the conduct of its Assistant Secretary, Jim O’Connor, and a site delegate for attempting to coerce a subcontractor to terminate a worker and replace him with a union office holder at the Royal Adelaide Hospital site in 2014.

The Court had previously penalised Assistant State Secretary Jim O’Connor $12,000 for his conduct at the site after he was found in contempt of court for breaching an earlier injunction.

The Federal Court found that in May 2014, the site delegate, Mr Jack Merkx approached a subcontractor at the project on at least three occasions and demanded that the subcontractor terminate a worker because he would not join the, then, CFMEU.

Mr Merkx and Mr O’Connor then met with the subcontractor and demanded to know why the CFMEU office holder had not been found a job.

Mr Merkx said: “Why haven’t you sacked that muppet… ? Why haven’t you found Jason a job? He could be doing what [the worker’s] doing.

Mr Merkx went on to say: “If your guys don’t want to join the union, you should sack them and the union will find workers for BNC to hire.”

In relation to the union office holder, Mr O’Connor threatened “If you don’t find him a job, we’ll go to war with you. You know how it works.”

At the time of the liability judgment Justice Besanko said:

“The threat of going to war was a threat of unlawful, illegitimate, unconscionable action…

… they wanted BNC to employ Mr Clark who was on the CFMEU executive and they wanted the termination of [the worker’s] employment because he would not join the CFMEU.”

Justice Besanko in his penalty judgment went on to say:

“There is no evidence of contrition and, in fact, the respondents sought to downplay the seriousness of the threat.”


Penalties awarded against

Penalties awarded



Jack Merkx




Total Penalties


Historical content

27 Aug 2018 - CFMMEU penalised $81,600 after threatening to “go to war” with Royal Adelaide Hospital subcontractor