October 2013 Industry Update
Unions fined almost $600k in penalties for industrial campaigns
Unlawful industrial action campaigns against construction companies have cost unions and their members more than $110,000 per month in the past five months as a result of FWBC legal proceedings.
FWBC has secured $599,500 in penalties stemming from six recent judgments of court cases involving union-orchestrated industrial campaigns against major construction companies.
In the most recent judgment, which was handed down in Brisbane on 10 October 2013, the court ordered the CFMEU and BLF to pay penalties of $55,500 for directing workers to strike on three Brisbane projects managed by Laing O’Rourke Australia Construction Pty Ltd. As a result of the strikes, which the unions admitted to orchestrating, each of the projects were delayed for between one and a half and two and a half days.
The Court took into account that the stoppages were orchestrated to disrupt three sites operated by the company on the same days and the State Secretary of the BLF was involved in organising the industrial action.
Another decision was handed down in Melbourne on 7 October 2013. The Federal Court ordered the CFMEU and six of its representatives to pay penalties totaling $230,000 after they admitted to 14 breaches of workplace relations laws.
The respondents admitted to engaging in an unlawful campaign of strikes and coercion against construction company Abigroup in an attempt to pressure it to employ particular members on the Peninsula Link road project.
This campaign involved strikes and blockades on the major Pensinula Link project, as well as strikes on the Southern Link Upgrade project and 11 nearby sites where building work was being conducted at schools.
The other recent judgments were:
- On 3 October 2013, the Federal Court at Melbourne ordered a $15,000 penalty be imposed on the CFMEU and an official , for directing two workers to strike on the Florey Neuroscience Institute within the Austin Hospital site at Heidelberg, Victoria. The action was taken because a subcontractor’s employees were being paid according to their enterprise agreement and not higher local rates.
- On 20 August 2013, the Federal Court ordered the CFMEU and CEPU to pay a $119,000 penalty for a ‘calculated and co-ordinated campaign’ against construction company Watpac. The CFMEU admitted that its officials encouraged workers to strike on three Watpac sites on 9 and 10 November 2010 – the Translation Research Institute Project at Annerley, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) Centre Project at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and the Carrara Stadium Refurbishment and Extension Project. The CEPU admitted that its officials were involved in the QIMR action. The campaign was carried out in an attempt to coerce Watpac to sign an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) with the unions and only employ subcontractors who had a union agreement.
- Also in Queensland, on 10 July 2013, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia ordered the CFMEU and CEPU to pay penalties totaling $65,000 for their involvement in unlawful industrial action taken against Brookfield Multiplex. We covered this judgment in the last Industry Update.
- The June Industry Update featured an article about a Victorian judgment for similar behaviour – the CFMEU and five of its representatives were ordered to pay penalties totaling $115,000 for an industrial campaign against St Hilliers.
These judgments and penalties demonstrate it is unacceptable to ignore established dispute settlement procedures and other lawful avenues.
In each case, the relevant unions had a range of lawful options available to them to pursue their concerns.
Media release – CFMEU & BLF penalised $55k for Brisbane strikes in FWBC case
Media release - Court orders Vic CFMEU and officials to pay $115k in FWBC case
FWBC website – Coercion
FWBC website – Unlawful Industrial Action