The Federal Court has today awarded penalties totalling $92,000 against the CFMMEU and an experienced organiser for their involvement in a blockade of Aldi’s Altona store during its construction in 2014.
The blockade followed the CFMMEU’s demands that the construction company sign an enterprise agreement with the union.
On 5 December 2014, CFMMEU organiser Drew MacDonald blocked the entrance to the site with a vehicle, preventing trucks carrying equipment and materials from accessing the site.
As a result of the blockade, work including the installation of precast concrete panels, structural steel work and concrete preparation work could not proceed.
On 8 December 2014, Mr MacDonald again blocked the entrance to the site with a vehicle, preventing work including excavation and form work for a concrete pour, and structural steel work.
The CFMMEU was penalised $80,000, and Mr MacDonald $12,000. Justice Bromberg also ordered Mr MacDonald to personally pay his penalty.
The personal payment order is one of now six imposed by the Federal Court in a building and construction related matter and the second involving Mr MacDonald.
The Federal Court previously imposed a personal payment order of $7,800 on Mr MacDonald on 21 June 2019 for his involvement in right of entry contraventions at construction sites in Laverton North and Cheltenham.
In his judgment Justice Bromberg said:
"I accept that the contravening conduct on 5 December 2014 should be regarded as objectively serious. The conduct was deliberate and, I would infer, engaged in by Mr MacDonald in the knowledge that it was unlawful. The conduct included an intention to coerce and coercive conduct is to be regarded as serious. As a result of Mr MacDonald’s conduct, access to the Site was impeded and building work scheduled on the Site for that day, including the installation of precast concrete panels by MPC, structural steel work and concrete preparation work could not be undertaken.”
Justice Bromberg also described the CFMMEU’s contraventions to be at the higher end of the scale of seriousness:
“I consider that the evidence before me permits an inference that the senior leadership of the CFMMEU or more particularly the Construction and General Division (Victoria/Tasmania Divisional Branch) of the CFMMEU (“Divisional Branch”) of which Mr MacDonald is an official, condoned the contravening conduct of Mr MacDonald and was therefore involved in that conduct.
“…I consider that in terms of its seriousness, the contravention by the CFMMEU is at the higher end of the scale.
ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the Court’s decision and the size of penalties handed down highlighted the serious nature of the CFMMEU’s contraventions and its willingness to resort to unlawful industrial behaviour to get its way.
“All too often we see the CFMMEU and its officials resort to unlawful activities as a means to exert pressure on employers and head contractors to sign up to CFMMEU enterprise agreements,” Mr McBurney said.
“This financial year alone the Courts have handed down $221,000 in penalties against the CFMMEU and its representatives. And in the last 16 months the Courts have imposed personal payment orders against CFMMEU officials totalling $103,800.
Mr McBurney said “While this matter pre-dated the re-establishment of the ABCC on 2 December 2016, higher penalties of up to $210,000 for the CFMMEU and $42,000 for their officials now apply for this unlawful conduct under the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016.”
Cases involving personal payment orders include:
- Victoria Regional Rail Link – Joseph Myles $19,500
- Springvale Level Crossing – Joseph Myles $44,000
- Qanstruct P/L– Stephen Long $11,500 /Drew MacDonald $7,800
- Harris Interiors – Theo Theodorou $9,000
- Aldi Altona – Drew MacDonald - $12,000