More fines for CFMEU after Emporium Blockade

The Federal Court today imposed significant penalties of $151,000 on the CFMEU and a number of its senior officials for blockading parts of Melbourne’s CBD during August and September 2012 in its bitter industrial dispute with Grocon Pty Ltd. The penalties follow court proceedings brought by Fair Work Building & Construction.

Senior officials of the CFMEU were penalised by the Court for their unlawful behavior, including current Victorian State Secretary, John Setka, Assistant Secretary, Shaun Reardon and President, Ralph Edwards.

The Court found Mr Setka pinned a security guard up against a wall and threatened to shut him up “permanently”, punched the windscreen of a car with employees inside, made menacing comments to employees who were trying to go to work and told one employee that “I hope you die of your cancer”. Mr Setka had earlier told Grocon management he would “smash” them.

In his decision, Justice Tracey was scathing of the various officials’ unlawful behavior saying “they bespeak a deplorable attitude, on the part of the CFMEU, to its legal obligations and the statutory process which govern relations between unions and employers in this country”.

The penalties are in addition to those previously imposed after the CFMEU was found to have contravened Supreme Court injunctions relating to the unlawful blockades. Previously the CFMEU was ordered to pay $1.25 million in fines after being convicted of criminal contempt. In addition, the CFMEU was reported to have paid $3.55 million to Grocon in legal costs.

The dispute arose after Grocon resisted the CFMEU’s demands that union-nominated shop stewards must be employed on Grocon worksites. In retaliation, CFMEU officials and members blockaded the Myer Emporium site in Lonsdale Street in Melbourne, and another construction project in McNab Avenue in Footscray. Victoria Police resorted to erecting barricades in the streets of Melbourne to allow Grocon employees to go to work.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said the Court’s severe criticism of the CFMEU was of grave concern, given the agency currently had 63 various CFMEU state and territory officials before the courts for allegedly breaching workplace laws. 

“This decision is the culmination of a very sad and regrettable saga. No-one has the right to take the law into their own hands by using threats, intimidation and violence to coerce another party. There must be a change of culture in the industry towards one that respects the law.” 

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