29 March 2017Ten-fold increase in penalties against CFMEU for Perth Airport blockade

The Full Court of the Federal Court has today significantly increased penalties against the CFMEU and a number of its key leaders after they blocked construction work on the $80 million Perth International Airport Arrivals Expansion Project.

The CFMEU and six of its officials, including former National President Joe McDonald, WA State Secretary Mick Buchan and Assistant Secretary Cam McCullough, have been dealt penalties totalling $242,000 for the 2013 blockade.

The Federal Court had previously penalised the union and its officials a total of $21,225 for the unlawful conduct, which saw approximately 100 protestors prevent workers from accessing the site, in a decision handed down in May 2016.

The increased penalties are the result of a successful appeal of the May 2016 decision by the ABCC.

The Full Court accepted the ABCC’s submissions that the initial penalties were “manifestly inadequate” and that the primary judge had failed to take into account the significant prior histories of several of the respondents in contravening workplace laws.

This included a history of 53 proven contraventions of industrial laws by Mr McDonald and six by Mr Buchan. Other respondents in the case had also been penalised on multiple occasions.

Today’s decision saw penalties against the CFMEU increased to $195,000, Mr McDonald $17,500, Mr Buchan $9,000, Vinnie Molina $9,000, Peter Joshua $5,000, Mr McCullough $2,500 and Tawa Harris $4,000.

In a majority decision, Justices Rares and Dowsett described the officials’ conduct as “a clear instance of them taking the law into their own hands”, further noting: “The conduct of the CFMEU in this case brings the trade union movement into disrepute and cannot be tolerated”.

ABCC Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss welcomed the judgment.

“The decision of the Full Court to impose higher penalties reflects the recidivist nature of the unlawful workplace activity by the CFMEU,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

“In this case the CFMEU ignored lawful dispute resolution avenues, deliberately choosing instead to take unlawful and disruptive action.

“It is important that such disregard for the rule of law is appropriately penalised. No one is above the law.”

For more information see the legal case summary

 

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