The Federal Court has penalised the CFMMEU and three of its representatives $840,000 after they were found to have threatened or organised crane workers to stop work on three Brisbane construction projects in January 2021.

The penalty is the highest-ever awarded by a court against the CFMMEU and its representatives in proceedings brought by the ABCC in Queensland.

The work stoppages were part of efforts to coerce the crane company and its labour hire provider to transfer the union’s site delegate from the Racecourse Road project to the role of health and safety representative at the Cross River Rail project.

CFMMEU official Beau Seiffert advised the crane company’s labour hire provider that if a CFMMEU delegate was not appointed as a health and safety representative at the Cross River Rail project, there would be issues for the crane company’s other projects.

Mr Seiffert later confirmed that he would not be allowing the workers to return to work until his demands were met.

The Court found on 12 and 13 January 2021, CFMMEU delegates Warren Rapata and Darcy Murdoch instructed crane workers at the 80 Ann Street and 443 Queen Street projects to remain in the sheds until directed by the union to resume work.

It was only following Fair Work Commission orders that the crane workers returned to work on 14 January 2021.

The Court found the CFMMEU, and its three representatives contravened s 52(c) of the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016. 

In the penalty decision, Justice Logan said that:

“….in societies such as ours, which is governed by the rule of law, the adoption of unlawful means to achieve an end however worthy is corrupting of that worthy end.  It is also deeply subversive of our whole social compact. These thoughts were provoked strongly by the circumstances of the present case….

The time when enough was enough in relation to compliance with the law by this union, its immediate predecessor and for that matter others in history, and its officials, has well and truly passed”

Mr Seiffert was penalised $30,000, Mr Rapata $30,000 and Mr Murdoch $30,000. Mr Seiffert was ordered to personally pay $15,000 of his $30,000 penalty which will prevent him from directly or indirectly receiving any contribution from the CFMMEU towards payment of that part of the penalty.  

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said:

“This decision represents the highest penalties awarded in Queensland against the CFMMEU in matters brought by the ABCC and its predecessors and the second highest penalties nationally under our Act. It’s important that the rule of law be upheld.

“This is a significant outcome and the first since the landmark decision in ABCC v Pattinson where the High Court said that a maximum penalty may be particularly appropriate where a contravention involved “adherence to a strategy of choosing to pay a penalty in preference to obeying the law".”

Media Release
17 June 2022