The Federal Court has today penalised the CFMMEU $190,000 and its official Grant Harradine $20,000 for organising unlawful industrial action against a local subcontractor from 11 March 2019 to 14 March 2019 during construction of the $293 million North Queensland Stadium.

Mr Harradine organised an unlawful ban which involved workers refusing to work as part of a campaign to coerce the subcontractor to make a building enterprise agreement with the CFMMEU.  

The Court also found 16 employees of the subcontractor took part in the unlawful industrial action resulting in the subcontractor being unable to perform any work on the project for three days.

Eleven employees were penalised $5,000 while a further five employees were penalised $4,500 for their part in the unlawful industrial action. Total penalties imposed on the employees were $77,500.

In its liability judgment dated 10 July 2020, the Court made the following findings:

In November 2018 four CFMMEU officials, including Mr Harradine, attended the stadium site in Townsville.

At the time Mr Harradine addressed a group of workers while holding a copy of the CFMMEU template enterprise agreement, saying words to the effect, “You need to make your bosses sign this.”

The officials also abused the director of the subcontractor calling him a “F***ing dog” and “a piece of sh*t”.

On 11 March 2019, Mr Harradine entered the North Queensland Stadium site and met with employees. Following the meeting 11 employees of the subcontractor refused to commence work.

The following day 15 employees of the subcontractor refused to work for their entire rostered shift. A similar number of employees refused to work for two subsequent days.

On 14 March 2019, the Fair Work Commission ordered the unlawful industrial action cease immediately.

Ultimately the Court found the actions contravened the unlawful industrial action and coercion provisions in the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (BCIIP Act).

Justice Rangiah in today’s penalty judgment said of the CFMMEU’s actions:

‘The contraventions must be regarded as very serious. Mr Harradine and the Union organised the bans imposed by the Employees in order to coerce PJ Walsh Constructions into entering a building enterprise agreement with the Union. It has been recognised that, “coercion is a particularly serious form of industrial conduct”:…’

Justice Rangiah went on to say:

“The Union’s record of contraventions has been described in other cases as “disgraceful and shameful”, “deplorable” and “dismal”: .I agree with those descriptions. “

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney noted this was one of the largest building and construction projects ever undertaken in North Queensland.

“The disruption to critical path work was serious. The penalties imposed by the Federal Court reflect the gravity of the offending conduct,” Mr McBurney said.

“The CFMMEU’s actions were motivated by a desire to pressure a local subcontractor to comply with the union’s will, regardless of the cost to the company.

“Consistent with previous cases, the Court noted the absence of contrition on the part of the CFMMEU and its official. Not only will the respondents be compelled to pay a high price for their unlawful conduct, but the Court also made an order for payment of legal costs in addition to the penalties imposed.”