CFMEU-organised strike leads to $61,000 in penalties

The Federal Court today handed down penalties totalling $61,000 against the CFMEU and 29 other respondents, including $5,500 against CFMEU WA Assistant Secretary Joe McDonald.

The Court found that Mr McDonald organised unlawful industrial action at the $208m Lakeside Joondalup Redevelopment in Perth on 4 June 2014 when he held a meeting with around 60 workers outside one of the entrances to the site to discuss a dispute over ‘strike pay’.

At Mr McDonald’s instruction, the employees who attended the meeting left the site and did not perform any work that day.

The remaining respondents were found to have engaged in unlawful industrial action.

The action followed demands by Mr McDonald that the head contractor disobey the law and pay workers ‘strike pay’ after they attended a union meeting during work time several days earlier.

Under section 474 of the Fair Work Act 2009, it is unlawful for employers to pay ‘strike pay’, which includes attending union meetings during work time.

In handing down the judgment, Justice Barker said the conduct of all respondents was deliberate.

“The fact of the matter is that the history of contraventions attributable to Mr McDonald shows that he uses unlawful industrial action as a calculated tool…” Justice Barker said.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said he continued to be disappointed by the frequency with which union officials act in deliberate defiance of workplace laws, with penalties appearing to have little deterrent effect.

“Once again, the CFMEU has chosen to ignore lawful dispute resolution avenues and instead chose to take unlawful action – furthermore the union encouraged workers to do the same, thereby exposing them to the possibility of incurring financial penalties,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

“This repeated and blatant disregard for workplace laws is of grave concern. Every worker is entitled to expect that other people in their workplace will respect the law.”

Mr Hadgkiss also said that the case highlights the need for workers to be aware of their rights and obligations under the Fair Work Act 2009, with breaches attracting penalties of up to $10,800 for an individual.  

There are 16 additional respondents who are named in the proceedings who were not the subject of the judgment. An outcome for these respondents will be determined in due course.

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