The Federal Court has handed down penalties totaling $34,500 against the CFMMEU and its former official Brendan Murphy after Mr Murphy was found to have intentionally hindered and obstructed construction work at the Geelong Grammar school in December 2014.

On 3 December 2014 Mr Murphy entered the Geelong Grammar construction site without providing notice and refused to show his entry permit for inspection. He then refused multiple requests to leave the site and called a meeting of workers.

Following the meeting he told the site manager he would not leave until everyone was off the site because he was not happy with the subcontractors that had been engaged. A number of workers left the site and work ceased.

Mr Murphy threatened that he would be back the next day to make sure the site wasn’t open.
In an earlier liability judgment the Federal Court rejected Mr Murphy’s claim that he was concerned about safety at the site with Justice Mortimer saying:

“I am not satisfied there was any real health and safety issue, despite Mr Murphy’s references to people working in the dark.” 

In handing down the penalty judgment Justice Mortimer took into account Mr Murphy’s conduct, including:

“…his aggression, his language, the interference with work on the site, the refusing to leave when told to, the contrived OH&S concerns, the threats not to allow the site to re-open.”  

Her Honour went on to say Mr Murphy’s conduct was:

“… confrontational, aggressive and rude. Mr Murphy was bullying and overbearing, and deliberately so.” 

Justice Mortimer said of the CFMMEU:

“This level of contravening conduct can only indicate a continuing readiness to disregard and flout the industrial laws of this country, when it suits the CFMMEU and its officials to do so.”

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said it was imperative that the rule of law was followed by all building industry participants, whether they are union officials, employers or workers.

“All too regularly we see the CFMMEU and its senior officials flouting the law,” Mr McBurney said.

“This decision illustrates a repeated pattern of bullying behaviour with officials claiming to go onsite over safety reasons only to be found by the Courts that their real motivation is to shut sites down and cause disruption for industrial purposes.

“If Mr Murphy was still a permit holder, based on the findings of the Court and his previous contraventions, he would have faced the very real prospect of having his right of entry permit stripped from him.”

ABCC statistics 

  • The ABCC currently has 44 matters before the courts
  • The CFMMEU or its representatives are respondents in 32 of these matters facing 642 alleged contraventions
  • There are 68 representatives of the CFMMEU currently before the courts
  • Since the ABCC’s re-establishment on 2 December 2016, $8.89 million in total penalties have been awarded by the Courts. The CFMMEU and its officials account for $8.33 million of these penalties ($600,692 subject to appeal or further decision).