Industry Update

Court summary: finalised matters

Unions penalised $101,500 after strike action at Australian Paper site in Victoria

  • On 11 April the Federal Court imposed penalties totalling $101,500 against the AMWU, CFMEU and AWU and three of their officials for their involvement in unlawful industrial action at a construction project at the Australian Paper Mill in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.
  • The Court found that the stoppages were not in response to an immediate threat to health or safety as contended by the respondents.
  • The Court ruled that by involving themselves in the action, the officials “took advantage of the employees’ unlawful conduct to strengthen their hands in their negotiations with the companies”.
  • ABCC Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss welcomed the decision, saying it “reaffirmed that unions have a responsibility to assist members to deal with disputes – but they must do so within the boundaries of the law”.

$590,800 penalties against CFMEU after industrial campaign shut down 9 Vic projects

  • The CFMEU and ten officials were penalised $590,800 by the Federal Court on 11 April for coordinated unlawful industrial action across multiple construction projects worth nearly half a billion dollars.
  • The coordinated unlawful action saw workers walk off the job at nine projects, including four hospitals and an aged care centre across Melbourne and Geelong.
  • The Court found the “arrogant” and “high-handed” approach of the CFMEU and its officials led to the irresistible inference that the unlawful conduct “had the explicit object of inflicting commercial harm on [the contractor]”.
  • ABCC Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss said the decision “shows that the CFMEU cannot ignore its obligations under Australia’s workplace laws”.

Ten-fold increase in penalties against CFMEU for Perth Airport blockade

  • On 29 March the Full Court of the Federal Court increased penalties against the CFMEU and six of its officials by over ten-fold following the ABCC’s successful appeal of a May 2016 penalty decision.
  • The matter related to a blockade of the $80 million Perth International Airport Arrivals Expansion Project, which saw approximately 100 protestors prevent workers from accessing the site.
  • Penalties were increased from $23,500 to $242,000 after the Full Court accepted the ABCC’s submissions that the initial penalties were “manifestly inadequate” and that the primary judge had failed to take into account the significant prior histories of several of the respondents in contravening workplace laws.
  • ABCC Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss said the decision reflected “the recidivist nature of the unlawful workplace activity by the CFMEU”.
  • The CFMEU has is recently filed an application for special leave to appeal to the High Court.

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