The Federal Court has today imposed penalties totaling $69,000 against the CFMMEU and its shop steward Kevin Pattinson for preventing an apprentice and electrician from working on a Frankston construction site because they were not members of the union.

Mr Pattinson admitted that on 13 September 2018 he approached the apprentice and the electrician during a site induction at the Monash Peninsula Student Accommodation Project, and asked them about their union membership:

Mr Pattinson: Are you union? Do you have a ticket for your fees? Have you paid your fees?

Electrician: No, we’re not a union-based company so we don’t have our ticket.

Mr Pattinson then misrepresented to the workers that in order to perform work on the site, they had to become a member of the union. As a result, the apprentice and electrician were prevented from performing work on the site.

The Court penalised the CFMMEU the equivalent of a single maximum penalty of $63,000, and penalised Mr Pattinson $6,000 for the conduct.

In handing down his judgment today Justice Snaden said:

...The Union is a “serial offender” that has, over a long period, exhibited a willingness to contravene workplace laws in the service of its industrial objectives; and one that appears to treat the imposition of financial penalties in respect of those contraventions as little more than the cost of its preferred business model.

…I regard the Union’s Agreed Contraventions—viewing them, as I do, against the backdrop of its sorry record of statutory contravention—as very much of the gravest, most serious kind. It is bad enough that it should so casually intrude upon rights of free association so valued by societies of conscience; much worse that it should do so, yet again, in deliberate defiance of the law that it has been told time and time again that it must obey. 

…it appears to be wholly unmoved by the prospect that it might be forced yet again to dig into its members’ “big pots of gold” in the name of “fight[ing] the good fight”. 

Of Mr Pattinson’s conduct, his Honour said:

…given his long-held position and rank within the Union, it is patently absurd to conclude anything other than that he did what he did out of fealty to his Union’s policy of enforcing a “no ticket, no start” regime at the construction sites over which it wields influence.

Mr Pattinson is merely the latest foot soldier in what seems to be the Union’s war against free association on Australian building sites.

ABCC Deputy Commissioner Matt Kelleher said the case was just one of the many the agency has come across where workers have been pressured to join the CFMMEU as a condition of work.

“I note the Court’s comments on the CFMMEU’s history of engaging in unlawful conduct with a view to maintaining a ‘no ticket, no start’ policy on building sites around the country,” Mr Kelleher said.

“All workers have a right to choose whether or not they want to become a member of a union. That right is protected by the law.

“Workers cannot be prevented by union officials or anyone else from working on an Australian building and construction site because they are not a union member. A ‘no ticket, no start’ policy is unlawful. 

“The Court noted that the CFMMEU in particular ‘regards the imposition of penalties as an acceptable cost of the manner in which it chooses to operate’. It is regrettable that members’ hard earned money continues to be used to pay for this unlawful conduct.”