Melbourne company and CFMEU to face court for demanding worker pay union dues

Melbourne painting and decorating company, Arteam, and the CFMEU are facing court over allegations they attempted to force a worker to join the CFMEU and pay union dues despite the worker facing other financial pressures.

FWBC alleges that in March 2014, Arteam director Michael Hanna and CFMEU officer Godwin Farrugia made false statements to a worker about being a member of the CFMEU.

Both Mr Hanna and Mr Farrugia allegedly told the worker he would not be allowed to work on the Tullamarine Quest Apartments site unless he was a paid up member of the CFMEU.  

At an induction for the workers at the Quest Apartments site on 17 March, it is alleged that Mr Farrugia inspected workers’ CFMEU membership cards and when he determined that the worker’s membership had expired, he said; “I can’t let you work if you’re not paid up”.

When the worker requested that he be given a month to pay the outstanding fees because of other financial issues, Mr Farrugia allegedly responded by saying; “I can’t give you that long, I’ll give you two days”.

The worker subsequently presented both Mr Hanna and Mr Farrugia with information regarding freedom of association that he had obtained from Fair Work Ombudsman website, stating mandatory union membership was unlawful. Despite this, Mr Hanna allegedly told the worker that if he remained on the site without having paid the outstanding membership fees, the CFMEU could “close” the site and prevent others from working. The worker then left and did not return to the site.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said that employers had a responsibility to protect workers’ rights to choose whether or not they wanted to join a union.

“It is unlawful for anyone, including employers, to pressure a worker to join or not join a union. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, Employers can be penalised if they infringe the workplace rights of workers who are simply trying to exercise their own freedom of association.

Mr Hadgkiss also criticised the CFMEU for its alleged disregard for freedom of association.

“The CFMEU has repeatedly said that it always acts in the best interest of workers. However, in this case, the union allegedly prevented a worker from doing his job because he was exercising his workplace rights. “Closed shop” practises have no place in the building industry or anywhere in Australia’s workplace relations system.”

A case management hearing is scheduled for 3 June 2016.

PDF icon Melbourne company and CFMEU to face court for demanding worker pay union dues