Industry Update

Court summary – finalised matters

There have been six matters finalised in the Court since the last Industry Update. A summary is below.

Maximum penalties against CFMEU for Commonwealth Games site work stoppages

  • In a decision handed down on 30 October, the Federal Court imposed a maximum penalty against the CFMEU after it repeatedly stopped work on a $126 million Commonwealth Games project on the Gold Coast.

  • The Court found the union carried out twice-daily, two-hour union meetings over 17 working days in May and June 2016 in a bid to coerce the head contractor to enter an enterprise agreement with the CFMEU.

  • In his decision, Justice Reeves described the action as “deliberate” and “repeated” and said it had “… continued after its immediate unlawful effect was achieved, namely, the withdrawal of the structural subcontractors' workers from the Carrara project site.

  • Acting ABC Commissioner Cathy Cato said the “decision confirms that a business model based on illegitimate tactics to stop work is not acceptable on Australian construction sites.

     

CFMEU penalised $98,000 for blocking worker from Melbourne site

  • On 23 October, the CFMEU and a union delegate were penalised $98,000 after blocking a non-union member from working on a Melbourne construction site and coercing another to pay outstanding union fees before letting him start on the job.

  • The Federal Court found union delegate Andrew Harisiou’s conduct was “deliberate and wilful” when he contravened the Fair Work Act in August 2015 at the Pacific Werribee Shopping Centre site.

  • In his decision, Justice Tracey said the CFMEU had given no assurance that it will “direct its shop stewards not to seek to enforce ‘no ticket, no start’ regimes and to respect the freedom of association provisions of the Act.”

  • Acting ABC Commissioner Cathy Cato said the decision was a “reminder to employers and union delegates alike that every worker has a right to choose whether or not they want to join a union.

     

Court orders CFMEU to pay $306,000 for right of entry breaches on Brisbane site

  • The Federal Circuit Court imposed the maximum penalty on the CFMEU following right of entry breaches by its former Queensland President Dave Hanna at a Fortitude Valley construction site in 2015.

  • In his decision on 19 October, Judge Vasta labelled the CFMEU as “the most recidivist corporate offender in Australian history” and said "If I could have imposed a greater penalty for these contraventions, I most certainly would have done so.”

  • Mr Hanna had previously been ordered to pay the maximum $10,200 penalty for his conduct in the matter in a penalty decision in May this year.

  • Acting ABC Commissioner Cathy Cato said the penalty decision was significant and that “the imposition of six maximum penalties indicates the seriousness of the contraventions by a repeat offender.”

     

Court orders $145,950 in penalties over NT Gas Project unlawful industrial action

  • On 14 September, the Federal Court handed down penalties totalling $145,950 in relation to unlawful action that halted work at the Ichthys LNG Project in Darwin.

  • The Court found that in October 2013, 62 workers at the site, including the CFMEU’s site delegate Craig Tait, carried out unlawful industrial action with the intent of coercing their employer to change bus departure times.

  • Justice White said CFMEU organiser Michael Huddy and Mr Tait had “aided and abetted” the contraventions by the workers.

  • He described Mr Huddy’s actions as “deliberate and blatant” and “was dismissive” of the requests of security staff to leave the site.

     

Maximum penalties to be imposed on CFMEU for Barangaroo shut down

  • The Federal Court has indicated that maximum penalties will be imposed against the CFMEU and a number of its senior officials for their unlawful conduct at the Barangaroo site in Sydney.

  • The Court found that in July 2014, the CFMEU forced a shutdown of the site in support of union delegate Peter Genovese who had been suspended from his employment after incidents of throwing a punch at a site manager and threatening him.

  • In his decision on 13 September, Justice Flick ordered the CFMEU to publish notices in two Sydney newspapers and the union’s journal about the unlawful conduct of its officials.

  • Justice Flick said in the judgment it was “not possible to envisage worse union behaviour” and the union’s “conduct exposes a cavalier disregard for the prior penalties imposed by this Court.”

The court is yet to issue final orders on penalties.

 

Brisbane firm and CFMEU penalised $101,745 for unlawful discrimination

  • The Federal Circuit Court on 5 September, ordered Brisbane firm Dig It Landscapes to pay more than $40,000 after it terminated the contract of another company because they did not have a CFMEU EBA.

  • The Court found that in May 2014, a CFMEU official told workers of a waterproofing company they were not allowed to work on a Fortitude Valley site because their employer did not have an enterprise agreement with the union.

  • In his decision, Judge Vasta said Dig It Landscapes had taken a decision to terminate the contract of the second company because it “did not want to have trouble” with the CFMEU.

  • Dig It Landscapes was penalised $40,800 and its project manager $6,120. The CFMEU was penalised $47,175 and the CFMEU site delegate $7,650.

 

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