CFMMEU and former organiser fined for acting in an improper manner
The Federal Court and Family Court of Australia have imposed fines against the CFMMEU and a former organiser for engaging in aggressive and intimidating conduct towards representatives of the principal contractor at the Westconnex Stage 2 project in Sydney in February 2019. Westconnex is currently the largest road construction project being undertaken in Australia, with construction scheduled to be completed in 2023.
On 21 February 2019, a former CFMMEU official, Simon Gutierrez, entered the construction site despite not having completed the mandatory site safety induction and failed to leave a designated isolation zone when directed to do so.
Whilst on-site, the court accepted evidence that he approached two site representatives and said words to the effect of “shut up” and “f**k off”. On the same day, he stood about 20 centimetres from the site’s employee relations coordinator and blew cigarette smoke in his face. He also was found to have spoken in an aggressive and demeaning manner to the same employee, saying words to the effect of “it’s not a f**king IR walk”.
Mr Gutierrez committed further contraventions on the site, including stopping road traffic on the main haul road and moving a barrier on the secondary haul road to access a construction area.
The union official had previously been fined $6,000 in June 2021 for taking action against WGC Crane Group Pty Ltd.
In his decision, Justice Nicholas Manousaridis had no doubt that Gutierrez acted in an improper manner, with his conduct breaching the standards that would be expected of a union official by reasonable persons with relevant knowledge of his duties in respect of the maintenance of health and safety on construction sites.
As with other recent cases before the courts, Justice Manousaridis was scathing in his assessment of the union. He noted, “The CFMMEU’s extensive history of contravening conduct is relevant, therefore, because it manifests an apparent willingness and capacity by the CFMMEU to continue to contravene laws such as the FW Act”.
Justice Manousaridis imposed fines of $13,860 against Mr Gutierrez and $79,300 against the CFMMEU.
For questions about safety, union right of entry, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529, 0417 622 178 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.