15 December 2016 CFMEU penalised $37,500 for demanding contractor sign secret deal to avoid ongoing strikes

The Federal Circuit Court has today handed down penalties totalling $37,500 against the CFMEU and its former Queensland President David Hanna for threatening ongoing industrial action at a Brisbane construction site, unless a construction firm agreed to sign a secret deed with the union.

Six working days were impacted by unprotected industrial action at the Brooklyn on Brookes Apartment project in Brisbane in April 2014, prompting the issue of a return to work order by the Fair Work Commission.

However Mr Hanna admitted that instead of ending the action, he arranged a meeting with the contractor and threatened continued strikes unless the contractor signed a deed with the union.

The effect of the deed was to release the union from all claims of liability arising out of the unlawful action and included a demand that all elements of the deal remained secret. In exchange for signing the deed, the CFMEU offered the contractor a sum of $100.

At the meeting, Mr Hanna said words to the effect that the union was “prepared to fight”… “even if it takes as long as the Children’s Hospital”, a reference to the Queensland Children’s Hospital site which had  been  impacted by 12 weeks’ of industrial action in 2012.

In handing down the decision, Judge Jarrett emphasised the seriousness of the conduct and absence of remorse on the part of either Mr Hanna or the CFMEU.

Judge Jarrett also highlighted the significant need to deter unlawful conduct by the CFMEU given its “egregious record of repeated and wilful contraventions of all manner of industrial laws”. He referred to the CFMEU’s “long and sorry history of industrial disputation in which its willingness to disregard the industrial laws of this country seems to know no bounds.”

ABC Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss welcomed the decision, saying the conduct demonstrated an alarming level of disregard for workplace laws.  

“That a union would threaten a company with ongoing industrial action, in clear defiance of a Fair Work Commission order, to force the company to accede to its demands is frankly astounding,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

“Respect for workplace laws is a vital ingredient of a productive and harmonious building and construction industry. No one is above the law.”

In July 2016, penalties totalling $53,000 were handed down by the Federal Circuit Court against the CFMEU and three of its officials in separate proceedings pertaining to the unlawful industrial action at the Brooklyn on Brookes site.

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