CFMMEU and officials fined $137,590 for cavalier and reprehensible attitude

The Federal Court has today imposed penalties totaling $137,590 against the CFMMEU and three of its officials for unlawfully entering an Adelaide worksite on four occasions between April and July 2014.

The Court imposed the following penalties:

  • $116,790 penalty on the CFMMEU;
  • $14,300 on former State Assistant Secretary Michael McDermott;
  • $3,500 on former State Secretary Aaron Cartledge; and
  • $3,000 on CFMMEU NSW official Anthony Sloane.

Mr McDermott admitted he unlawfully entered the work site on Sturt Street on four occasions, while Mr Cartledge admitted to unlawfully entering the site on one occasion.

Following a contested trial, the Court found Mr Sloane unlawfully entered the site on one occasion. The court also found the CFMMEU liable for the unlawful conduct of each of the named officials.

In her decision Justice Charlesworth said: 

“The CFMMEU’s history of non-compliance is properly described as reprehensible.

“The contraventions involved a blatant and deliberate disregard of the requirements of the law.” 

The Court’s findings in relation to the conduct of the Union officials was as follows:

“Mr Sloane has demonstrated no appreciation of the importance of observing the conditions attaching to the privileges afforded the holder of a permit.

Like Mr McDermott, Mr Sloane consciously chose to advance the interests of the Union and its members, as he perceived them, over the requirements of the law.

It is the mental attitude accompanying Mr Sloane’s contravention, together with the lack of evidence that his mental attitude has or will change in the future, that in my view justifies a higher penalty.

The circumstances in which the contravention occurred do, however, involve a display of mockery and defiance on Mr McDermott’s part.

Mr McDermott’s attitude accompanying this contravention is appropriately described as cavalier and aloof.  This is, I find, a blatant contravention involving a knowing and deliberate departure from the law.

Mr Cartledge intended to convey … that he and Mr McDermott would enter the site notwithstanding (the occupier’s) insistence that they observe the requirements of the Act.  His statements that he would “turn a blind eye” to purported safety concerns …

Mr Cartledge adopted an attitude that he could and would ignore the requirements of the Act in their application to permit holders as and when it suited him, and yet he impliedly threatened action pursuant to the same Act in his dealings with (the occupier).

The contravention was accompanied by a seriously deficient attitude on Mr Cartledge’s part toward the importance of complying with the law.”

 

ABC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the workplace laws were clear that union officials wanting to enter a worksite must provide appropriate notice and show a valid right of entry permit.

“Showing a valid right of entry permit is not an onerous requirement on a union official going about his or her official business,” Mr McBurney said.

“One of the most concerning aspects of this case is the attempt to leverage safety for the industrial objectives of the CFMMEU. 

“Continued disregard for the law does nothing to protect and advance the safety of workers on Australian building and construction sites.”

 

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