The CFMMEU and two of its Tasmanian officials have been penalised $221,000 after the Federal Court found they had contravened right of entry laws and intimidated staff at a Hobart construction site in 2019.

The findings of the Court were that:

CFMMEU official Richard Hassett had unlawfully entered the project site at 80 Elizabeth Street on 23 and 28 May 2019. Mr Hassett had not held a valid federal right of entry permit since December 2018.

On 28 May 2019, CFMMEU official Kevin Harkins acted in an improper manner by being loud and intimidating towards the head contractor’s staff when he said:

“Don’t get smart with me a***hole. I’m almost at the end of my career I don’t give a f**ck what happens to me…”

Mr Harkins told Tasmanian Police officers that Mr Hassett was authorised to enter the site despite not having a federal right of entry permit.

The Federal Court in its judgment said of Mr Hassett’s actions:

“Mr Hassett must have known that it was unlawful for him to enter the Project as he did on 23 and 28 May 2019 seeking to exercise entry rights without a permit.

It follows that the contraventions were deliberate and serious. Mr Hassett is also a recidivist.”

The Court went on to state:

“Mr Hassett’s conduct was also flagrant. He knew that he was not permitted to enter the Project for the (health and safety) reasons he gave; he was reminded that he was not so permitted; yet he insisted (among other things) that the idea that he was not allowed on site was “bullshit” (the term he used on 23 May) and that he could (as he put it on 28 May) “do whatever [he] fucking like[d]”.

In referring to Mr Harkin’s conduct the Court said:

"Mr Harkins self-evidently acted in an improper way within the meaning of s 500. It is obviously improper for a person holding an entry permit and entering a site under the guise of health and safety concerns to behave as follows:

(a) acting in a loud and intimidating manner toward ... the Site foreman, when asked what safety equipment was unsafe, and saying to him words to the effect of “don’t get smart with me, arsehole. I’m nearly at the end of my career. I don’t give a fuck about what happens to me, but that bloke over there will be onto you [pointing to Mr Hassett]”;

(b) responding to a request to identify safety breaches with “you don’t fucking pay me, so I’m not going to tell you”; and

(c) responding to [the project manager] asking him (Mr Harkins) to leave by telling [the project manager] to “get fucked”.

In commenting on the CFMMEU the Court said:

“It is, nowadays, a notorious fact that the CFMMEU is a well-resourced, recidivist offender of workplace laws. No point is served here by adding to the plethora of descriptors of its conduct. According to the unchallenged submission of the applicant, the CFMMEU has contravened industrial legislation more than 170 times in the two decades prior to the conduct that gave rise to this proceeding, and as this court has said on many occasions, the union regards paying penalties as part of “doing business”.

In the two most recent cases Mr Hassett has been penalised $30,000 with the Court imposing personal payment orders against him requiring him to personally pay his penalties. The Court’s orders prohibit the CFMMEU from either directly or indirectly paying his penalty.

The Court has also described Mr Hassett as a recidivist offender.

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said since 2 December 2016, the Tasmanian branch of the CFMMEU and its representatives have had $615,500 in penalties imposed in five separate cases. Mr Hassett features as a contravener in all five cases.

“The Tasmanian building and construction industry is vitally important to that State’s economy. A concerning feature of these cases is the willful disregard exhibited by Mr Harkins, Mr Hassett and the CFMMEU for the important right of entry and health and safety protections enshrined in workplace laws. The penalties imposed by the Federal Court today reflect the seriousness of the conduct,” Mr McBurney said.

“There are several concerning elements to this case. Mr Harkins knew Mr Hassett no longer had a federal entry permit but facilitated his entry onto site. When the site occupier enquired about the safety issue, Mr Harkins responded with swearing and intimidation.

“Regrettably, this is a pattern of conduct repeated all too often on building and construction sites. It is also particularly concerning that the resources of Tasmanian police had to be diverted to attend site to respond to this unlawful conduct.

“The imposition of a personal payment order on Mr Hassett for the second time reinforces the earlier guidance provided by the High Court.  Ultimately, if a penalty is devoid of sting or burden, it will not have any deterrent effect.  The greater the sting or burden of the penalty, the more likely it will be that the union officials will be deterred from future contraventions.

“As a result of the ABCC’s court action, Mr Hassett is no longer a federal permit holder. I encourage anyone affected by further unlawful conduct of this type to immediately contact the ABCC and we will take appropriate action as we did in this case.

“On 2 December 2016, the ABCC was re-established as the federal regulator for the building and construction industry. In just four years the Federal Courts have penalised the CFMMEU and its representatives $11,018,595 in proceedings brought by my agency.

“The appalling track record of the CFMMEU is symptomatic of a business model that perpetuates a willful disregard for the laws that govern Australian workplaces.”

Penalties awarded against

CFMMEU

Hassett

Harkins

Total

Penalties awarded

$185,000

$20,000

$16,000

$221,000

 

 

 

 

Penalties awarded against Tasmanian CFMMEU and representatives since 2 December 2016

Penalty awarded against

Penalties Imposed

Contraventions Found

Elizabeth Street

$221,000

10

CFMMEU

$185,000

5

Richard Hassett

$20,000

2

Kevin Harkins

$16,000

3

Parliament Square Case

$188,000

8

CFMMEU

$170,000

4

Richard Hassett

$18,000

4

 Living City

$89,000

6

CFMMEU

$75,000

3

Richard Hassett

$14,000

3

Cattle Hill Wind Farm

$60,000

2

CFMMEU

$50,000

1

Richard Hassett

$10,000

1

Brooker Highway Case

$57,500

2

CFMMEU

$50,000

1

Richard Hassett

$7,500

1

Total

$615,500

28

 

 

Ends