The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has imposed penalties totalling $137,590 against the CFMMEU and three of its officials for unlawfully entering an Adelaide worksite on four occasions between April and July 2014.
The case is another example of the continual active prosecution of workplace law breaches by the nation’s construction watchdog.
Following a contested trial, the Court found one union official unlawfully entered the site on one occasion and the CFMMEU was liable for the unlawful conduct of each of the named officials.
In her decision Justice Charlesworth said the contraventions involved a blatant and deliberate disregard of the requirements of the law.
“The CFMMEU’s history of non-compliance is properly described as reprehensible,” Justice Charlesworth said.
The Court’s findings in relation to the conduct of the union officials found no appreciation of the importance of observing the conditions attaching to the privileges afforded the holder of a permit.
Justice Charlesworth found there was conscious choice to advance the interests of the union and its members over the requirements of the law.
ABC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the workplace laws were clear that union officials wanting to enter a worksite must provide appropriate notice and show a valid right of entry permit.
“Showing a valid right of entry permit is not an onerous requirement on a union official going about his or her official business,” Mr McBurney said.
“One of the most concerning aspects of this case is the attempt to leverage safety for the industrial objectives of the CFMMEU.”
Federal Court makes first personal payment order against repeat offender
The decision is the first of its kind and prevents Mr Myles from seeking any financial benefit from the CFMMEU to pay the penalty.
The Full Federal Court in June increased Mr Myles’ penalty to $19,500 and the penalty imposed on the CFMMEU was significantly increased to $111,000 for its contraventions of the Fair Work Act.
However, The Australian reported that the union will be able to hold fundraisers on union premises to help law-breaking officials pay financial penalties imposed on them by the courts.
ABC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the order “sends an important message that union officials have to comply with the law like everyone else and should not expect union members to pick up the tab for their unlawful conduct”.
“Today’s ruling provides the framework by which officials who break the law can be held personally responsible for paying their own penalties,” he said.
The ABCC is seeking personal payment orders in 14 other matters currently before the Courts.
These cases highlight why it is crucial 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.