On 18 October, the Federal Court ordered the CFMMEU (Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union) and seven of its officers to pay penalties totally $313,000 for their unlawful conduct against a number of concreting companies at construction sites in Sydney in 2014 and 2015.
The Federal Court found the CFMMEU and senior officers, including former NSW State Secretary Brian Parker, Assistant State Secretary Robert Kera and organiser Luke Collier, took action against a group of concreting companies to coerce them to make an enterprise agreement with the union.
In addition, the Court found the CFMMEU and its officers had contravened right of entry laws by hindering and obstructing workers and acting in an improper manner.
At a meeting on 5 June 2014 CFMMEU official Darren Taylor threatened to “smash” the jobs of one of the subcontractors so the other contractors would “know what is coming”. Taylor told the subcontractors if they didn’t sign an agreement with the CFMMEU it would “pick one of you and come after you”.
Following the meeting CFMMEU Assistant Secretary Robert Kera sent a threatening text message reading “Eenie meenie miney mo!” to a contractor who had attended the meeting.
Kera and Parker participated in a blockade of the Wolli Creek Site on 16 March 2015. The Court found Kera exercised a degree of control or supervision over other persons participating in the blockade on that day. Kera also participated in a further blockade of the site on 17 March 2015.
The Federal Court judgement and its comments highlight the seriousness of the CFMMEU’s unlawful actions.
Justice Flick in his judgement said of the CFMMEU: “The conduct… evidences a continuing commitment on the part of the CFMEU to pursue its industrial objectives by unlawful means and a continuing commitment to pay such penalties as are imposed as but the 'cost of doing business'."
Justice Flick also concluded that CFMEU organiser Luke Collier entered the site “not out of any genuine concern as to safety but for the purpose of being as disruptive as possible”.
Collier was also said to have driven a vehicle very close to two people and when told that he was “very close to hitting [them]” he responded, “[y]ou’re just a piece of s**t”.
With regard to the text sent by Kera Justice Flick said it “was sent by Mr Kera as a threat and a threat intended to reinforce the threat made earlier in the day by [CFMMEU official] Mr Taylor”.
In a significant ruling Justice Flick also ordered the CFMMEU to publish an advertisement of the fact that contraventions have been found and penalties imposed.
Advertisements of the kind envisaged will hopefully go some way to “preventing” further like contraventions of the Fair Work Act. At the very least, advertisements may cause individual union members to pause before pursuing unlawful conduct.
The Court is due to make orders for the form of advertisement within 14 days of the judgement.
ABC Commissioner Stephen McBurney says the case is another example of the CFMMEU disregarding safety and threatening the livelihood of contractors and subcontractors in order to achieve their industrial objectives.
“The fact that the CFMMEU’s most senior officials were actively involved in unlawful conduct in this case is a cause for grave concern and justifies the making of an order for a public advertisement,” says McBurney.
“The penalty imposed today brings total penalties imposed on the CFMMEU to over $1.1 million this financial year. Penalties imposed on the CFMMEU since 2 December 2016 now total $8,181,315.
“Every dollar the CFMMEU pays in fines comes out of the pockets of their members. It is time for the CFMMEU to respect the rule of law and the rights of all building industry participants."
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