A federal court case in which two building union members received more than $130,000 in fines highlights the importance of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), says Master Builders Australia.
According to Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn, building unions have racked up over $4 million in fines for illegal conduct in the current financial year.
"This high amount over such a short time gives four million extra reasons why the ABCC is essential to ensure everyone plays by the rules on building sites,” she says.
Within the judgment (ABCC v Richard Xavier Hassett, Kevin Harkins and the CFMEU) the Federal Court found that two building union officials had committed serious safety breaches and broke Right of Entry of laws, representing six separate contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009 and resulting in penalties of almost $140,000.
In handing down the penalties, Justice O’Callaghan said the conduct was a "serious breach of [the Fair Work laws]… because it was very dangerous, which [the official] must have known, and it was serious because [the official] gained entry to the site purportedly in respect of safety corners – only to place the crane operator and others potentially in harm’s way.”
Justice O’Callaghan also noted the same official had committed similar breaches of safety and workplace laws on multiple occasions in the past, and referenced the conduct of the union more broadly noting it was “a large organisation with significant financial resources, which exhibits apparent willingness to contravene the [Fair Work Act] in a serious way to impose its will.”
Wawn says the case highlights a level of lawlessness in the industry.
“Building unions need to stop thinking that the laws don't apply to them and play by the rules like everyone else.
"This is exactly why the ABCC is so crucial in protecting workers and small businesses.”