The CFMEU and two of its organisers have been ordered to pay $96,000 in penalties after blockading work at the $1.6 billion Port of Melbourne expansion project and threatening to have 20,000 workers join the dispute.
The Federal Court today imposed an $84,000 penalty against the CFMEU while organisers Joe Myles and Adam Hall were given penalties of $7,500 and $4,500 respectively. The court found the CFMEU and the officials engaged in unlawful coercion.
The court had been told that starting before dawn, groups of up to 50 people blocked entrances at Webb Dock in March 2015.
The CFMEU had taken action in support of the union’s enterprise bargaining demands to the lead contractor McConnell Dowell and steel-fixing firm Coastal Steel Fixing. Building works being carried out by McConnell Dowell were valued at about $400 million.
The court found that during the blockade, Mr Myles addressed a group of workers and encouraged them to stop work on the project, saying:
“Don’t be frightened to go home, because if McConnell Dowell and Coastal want to fight, I can have 20,000 workers here tomorrow at the drop of a hat to support you”.
Justice Jessup said the union’s past record of contraventions indicated that “the CFMEU has done nothing, over the years, to cause its own staff to comply with the law”.
“Indeed, the inference that the CFMEU will always prefer its own interests… to compliance with the law is a compelling one,” Justice Jessup said.
Justice Jessup also took into account Mr Myles’ past conduct, including four previous penalties handed down for workplace contraventions, in determining the $7,500 penalty.
ABCC Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss said the Port of Melbourne expansion is an important infrastructure project for Victoria’s economy.
“To threaten to bring in 20,000 outside workers to the site to try and force a decision to go your way is just not acceptable behaviour. Encouraging workers to take unlawful industrial action cannot be condoned and the ABCC will pursue such behaviour on our building and construction sites,” Mr Hadgkiss said.
Mr Hadgkiss said this was the 5th occasion in recent times that Mr Myles had been penalised for breaching workplace laws, including four matters involving coercion. “Mr Myles has received penalties totalling $76,825 for breaches of the law on Victorian and Queensland building sites,” Mr Hadgkiss said.
For more information see the legal case summary