The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) continues its active investigation and prosecution of workplace law breaches, with the Federal Court awarding penalties of $137,000 against the CFMMEU and one of its Tasmanian officials.
The penalties result from unlawful actions and putting workers’ safety at risk at the Living City Project in Devonport in June 2017.
The judgment against the union and its official, Richard Hassett, takes total penalties awarded by the courts against the CFMMEU to over $4 million in this financial year.
During the unlawful entry onto the project site Mr Hassett put the safety of workers at risk by climbing into the cabin of a crane while it was being operated.
At the time of his reckless actions he defied a clearly visible sign advising “No unauthorised interruption of operator during crane operation“.
The following day despite being told it was unsafe, Mr Hassett again climbed into the crane cabin while it was being operated, compromising workers’ safety on a second occasion.
In handing down penalties the court found the union official had acted in an improper manner and failed to comply with occupational health and safety requirements while on the site.
The Court found:
… the conduct of Mr Hassett on 5 June 2017 was a serious breach.
It was serious because it was very dangerous, which Mr Hassett must have known, and it was serious because Mr Hassett gained entry to the site purportedly in respect of safety concerns – only to place the crane operator and others potentially in harm’s way. And it was made all the more serious by the fact that when he was told to get off the crane, he refused.
The Court found the CFMMEU 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”.
ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said Mr Hassett’s actions were at odds with the CFMMEU’s claims about protecting workers’ safety.
“As regulator, we must take action to ensure industrial laws are observed. In this case, the actions of Mr Hassett were dangerous, and undertaken with disregard for the law. This is unacceptable, and the penalties imposed on both Mr Hassett and the CFMMEU reflect the Court’s disapproval of the unlawful conduct,” Mr McBurney said.
“Total penalties imposed on the CFMMEU and its officials now exceed $4 million which accounts for 99.5 per cent of penalties imposed in ABCC litigation this financial year. The history of contraventions of both Mr Hassett and the union demonstrate a lack of contrition that is a significant cause for concern for the building and construction industry in Tasmania.”
Today’s penalty judgement is the third court matter in which Mr Hassett has been found to have unlawfully contravened right of entry laws.
In two separate proceedings in 2018, the Federal Court imposed penalties of:
- $7,500 on Mr Hassett and $50,000 on the CFMMEU for right of entry contraventions on the Brooker Highway construction project; and
- $18,000 on Mr Hassett and $170,000 on the CFMMEU for right of entry contraventions on the Parliament Square construction site in Hobart.
The ABCC remains in place to ensure building and construction industry participants’ compliance with Australia’s workplace laws.
As a consistent supporter of the ABCC since it was first recommended by the Cole Royal Commission in 2003, AMMA recently provided input into a review of the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (BCIIP Act), reiterating industry’s support for the regulator’s retention.
Further, AMMA continues to support the passage of the “Ensuring Integrity Bill“, which contains various measures seeking to lift the standards, behaviours and transparency of all registered organisations including trade unions and registered employer groups.
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