The Federal Court has today penalised the CFMMEU and its officials Stephen Long and Drew MacDonald $119,300 over repeated unlawful entries and making threats on two Melbourne construction sites in 2014.
And for only the third time the Federal Court has ordered the officials to personally pay their penalties. The personal payment orders prevent the CFMMEU from paying Mr MacDonald’s and Mr Long’s penalties.
The Court has imposed significant penalties with the CFMMEU ordered to pay $100,000, Mr Long ordered to personally pay $11,500 and Mr MacDonald ordered to personally pay $7,800.
The ABCC filed proceedings in the Federal Court alleging the union officials contravened the Fair Work Act by entering construction sites at Laverton North and Cheltenham in February and March 2014.
The Court found both officials entered the construction sites on four separate occasions without providing the required 24 hours’ notice and refused to show their right of entry permits when requested to do so.
On 27 February, at the Cheltenham site, in response to a request to produce his permit, Mr Long said: “We are not going down that path, are we? … Even if I’ve got a permit, that’s our policy that we don’t show it.”
When advised by the site manager that he would call the police Mr Long told the manager: “You … don’t want to be the dog who calls the cops on a union official … [W]e won’t forget this low act. We won’t forget that you did this.”
After the site manager told Mr Long he had called the police, Mr Long made the following threat: “We will have 500 blokes on site here tomorrow, we won’t sign an EBA with you, next year you guys will be on nothing. Your wages will drop and you blokes will be on nothing.”
Justice Bromberg in his judgment said:
“…the conduct was part of a deliberate and orchestrated campaign, which had the express or tacit approval of more senior officials of the CFMMEU.”
He went on to say:
“ The CFMMEU, and in particular the Divisional Branch, has an appallingly long history of prior contraventions of industrial laws.”
“… There is no evidence before me of the CFMMEU taking any compliance action to counsel, educate or inform MacDonald or Long in order to prevent the reoccurrence of contravening conduct by them in the future. Nor is there any evidence before me of any compliance regime ever put in place by the CFMMEU to address its long history of prior contraventions.”
In highlighting the repeated pattern of behaviour of the CFMMEU’s senior leadership, the Court concluded that “such behaviour was condoned by the senior leadership of the organisation.”
ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the penalty judgment sent a strong message to the CFMMEU and its senior leadership that its unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated.
“The Court has observed that senior leadership of the CFMMEU, particularly in Victoria, must take action to stop its officials from breaking the law,” Mr McBurney said.
“The decision of the Court today to impose personal payment orders reinforces the earlier guidance provided by the High Court. Ultimately, if a penalty is devoid of sting or burden, it will not have any deterrent effect. The greater the sting or burden of the penalty, the more likely it will be that the union officials will be deterred from future contraventions.
“The Court has again highlighted the litany of contraventions for the CFMMEU, the significant financial penalties, and the pointed judicial criticism. Yet we see no measures put in place to change the culture or the conduct of the officers and employees of the Union.
“We will hold contraveners to account as we have done in this case. Penalties imposed this financial year in ABCC litigation now total $4.221 million for the CFMMEU and its officials, and $36,200 for the rest of the industry. We stand ready to assist any victim of unlawful conduct.”