Unlawful coercion

Coercion in the building and construction industry is unlawful under provisions of the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (BCIIP Act) and the general protections provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act).

What is Coercion?

Coercion is the application of pressure to force a party to do something that they do not want to do.

Coercion interferes with a person’s freedom of choice.

Hiring building contractors or employees

It is unlawful to organise or take action, or threaten to take action, in order to coerce a person to:

  • employ or not employ a person as a building employee;
  • engage or not engage a person as a building contractor;
  • allocate or not allocate particular responsibilities to a building employee or contractor or designate particular duties to a building employee or contractor;
  • pay superannuation contributions to a particular fund or scheme.

Agreement making

Persons are entitled to make, vary, or terminate enterprise agreements under the FW Act. It is unlawful for a person to coerce or apply undue pressure to another person to agree or not agree to make, vary, extend or terminate a building enterprise agreement.

Membership of unions and industrial associations

It is unlawful for a person to coerce another person to:

  • become or not to become, or remain or cease to be, an officer or member of an industrial association; or
  • represent or advance the views, claims or interests of an industrial association; or
  • pay a fee to an industrial association or to someone in lieu of an industrial association; or
  • comply with a request by an industrial association; or
  • take part in industrial action; or
  • pay strike pay.

What penalties may be imposed for unlawful coercion?

If the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court finds that unlawful coercion has occurred it may:

  • impose a penalty;
  • grant an injunction;
  • require compensation to be paid;
  • make any other appropriate order.

The maximum penalties are:

  • up to $42,000 for individuals and up to $210,000 for a body corporate per breach of the BCIIP Act;
  • up to $12,600 for individuals and up to $63,000 for a body corporate per breach of the FW Act.

The maximum penalty amounts do not apply to compensation.

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Need more information?

For further information, advice or assistance please contact the ABCC at 1800 003 338 or enquiry [at] abcc.gov.au.