Darwin industrial action leads to $94,600 penalty

Penalties totalling $94,600 have been ordered against the CFMEU, the CEPU and three union officials following unlawful industrial action targeting the $45 billion Ichthys LNG development, one of the world’s most significant oil and gas projects.

The penalties arise from action taken at the project’s “park and ride” facilities at Yarrawonga and Darwin airport. The facilities allowed workers to park their vehicles before being transported by bus to the project’s onshore facility at Bladin Point near Darwin

The court found that on 19 June 2014, CFMEU organiser Michael Robinson attended the Yarrawonga park and ride facility and organised unlawful industrial action that resulted in workers failing to board the bus and attend work for the day.

The court also found that on the same day CFMEU organiser Shaun Taylor, together with CEPU organiser Michael Haire, attended the Darwin Airport park and ride facility and organised unlawful industrial action resulting in workers failing to board buses and attend work.

Mr Robinson, Mr Taylor and Mr Haire were penalised $6,700 for their actions while the CFMEU and CEPU were ordered to pay penalties of $39,000 and $35,500 respectively.

In handing down penalty orders today, Judge Charlesworth found that Mr Taylor knew his actions were in breach of the law, yet he nevertheless encouraged others to take part.

“The comments made by Mr Taylor at the Airport meeting demonstrate his appreciation that the employees themselves would be in breach of s 417 if they accepted the proposal to stop work. His reference to s 418 of the FW Act indicated that he turned his mind to the unlawfulness of the action he encouraged,” Judge Charlesworth said.*

“In all of the circumstances, I regard the mental attitudes accompanying the contraventions of Mr Robinson, Mr Taylor and Mr Haire as defiant and serious.”

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said this case was another example where union officials chose to ignore the Fair Work Act 2009 in order to pursue industrial agendas.

“Under the Act, there are clear rules for when industrial action can be taken and there are also clear processes for settling industrial disputes. Unfortunately, we continue to see many examples where these provisions are completely ignored and officials choose to pursue unlawful options,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

“It’s of grave concern that we continue to see people make conscious decisions to ignore long-standing Australian workplace laws. Every worker should be entitled to expect that other people in their workplace will respect the law.”

[*s 417 is a provision relating to penalties for unlawful industrial action, s 418 relates to the employer’s ability to seek a return to work order from the FWC]

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