Stuart v CFMEU and Corbett

Applicant: ABCC Inspector Karen Stuart 

Respondent(s): Charles Corbett 

Date filed: 25 February 2008 

Outcome: 

On 8 June 2010 the Full Court of the Federal Court upheld the ABCC's appeal, increasing penalties against the CFMEU from $5000 to $25,000 for unlawful industrial action and coercion at a site in Morwell, Victoria.

Background:

In September 2006, a subcontractor was engaged to perform building work on the Police and Law Courts Complex at Morwell. The subcontractor's employees were not covered by a CFMEU industrial agreement. 

It is alleged that on 19 September 2006, the CFMEU shop steward, Charlie Corbett, refused to induct the employees of the subcontractor, caused delay to employees of the subcontractor unloading paint in the course of their work, demanded that the subcontractor enter into an EBA with the CFMEU and demanded that the employees attend for a second induction. 

It is further alleged that on or from 20 September 2006, demands were made for a CFMEU industrial agreement with the subcontractor, including demands from Mr Corbett and the CFMEU organiser John Parker. 

It is further alleged that on 3 October 2006, Mr Corbett demanded the employees of the subcontractor attend a third induction which he then refused to perform. Mr Corbett allegedly organised a stopwork meeting over the failure by the subcontractor to enter a CFMEU industrial agreement for all other employees on the site which resulted in workers not returning to work that day.

On 5 May 2009 the CFMEU and Corbett admitted taking unlawful industrial action and taking action with intent to apply undue pressure to Celltech to agree to make an EBA. The other allegations of coercion not to engage Celltech and discrimination against Celltech were not admitted.

On 2 October 2009, Justice Gray ordered the CFMEU to pay a penalty of $5,000 for contravening section 38 and section 44 of the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act 2005.

ABCC Appeal Upheld

The ABCC filed an appeal against the judgment and penalties handed down by the Federal Court on 22 October 2009. The ABCC's appeal was heard on 17 February 2010 by Moore, Gordon and Besanko JJ. On 8 June 2010 the Full Bench upheld the ABCC's appeal and increased penalties imposed on the CFMEU to $25,000.