Court penalises CFMEU “gatekeeper” for enforcing ‘no-ticket, no-start’ on Melbourne construction site

The Federal Court today imposed penalties totalling $105,000 against the CFMEU and a shop steward for stopping two workers, who were not financial members of the CFMEU, from working on the Quest Apartments construction site in Melbourne.

The Court found that at a site induction on 17 March 2014, CFMEU shop steward Godwin Farrugia asked the workers about their union membership saying: “You haven’t paid [your membership]. You need to fix it. I can't let you work if you're not paid up”.

One worker asked to be given a month to pay his fees because he had not worked in three months and accumulated household bills. The shop steward responded by saying, “I can’t give you that long. I give you two days.

To the other worker, Mr Farrugia said words to the effect that: “if you don’t pay the union cards, you can’t work in here because this job is for the union. This job is a union site...if you want to be working you have to have a union card.”

The workers’ employer in this matter, Arteam, and its director Michael Hanna had previously admitted to contravening the Fair Work Act for saying all its workers needed to be CFMEU members to work on the site. The employer was penalised in October 2016.

In the judgment today, the Court said the CFMEU shop steward was “enforcing a ‘no ticket no start’ regime on the site”:

“the CFMEU has accumulated a deplorable record of contravening… the Act”

“Neither the CFMEU nor Mr Farrugia exhibited any contrition for their misconduct; nor… did they acknowledge error and undertake to avoid repetition [of the misconduct].

The Court imposed near-maximum penalties against the CFMEU of $95,000 while Mr Farrugia. was penalised $10,000.

ABC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said there is no place for ‘no ticket no start’ practices on Australian construction sites and this case was a clear example of why workers’ rights to freedom of association must be protected.

“This was not an isolated incident. It is part of a pattern frequently seen on construction sites where workers are wrongly, and unlawfully, told that membership of a union is a mandatory condition of employment on the site,” Mr McBurney said.

“The law is clear. Workers are protected from discrimination or victimisation due to their membership, or non-membership, of a union.”

To threaten someone else’s livelihood because they exercise their right to decide whether to join or not join a union is unacceptable and unlawful.”

More information is available on the ABCC legal case summary page.

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