The Federal Court has penalised the CEPU and three of its officials $34,600 for stopping work at the Sydney Metro Trains Facility Site (SMTF Site) in Rouse Hill in 2016.

The CEPU was penalised $23,000 and its officials – Antony Stegic, Michael Hopper and Stewart Edward a total of $11,600 for the unlawful industrial action and acting in an improper manner.

It was admitted that the CEPU officials were involved in unprotected industrial action engaged in by employees who were undertaking electrical work on the project. The employees stopped work from 17 October to 18 October 2016.

The conduct included Mr Stegic and Mr Edward blocking the entry of management to the induction room where the employees engaged in a stoppage of work on 17 October 2016.

It was also admitted that Mr Stegic and Mr Hopper both contravened section 500 of the Fair Work Act by acting in an improper manner while entering the SMTF Site outside working hours and actively opposing the efforts of management to encourage the employees to return to work.

In describing the conduct of the CEPU officials, Justice Abraham said:

“The respondents, given their position, should have known better as to the approach they took. There was a procedure to be followed for such a complaint. The actions continued over more than one day.

“I do not accept the respondents’ submission that the seriousness of the contraventions is at the lower end of the range suggested by the parties.”

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said:

“All too often in the building and construction industry, we see improper behaviour of this type. The Court’s decision once again reinforces the rule of law on Australia’s building and construction sites.”

Commissioner McBurney noted the decision of the Federal Court:

“I acknowledge the fact the CEPU admitted liability in the proceedings prior to the trial, thereby saving the parties and the Court the time, cost and effort associated with a trial. The judgment recognises the cooperation by the CEPU with the ABCC.

“Additionally, both Mr Stegic and Mr Edwards have attended Right of Entry training organised by the ABCC, while Mr Hopper is no longer employed by the union. As the judgment noted, undertaking training was a factor to be considered in arriving at the appropriate penalties. By accepting the training offered by the ABCC, this showed an intent by the CEPU and its officials to ensure that contravening conduct is not repeated and insight by them into the seriousness of the conduct.

“As regulator, we would always prefer to educate rather than litigate. Too often we find ourselves having to refer cases to Court because of unlawful conduct that contravenes the important protections provided in the Fair Work Act.

“The ABCC has a statutory responsibility to fulfil its role as an impartial regulator. We are available to deliver training and education to anyone in the industry, including union officials. It is imperative that union officials understand their responsibilities as holders of a Federal entry permit and that they adhere to right of entry laws that are designed to strike the appropriate balance between rights of occupiers and permit holders. The cooperation and engagement by the CEPU with the ABCC in this case is a welcome development. Our expectation is that it will prevent a recurrence of any further unlawful conduct by these officials.”

Media Release
9 November 2020