The Federal Court has imposed a maximum penalty against the CFMEU after it repeatedly stopped work on a $126 million Commonwealth Games project on the Gold Coast.
In a penalty decision, Justice Reeves said the cost impact of the ongoing disruptions at the Carrara Sports and Recreation project had been estimated at over $700,000.
The court found the union had imposed twice-daily, two-hour union meetings over 17 working days in May and June 2016 in a bid to coerce the head contractor to enter an enterprise agreement with the CFMEU.
Justice Reeves described the action as “deliberate” and “repeated” and had:
“… continued after its immediate unlawful effect was achieved, namely, the withdrawal of the structural subcontractors' workers from the Carrara project site.”
The dispute was brought to a halt after an injunction was secured to end the stoppages.
The court on Friday imposed the maximum $54,000 penalty against the CFMEU, with Justice Reeves noting the CFMEU’s conduct resulted in “significant damage” to the head contractor.
Union officers Andrew Watson and Shaun Desmond were also penalised $5000 each for their role in the coercive conduct.
Justice Reeves cited the CFMEU’s 23 prior coercion contraventions since 2010, including 11 contraventions since 2013.
He described the union’s history of contraventions as a “notorious fact”, concluding that the CFMEU’s “history of contraventions”:
“… requires a penalty that forces it to stop using such coercive conduct as a business model and the resulting penalty as a cost of doing business.”
Acting ABCC Commissioner Cathy Cato said the court’s findings delivered an important message that such repeated conduct should not be tolerated.
“The decision confirms that a business model based on illegitimate tactics to stop work is not acceptable on Australian construction sites,” Ms Cato said.
“This case highlighted yet another example of important public infrastructure being stopped through unlawful action.
“The judge has sent a strong message that paying a penalty following coercive conduct should not be treated as the cost of doing business.”
See also: ABCC Legal Case Summary