Commercial painting business Prolac P/L and its director Tim Petrusic have been penalised $16,200 for terminating a subcontractor’s contract on the EQ Tower project in Melbourne‘s CBD in 2017. 

Prolac had admitted to taking adverse action against the painting subcontractor when it terminated his contract because he was not up to date with his CFMMEU fees.  

In the same matter, the Federal Court in April this year imposed $78,000 in penalties against the CFMMEU and shop stewards Maurice Campanaro and Joe Caratozzolo after they were found to have coerced the subcontractor to pay his outstanding fees. 

Mr Campanaro and Mr Caratozzolo told the subcontractor he had to pay his fees to the CFMMEU before he could work at the Trillium Project and EQ Tower construction sites. 

Despite paying his fees on 15 February 2017, Prolac terminated the contract with the subcontractor the following day. 

In his judgment Justice Wheelahan described the contraventions as serious and deliberate.  

“In my view, there was nothing inadvertent or accidental about what occurred. Both respondents have significant experience in the construction industry in Melbourne, and it is reasonable to expect that they should have had some understanding of the protections under the Fair Work Act which relate to freedom of association.” 

“The content of the words used by Mr Petrusic … evidence a preparedness to assist the CFMMEU in furthering its “closed shop” policy at the EQ Project site. “ 

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the penalty against Prolac and its director recognises the need for companies to respect workplace rights and ensure subcontractors are protected from adverse action. 

“There is no place for “closed shops” in Australian workplaces,” Mr McBurney said. 

“The union officials in this case threatened the worker’s livelihood and coerced him into paying union membership fees on two separate occasions. 

“It is unacceptable for an employer to terminate an employee because they are not a member of a union. Employers must ensure they respect the rights of their employees to freedom of association at all times. My agency will not hesitate to enforce the law against employers who discriminate against workers on the basis of their union membership.” 

Prolac was penalised $13,500 and its director Mr Petrusic $2,700 for contravening section 346 of the Fair Work Act by taking adverse action against the subcontractor.