The CFMEU and one of its officers have been ordered to pay $98,000 in penalties after blocking a non-union member from working on a Melbourne construction site and coercing another to pay outstanding union fees before letting him start on the job.
CFMEU delegate Andrew Harisiou admitted that in August 2015 he told workers at the Pacific Werribee Shopping Centre site who were not CFMEU members, words to the effect:
“… if you’re not part of the union, you’re not allowed on this site.”
When one worker said he didn’t want to join the union, Mr Harisiou had said words to the effect:
“What, so f*ck the union? … That’s good to know. Well, you’re not getting on site.”
When the employer requested the worker be allowed on site to help out, Mr Harisiou said words to the effect:
“Nuh. Chuck him on a train, send him home, do whatever you want to do, but he’s not getting on site.”
The worker waited around for the remainder of the working day until his colleagues finished. The second worker was allowed on site after his employer paid outstanding union fees.
Justice Tracey said Mr Harisiou’s conduct was “deliberate and wilful” and that this case fell into the “pattern of disregard for the law”. He said the CFMEU had given no assurance that it will:
“… direct its shop stewards not to seek to enforce ‘no ticket, no start’ regimes and to respect the freedom of association provisions of the Act.”
The court penalised the union the near maximum total of $90,000 for two breaches of laws relating to coercion. Mr Harisiou was penalised $8000 for similar breaches.
Justice Tracey said having regard to the history of offending by the CFMEU, it may be doubted that any penalty would be “sufficiently high to deter repetition”, adding that:
“Any penalty will be paid and treated as the necessary cost of enforcing the CFMEU’s demand that all workers on certain classes of construction sites be union members.”
Acting ABCC Commissioner Cathy Cato said the court’s ruling demonstrated that workers have clear rights of freedom of association.
“The decision again shows the courts will not tolerate workers being coerced into joining a union against their will,” Ms Cato said.
“This is a reminder to employers and union delegates alike that every worker has a right to choose whether or not they want to join a union.
“No one has the right to stop a person from working because of that choice.”