The Federal Court today penalised the Queensland division of the CFMMEU and four of its officials $153,510 following a series of right of entry breaches during construction of the 34-storey 180 Ann Street, Brisbane, office tower in 2014.
CFMMEU officials Chad Bragdon, Kevin Griffin, Michael Myles and Andrew Sutherland were penalised a total of $23,460 as a result of their breaches. The CFMMEU was also found liable for the officials’ contraventions and penalised $130,050.
The Court found between 27 June 2014 and 17 July 2014 the CFMMEU officials breached right of entry laws on five separate occasions.
On each occasion the officials failed to provide the required notice before entering the site and refused to sign the visitor’s register as required by site safety protocols. All officials with the exception of Mr Myles also refused to show their entry notices.
On 27 June 2014, Mr Myles told the head contractor’s project manager they could “go and get f…ed” when the project manager advised him he could not enter the site.
The Court also found Mr Bragdon on 17 July 2014 organised workers to stop work and by doing so intentionally hindered the head contractor from carrying out its work.
The 110 workers involved in the stop work did not return to work that day. The workers also took unlawful industrial action on 26 June 2014 and 7 July 2014.
Justice Collier in her judgment stated:
“There is no evidence before me of any contrition or corrective action on the part of the individual respondents or the CFMMEU. Further, the history, including recent history, of contraventions by the CFMMEU strongly suggests a corporate culture in the CFMMEU which is not conducive to compliance with the FW Act.”
Justice Collier went on to say of the CFMMEU:
“The absence of contrition or corrective conduct on the part of the CFMMEU supports the imposition of penalties which will be a meaningful deterrent to future conduct of this nature.”
In commenting on Mr Bragdon’s conduct Justice Collier found the ABCC’s submissions had merit in relation to Mr Bragdon deliberately inflicting industrial harm by organising unauthorised industrial action:
“Mr Bragdon's conduct also involved the added dimension of organising unauthorised industrial action whilst on the Site. In my view Mr Bragdon's conduct was serious.”
ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the penalties against the CFMMEU and its officials highlighted the serious nature of their actions.
“The CFMMEU in Queensland is a repeat offender when it comes to breaching right of entry laws,” Mr McBurney said.
“Not only did the union and its officials repeatedly breach right of entry laws, Mr Bragdon also organised workers to down their tools and stop working, and in the case of Mr Myles, when confronted about being on site unlawfully he responded with offensive language.
“This judgment takes penalties imposed on the CFMMEU and its officials in ABCC case in Queensland beyond $3m which is more than any other State or Territory in Australia. This is a concerning trend. We will continue to deploy our investigative resources where they are needed most with Queensland at the forefront of unacceptable behaviour, including abuse, intimidation and threatening conduct on building and construction sites.”
There are currently 10 matters before the courts involving the CFMMEU in Queensland. Eight of these relate to alleged right of entry breaches.
Since the ABCC was re-established in December 2016 the courts have penalised the CFMMEU in Queensland $3.132 million for 931 contraventions of workplace laws.