A CFMMEU shop steward who directed workers to stop work at the $11 billion Melbourne Metro Tunnel project in 2019 after claiming a first aid bed was too high has been penalised $5,000 and the union $85,000 for taking unlawful industrial action following a Federal Court decision today.

The Federal Court found CFMMEU shop steward Steven Parker directed two groups of workers at the project to not commence work due to inadequate first aid facilities and inadequate lighting.

Many of the workers remained in their crib shed before commencing work despite having been told by their employers that there was no immediate risk to their safety.

Speaking about Mr Parker’s actions the Court said:

There is no evidence that Mr Parker has expressed contrition for his conduct. I find that he has not apologised for it.”

Referring to the CFMMEU’s history of recidivism, Justice Kerr said:

“Unlike Mr Parker the Union has a gross history of prior offending against industrial legislation.”

In relation to health and safety, Justice Kerr said:

“On that understanding what the Union has done is a modern acknowledgment of the moral of the boy who cried wolf—that too many such cries can lead to demands for safety measures being ignored even when they may be fully justified and need to be instantly responded to."

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said: “The CFMMEU admitted the safety concerns did not present any imminent risk to the health and safety of workers. There was no excuse to stop work on this major project.”

“The safety of workers on construction sites remains the paramount priority in the industry but concerns about safety should never be used as an excuse to engage in unlawful industrial action.

“The ABCC will continue to bring matters before the Court where it finds concerns about workplace safety have been abused by building industry participants.” 

The Court ordered Mr Parker’s penalty be suspended for three years on the condition he does not commit a further offence against the BCIIP Act for that period.