Union and official fined for construction site contraventions

Union and official fined for construction site contraventions

Union and official fined for construction site contraventions

 

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured penalties in the Federal Court against the CFMEU and one of its Victorian officials for acting in an improper manner at a construction site in 2021.

On 4 February 2021, a CFMEU organiser, Paul Tzimas, entered a construction site located at the Trinity Marles Playing Fields in Bulleen, Victoria, during work on the North East Link Project.

Mr Tzimas has been employed as an organiser by the Victorian-Tasmanian branch of the construction and general division of the CFMEU since August 2017.

Construction giant CPB Contractors Pty Ltd (CPB) was the occupier of the site and had engaged Quinn Civil to undertake some of the excavation works.

Mr Tzimas arrived at the site at approximately 8 am and produced his Federal and State entry permits. Shortly thereafter, he approached Quinn Civil’s supervisor and issued two WHS notices of alleged contraventions relating to inadequate Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) and monitoring of silica dust.

An excavator operator from Quinn Civil was digging a caisson shaft at the site and had established a Plant Operation Zone (known as a POZ) around the works.

It was uncontested by either party that Mr Tzimas entered the POZ without authorisation and failed to leave the POZ when reasonably requested to do so by the supervisor.

When he entered the POZ, the excavator had a full bucket in the air and was forced to stop because it was not safe to continue operations while Mr Tzimas remained in the POZ.

In submissions before Federal Court Judge Mark Champion, the excavator operator stated,

The place and timing of where and when Mr Tzimas was sitting in the track was extremely dangerous. I remember thinking at the time that I saw him I was lucky that moments before I had seen him, I had swung the bucket from right to left to unload it; if I had lifted the bucket and moved the excavator without seeing him, the excavator would have crushed Mr Tzimas‘.

In determining a penalty for the contraventions, Judge Champion noted,

“The nature and extent of Mr Tzimas’ contravening conduct was objectively serious because entering the POZ and remaining there without authorisation had the potential to expose Mr Tzimas to serious injury. In terms of acting in an ‘improper manner’, it was a serious departure from safe conduct with regard to OHS rules, which are s necessary to ensure the safety of all on a building site”.

Judge Champion imposed a fine of $43,290 against the CFMEU, representing approximately 65% of the maximum penalty of $66,600).

The judge also imposed a penalty of $7,990 against Mr Tzimas, representing approximately 60% of the maximum penalty of $13,320).

CFMEU penalised for improper conduct – Fair Work Ombudsman

Fair Work Ombudsman v Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union (North East Link Project Case) [2024] FedCFamC2G 396 (2 May 2024)

For questions about union officials, union 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 dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

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.

Ref: 438.0524

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