Near maximum penalties have been handed down to the CFMMEU after finding a worker would be “working for nothing” if made to join union while working on a Toowoomba site for only a couple of days.

The Federal Circuit Court last week imposed total penalties of $55,080 against the CFMMEU and its site delegate after he pressured a landscaper to join the union despite only being contracted for short-term work.

The CFMMEU was penalised $48,600 which is 90 per cent of the maximum fine. The CFMMEU’s site delegate, Peter D’Arcy was penalised $6,480.

Mr D’Arcy admitted he made a reckless misrepresentation to the worker that he had to join the union prior to a site induction at the Grand Central Shopping Centre site on 27 March 2017.

The Court heard Mr D’Arcy entered the induction room on site and questioned workers on whether they were union members. When the landscaper told Mr D’Arcy he was no longer in the union, Mr D’Arcy said he would “have to re-join the [Union]”.

The following exchange then took place:

Worker: “what if I don’t join the Union?”

Mr D’Arcy: “That’s fine, but you can’t work here, you’ll have to go and work somewhere else.”

When another worker heard this exchange and said words to the effect “Isn’t that illegal?” Mr D’Arcy said “if you want to work here then you have to be part of the union”.

In response to a question from the first worker about how much the CFMMEU membership would cost, Mr D’Arcy said it would be around $500. The following exchange then occurred:

Worker: “I’m only up here for a couple of days. So I’m basically coming up here to work for nothing.” Mr D’Arcy: “Well, that’s just the way it is.”

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the case was yet another example of why workers’ rights to freedom of association must be protected.

 “Since 2 December 2016, the CFMMEU and its delegates have been successfully prosecuted for breaking the law in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Gladstone, and now Toowoomba,” he said.

“The Courts have imposed total penalties of $2.6 million against the CFMMEU in Queensland, representing 37.68 per cent of fines imposed nationally in ABCC litigation.”

The ABCC has a further 12 pending cases before the Courts in Queensland, 10 of which involve the CFMMEU, concerning alleged unlawful conduct on building sites in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Cairns, Toowoomba and the Sunshine Coast.

More coercion charges for CFMMEU

In another example of the CFMMEU’s recidivist law-breaking, two of its officials, including assistant Queensland state secretary Jade Ingham, allegedly engaged in coercion, adverse action and organised unlawful industrial action.

The Australian Building and Constriction Commission (ABCC) has launched legal action in the Federal Court alleging the contraventions occurred at the 40 storey Qube project in Broadbeach in October 2017.

In its statement of claim filed in the Federal Court, the ABCC alleges that unlawful industrial action was triggered by an incident on 16 October 2017 where the CFMMEU site delegate verbally threatened and abused the health and safety advisor on site.

The ABCC further alleges Mr Ingham, union organiser Shaun Desmond and the CFMMEU coerced the head contractor to reinstate the site delegate, organised unlawful industrial action and engaged in adverse action against the head contractor.

In its statement of claim the ABCC alleges the site’s CFMMEU delegate abused the health and safety advisor for the site, moved into his personal space and asked him to ‘come out on the street and sort it out’; while in another instance, Mr Desmond attended the site where he said words to the effect of: ‘my members are sitting in the shed until [the site delegate] is reinstated’, and ‘you need to sort this out or else you can watch grass grow on your site’;

It also alleges that following CFMMEU meetings organised by Mr Desmond, up to 46 workers took unlawful industrial action by walking off the site for the day on multiple occasions.

The ABCC is alleging the following contraventions against the CFMMEU, Mr Ingham and Mr Desmond:

  • unlawful industrial action under s.46 of the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016(BCCIP Act)
  • adverse action under s 346 of the Fair Work Act and
  • coercion under s.348 of the Fair Work Act.

AMMA welcomes the ABCC continuing with active investigation and prosecution of workplace law breaches.

As a consistent supporter of the ABCC since it was first recommended by the Cole Royal Commission in 2003, AMMA will be reiterating industry’s support for the regulator’s retention ahead of the 2019 Federal Election

For more information contact [email protected]