09 March 2016"Sheer thuggery": CFMEU and official fined after intimidating workers

The CFMEU and official Scott Vink have been dealt near maximum penalties of $48,000 and $9,000 respectively by the Federal Circuit Court for an incident that occurred at the Pacific Fair shopping centre redevelopment in Queensland in March 2014.

The penalties are just shy of the maximum of $10,200 for an individual and $51,000 for an organisation with Judge Vasta giving minor discounts due the respondents admitting the contraventions.

The ugly incident, described as “sheer thuggery” by Judge Vasta, involved Mr Vink removing workers’ belongings from the site shed, including lunches from the refrigerator, and leaving them outside.

When approached by the site’s health and safety manager, Vink was found to have launched into an obscenity-laced tirade claiming workers who were not CFMEU members were not allowed to keep their lunch in site fridges. Mr Vink then padlocked the site shed preventing access by workers.

An audio file of the exchange obtained by FWBC includes the following comments:

  • “Get out of the shed you scab.”
  • “You’re a f*cken piece of sh*t mate, that’s what you are.”
  • “What did I just say mate? Get this sh*t out of the f*cken shed. Don’t make it any worse.”
  • “No, maybe you can put Neil’s stuff in the fridge, Neil’s a union member.”

In handing down the penalty today, Judge Vasta said the only reason for Mr Vink’s behaviour was “to intimidate the employees and to reinforce to others at the building site, the notion that non-union membership is not going to be tolerated”.

“Such thuggery has no place in the Australian workplace. Contraventions of the (Fair Work) Act that involve such thuggery cannot be tolerated.”

FWBC Nigel Hadgkiss said while the agency was pleased with the result, it was disappointing that such behaviour continues on Australian building sites.

“Behaviour designed to intimidate, harass and bully workers into joining the CFMEU ought to be condemned by all building industry participants, including the union itself. Under the Fair Work Act, workers must be able to decide to join, or not join a union without facing this type of abhorrent action.” 

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