The Federal Court has imposed total penalties of $142,000 on the CFMMEU and three of its officials for taking coercive action at a Carlton building site in March 2015 on the basis that senior CFMMEU leadership condoned the contravening conduct.
Three CFMMEU officers admitted that they stopped critical works and threatened subcontractors at the Cardigan street site. The Court ordered the CFMMEU to pay $120,000, Theo Theodorou $8,500, Rob Graauwmans $7,500 and Izmar Miftari $6,000.
The Federal Court made findings that:
- On 28 March 2015, Mr Miftari, the CFMMEU delegate for the project, approached a subcontractor during a critical three tonne crane lift and yelled: "put it down, you stop the f--king lift you put it down now". Mr Miftari stopped the lift mid-air because "there is a non-EBA [enterprise agreement] traffic company and there will be no lift".
- Later that day, after Mr Miftari’s employment was terminated, Mr Graauwmans, approached the crane operator and warned him against performing any work at the site, saying "It is in your best interest to pack up and leave" and "This has got nothing to do with you at this stage but you don’t want to be doing any lifts".
- Mr Graauwmans prevented three separate crane companies from attending the site in order to coerce the head contractor to re-employ Mr Miftari.
- On 30 March 2015, Mr Miftari told a painting contractor that if they continued to work on the site they would not work "on any other project in Melbourne".
In imposing the penalty, the Federal Court observed:
"the CFMMEU has an extensive history of prior contraventions of industrial laws" and that it "is so egregious as to enable an inference to be drawn that the senior leadership of the CFMMEU…condones the breach by its officers or employees of industrial laws...
An organisation faced with a litany of contraventions over an extended period of time, which repeatedly incurs not only significant financial penalties but also pointed judicial criticism, would necessarily put in place measures to change the cultural or normative conduct and the contravening behaviours of its officers and employees. Unless, of course, the senior leadership of the [CFMMEU] …condones such behaviour. I have satisfied that that is the position of the senior leadership …in Victoria."
ABC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said today’s decision is yet another strong message from the Court to the senior leadership of the CFMMEU that its unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated.
"The unlawful conduct in this case was deliberate and serious," Mr McBurney said.
"It resulted in a scheduled crane lift being aborted. This impacted the workers on site, the workers for three crane companies, a painting contractor, and the head contractor, all at a critical point of the project.
"Workers should be free to earn their livelihood without being subjected to coercion by union officials undertaken in pursuit of the industrial objectives of the CFMMEU. The unlawful conduct in this case directly threatened the livelihoods of the contractors and their workers.
"The ABCC stands ready to assist any victim of unlawful conduct in the building and construction industry.
"I am particularly mindful of the critical comments made by the Federal Court in this and preceding cases concerning the conduct of the CFMMEU and its leadership.
"My agency will continue to respond to unlawful behaviour and present appropriate cases such as this one to the Court to hold contraveners to account.
"The Court found that there was no evidence of any compliance action taken by the CFMMEU to counsel, educate or inform other officers and members to prevent the reoccurrence of contravening conduct in the future.
"The challenge for the CFMMEU is whether it will choose to comply with the law."