CFMMEU and Queensland representatives fined for right of entry breaches
The Federal Court and Family Court have imposed significant fines amounting to $151,200 against Construction union giant the CFMMEU and two of its officials for right of entry breaches at the Queensland Cross River Rail project.
Judge Salvatore Vasta Logan fined the union and two officials, organisers, Andrew Blakeley and Luke Gibson, for their improper actions after entering the site on 15 April 2020.
The Court determined that Mr Blakeley breached the provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (the Act) by refusing to provide his entry permit despite multiple requests by the occupier; making patronising counter-requests for excessive descriptions of the entry permits, breaching safety requirements that applied on site, ignoring instructions of the occupier not to enter construction areas unaccompanied, interrupting a site induction, and standing in the path of a truck so as to delay it from proceeding down a road.
Further, Judge Vasta determined that Blakeley walked towards a representative of the occupier on site with his chest puffed out in an aggressive stance and made a homophobic slur to him by suggesting he was trying to look at his penis while in the toilet block.
With regard to Mr Gibson, Judge Vasta determined that he had also acted improperly in exercising his right of entry by refusing to provide his entry permit despite multiple requests by the occupier, making patronising counter-requests for excessive descriptions of the entry permits, unreasonably refusing to deal with the occupier’s industrial relations representative, breaching the site safety requirements, acting contrary to instructions of the occupier by entering the construction area of the site unaccompanied, and refusing to return.
Judge Vasta determined that Mr Gibson also made a homophobic slur to the site representative by stating that he was a ‘pumpkin eater’. Judge Vasta, when challenged about the meaning of this term from the bar, noted,
“I did not wish to explain what the term means because it is quite disgusting, and I believed that the use of this term was common enough knowledge. I have absolutely no doubt that it was meant as a homophobic slur to Mr Cullen”.
In determining the appropriate penalty, Judge Vasta noted,
“The Respondents were visitors and were asked to tell the occupier who they were and why they were there. There is no excuse for the failure to do so. The belligerent response and subsequent behaviour of the two Respondents speaks of a sense of entitlement and a recalcitrance to behaving as ordinary decent human beings”.
Judge Vasta was highly critical of the CFMMEU in his determination, noting,
“The antecedents of the First Respondent are notorious. I have previously described them as the “greatest recidivist offenders in Australian corporate history”, and many other judges have also noted their infamous past”.
Judge Vasta imposed pecuniary penalties of $126,000 against the union and fines of $12,600 against both Mr Blakeley and Mr Gibson.
CFMMEU construction division national secretary Dave Noonan indicated that the union intends to appeal the decision.
For queries about unions, right of entry, safety matters, 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.