The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) continues its active investigation and prosecution of workplace law breaches, highlighting its important role in upholding compliance.

Union officials must comply with federal right of entry laws when entering sites under State OHS laws

In late October, a landmark Federal Court decision on right of entry reconfirmed that union officials entering work sites under State or Territory OHS laws must hold a valid Federal right of entry permit and must show that permit when asked to do so.

It followed the ABCC bringing court proceedings against the CFMMEU and seven officials alleging they had unlawfully entered the Bruce Highway, Caloundra project site in early 2018, causing delays and prompting the attendance of Queensland Police.

On 20 April 2018, the Federal Court granted the ABCC an injunction which prevented the seven CFMMEU officials from entering the site unless they complied with Federal right of entry laws.

The case concerned the operation of section 81(3) of the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011, which permitted representatives to enter sites to attend discussions to resolve health and safety issues.

This provision is part of the uniform Work Health and Safety laws that apply in all other States and Territories (except Victoria and Western Australia).

The judgement reinforces a 2017 Full Federal Court ruling that union officials must hold a valid federal right of entry permit when entering a site under a State or Territory OHS law.

The Fair Work Commission issues Federal right of entry permits if they are satisfied that the union official is a fit and proper person.

Employers, workers and union officials can download the ABCC’s On Site app for step by step instructions on right of entry requirements from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

You can check if a union official holds a valid entry permit on the entry permit page of the ABCC website.

ABCC alleges actions of CFMMEU QLD state secretary and organisers threatened safety on major road project

The ABCC has commenced action in the Federal Court alleging the conduct of the CFMMEU and three of its officials led to work being halted during a critical bridge construction stage on the upgrade of the Bruce Highway from Caloundra to Sunshine Motorway.

In its statement of claim, the ABCC is alleging Queensland CFMMEU state secretary Michael Ravbar and organisers Te Aranui Albert and Blake Hynes attended the worksite while night time construction was underway.

At around 8.20pm the organisers, accompanied by the project’s nightshift health, safety and environment advisor travelled in convoy to where a bridge was being constructed.

At about 11.35pm a truck loaded with concrete girders to be used in the construction of the bridge arrived in an area where an exclusion zone and warning sign had been established.

A short time later the CFMMEU organisers disregarded the warning sign and entered the exclusion zone while a concrete girder was being attached to a hoist and lifted into place.

Defying repeated requests to leave the exclusion zone, the three officials then positioned themselves behind a reversing truck preventing it from delivering its load of concrete girders and resulting in only two of the seven girders being unloaded.

Following further refusals to leave the exclusion zone the site was shut down at 2.00am.

Mr Ravbar, Mr Albert and Mr Hyne returned around 8.20pm the following night and asked to inspect westbound work on the project, where road widening was underway on Caloundra Road.

Again, after repeated requests the three CFMMEU officials refused to leave another exclusion zone resulting in the site being shut down because of safety risks posed by their presence.

The ABCC is alleging the CFMMEU, along with Mr Ravbar, Mr Albert and Mr Hynes, contravened sections 499 and 500 of the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with an occupational health and safety requirement and hindering and obstructing or otherwise acting in an improper manner.

The maximum penalty for each contravention of the Fair Work Act is $63,000 for a body corporate and $12,600 for an individual.The ABCC will be seeking personal payment orders against Mr Hynes and Mr Ravbar.

Court penalises CFMMEU and its official $39,050 for ‘offensive’ and ‘unprovoked’ abuse of subcontractor

The Federal Circuit Court recently imposed penalties totalling $39,050 against the CFMMEU and its official Blake Hynes after he acted in an aggressive manner and abused subcontractor Enco’s general manager at the Logan Enhancement Project.

Mr Hynes admitted that while exercising right of entry at the $512 million project south of Brisbane in August 2018, he approached the general manager and yelled “you f…ing, dog, c..t”. 

As the general manager continued towards a parking area, Mr Hynes continued to shout at him while acting in an aggressive manner and at one point crossed his path. 

The CFMMEU was penalised $34,650 and Mr Hynes $4,400.

In his penalty judgment today, Judge Jarratt said the conduct by Mr Hynes was unprovoked, the words he used were objectively offensive and unprovoked and aggressive.  

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said it was unacceptable for union officials to disregard right of entry laws and act in the improper manner seen in this case.

He also highlighted Queensland continues to feature prominently in our litigation. We have more matters before the court in Queensland than in any other state or territory.

“Eight of our ten cases in Queensland currently before the courts involve CFMMEU respondents,” Mr McBurney said.

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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