CFMMEU faces further sanctions in the FWC
The Fair Work Commission has again found fault with the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and several of its officials in two recent cases concerning right of entry and subsequent behaviour on construction sites.
In the first case, delivered on 2 June 2021, Deputy President Val Gostencnik suspended the right of entry permit of ACT branch secretary JO for three months. The suspension was linked to historical matters, including the imposition of a $12,000 fine by the Federal Circuit Court in September 2020 for breaches of sections 497, 499 and 503(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009.
Amongst a series of legislative breaches, Mr O was found to have failed to produce his federal entry permit when requested to do so by the occupier of a site and also ignored further requests not to walk around the construction site unaccompanied.
In imposing a minimum three-month suspension, Vice President Gostencnik accepted submissions on behalf of the official that his behaviour was reckless and negligent rather than deliberate. The Vice President noted,
“In these circumstances, ascribing a longer suspension period starts to bear the hallmarks of punitive action rather than establishing or maintaining a balancing of rights and obligations between employees, registered organisations, occupiers of premises and employers”.
In a separate decision delivered on 9 June 2021, known as the `WGC Cranes Case’, Justice Ann Katzmann imposed a fine of $382,000 against the CFMMEU and three employees for threats and intimidation against a crane operator who refused to take part in a strike at Port Kembla.
Part of the Union’s contraventions included publishing the operator’s photograph on their Facebook page with a definition of the word `scab’. Other users of Facebook posted derogatory comments beneath the photograph. Strikebreakers were referred to in those comments as “grubs”, “leeches”, “maggots”, “dogs”, and worse, with one commentator writing `Someone should break into the dogs houses and steal the food from their cupboards just as they are stealing the food from the good blokes kids mouths that are standing up for themselves.’
As Justice Katzmann noted, “The contravention involving the Facebook post was both deliberate and premediated, as the Commissioner submitted. It was also sustained, as it was made on 15 October 2018 and not removed until the morning of 18 October 2018. Moreover, it exposed Mr W to a risk of mental, if not also physical, harm”.
She further commented,
“the Union has an appalling record of contravening industrial laws. It has frequently been excoriated in this Court for its recidivism, and in Non-Indemnification Case (HC) at , the High Court observed that the CFMEU (the Union before the amalgamation in 2018 with the Maritime Union of Australia and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia) was “well-known to [that] court for its contumacious disregard of court orders”.
For queries about union officials, right of entry, or any other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 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.