On 6 June 2019 the Federal Court awarded penalties of $137,000 against the CFMMEU and one of its senior Tasmanian officials, Richard Hassett, for unlawful action and putting workers' safety in "harm's way" at the Living City project site in Devonport in June 2017.
Following an appeal by the CFMMEU and Mr Hassett on the grounds the Court had erred in imposing the two penalties of $40,000 and $8,000 for the contraventions of ss.499 and 500 of the Fair Work Act, the Full Federal Court set aside the penalties imposed with respect to the s.499 contravention. Total penalties imposed against the CFMMEU and Mr Hassett are now $89,000 - $75,000 against the CFMMEU and $14,000 against Mr Hassett.
During his entry onto the construction site on 5 June 2017, Mr Hassett put the safety of workers at risk by climbing into the cabin of a crane while it was being operated. At the time of his actions he defied a clearly visible sign advising "No unauthorised interruption of operator during crane operation". The following day, despite being told it was unsafe, Mr Hassett once again climbed into the crane cabin while it was being operated, compromising workers' safety a second time.
In handing down penalties the court found Mr Hassett had acted in an improper manner and failed to comply with occupational health and safety requirements while on site.
The Court found:
… the conduct of Mr Hassett on 5 June 2017 was a serious breach.
It was serious because it was very dangerous, which Mr Hassett must have known, and it
was serious because Mr Hassett gained entry to the site purportedly in respect of safety
concerns – only to place the crane operator and others potentially in harm’s way. And it
was made all the more serious by the fact that when he was told to get off the crane, he
The Court also found the CFMMEU was
“...a large organisation with significant financial resources which
exhibits apparent willingness to contravene the [Fair Work Act] in a serious way to impose its will”.
In its statement of claim filed in the Federal Court, the ABCC alleged:
- At about 12pm on 5 June 2017, Mr Harkins and Mr Hassett attended the site office citing safety as a reason for their site entry.
- Shortly after, when a site manager asked Mr Hassett for his entry notice, Mr Hassett gave the site manager the middle finger and said words to the effect “Get f--ked, that will never happen.”
- Mr Hassett then climbed into the cabin of a crane that was in operation and stopped it from performing its work for about 20 minutes while he spoke to the crane operator about pay rates and joining the union. Mr Harkins was present during this exchange.
- At all times, the crane had a sign that stated “No unauthorised interruption of operator during crane operation”
- While speaking to the crane operator, the construction manager said to Mr Hassett words to the effect “Get off the crane it’s unsafe.”
- On the following day, 6 June 2017, Mr Hassett entered the site and stopped the crane again while it was in operation.
- Mr Hassett then told the crane operator that “we are chasing [the subcontractor] to sign an EBA” to which the crane operator replied “You are speaking to the wrong person, get off my crane”.
The ABCC alleged the conduct in this case was a breach of right of entry provisions under the Fair Work Act.
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