The Federal Court has today penalised the CFMMEU and six officials $428,250 for making misrepresentations about the requirement to show their entry permits, refusing to follow directions, and acting in an improper manner during the $165 million redevelopment of Terminal 1 at Adelaide Airport in 2019.
This decision represents the highest penalties imposed in any ABCC case in South Australia since the Agency was re-established in 2016.
Two of the officials, Desmond Savage and Te Aranui Albert, were also found to have repeatedly verbally abused a construction company employee.
The unlawful conduct occurred over a three-month period in 2019 during the expansion of the airport’s main terminal to upgrade its international arrivals and departures area and construct new retail and dining facilities.
The Court found on 3 April 2019, CFMMEU Officials Alex Tadic, Anthony Sloane and Adrian McManus attended the Adelaide Airport construction site citing suspected safety concerns.
When asked to present their entry permits, McManus, who was the only permit holder, failed to do so and Mr Tadic said:
“We don’t have to show these to you” and “We don’t have them, and we will be going on site anyway.”
On 23 May 2019, CFMMEU official Clarence Fellowes attended the site citing suspected safety concerns. Mr Fellowes refused to produce his entry permit and refused a lawful direction to attend the site office.
The following day, Mr Fellowes and Mr McManus again attended the site. While on site they ignored management signs requiring them to report to the site office and be inducted and refused to follow clear directions to report to the site office to sign in.
On 20 June 2019, Desmond Savage and Te Aranui Albert attended the site. The Court found while on site, the two officials repeatedly abused a construction company employee, with one or both saying:
“f*ck you I’m not dealing with you”
“You’re a f*cking waste of space”
“he’s a piece of sh*t”
“You’re a f*cking idiot”
“You don’t know what you are f*cking doing”
“go do your f*cking colouring in books you c*nt”.
The Court described the verbal abuse as follows:
It may be that a degree of coarse language occurs on construction sites. However, the language used by Mr Savage and Mr Albert, and the sentiments they conveyed, went well beyond coarseness. Instead, their statements had a belittling, denigratory and bullying tenor. They were a form of abuse.
In assessing penalties against the CFMMEU, the Court said:
[the CFMMEU’s] history of prior contraventions bespeaks an indifference to (if not a defiance of) its obligations to comply with the law; that, while its contraventions considered by themselves are not of the worst kind, they are all the more serious because they reflect an attitude of continued defiance of the law;…
ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the officials’ repeated refusal to comply with their legal right of entry obligations demonstrated their disdain for the both the rule of law and the legal obligations that apply to Federal permit holders.
“When challenged to produce their entry permits, or follow established safety and site induction practices two of the officials resorted to verbally abusing employees who were going about their rightful business.
“The verbal abuse on any measure is unacceptable. No worker in any Australian workplace should have to endure such a tirade. Equally concerning is the absence of contrition or any apology for this conduct.
“The ABCC takes a zero-tolerance approach to this type of abuse and will fully investigate such matters and put them before the court where appropriate.”
Total penalties awarded