Penalties imposed on the CFMMEU and its officials for multiple breaches

On 23 March 2021, the Federal Court of Australia ordered the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and four of its officials to pay financial penalties totalling $153,510 in relation to a series of breaches under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act).

The breaches related to multiple events across multiple days when the officials entered the ‘180 Brisbane’ construction project at 180 Ann Street, Brisbane and exercised, or sought to exercise, rights and powers under the FW Act.

The Federal Court found that:

  1. The officials had breached the FW Act by acting improperly, using offensive language and failing to:
    • provide the required notice prior to entering the site;
    • show and provide an entry notice when entering the site; and
    • comply with site-based safety protocols when entering the site by failing to sign the visitor’s register.
  2. One of the officials breached the FW Act by organising or being involved with an unlawful industrial action when 110 workers stopped works and took unlawful industrial action on multiple occasions. Such actions also constituted a separate breach of the FW Act as the actions of the official were found to have hindered or obstructed a person.
  3. Because of the breaches by its officials, the CFMMEU had also breached the FW Act.

In handing down the decision, Justice Collier of the Federal Court noted the CFMMEU’s “substantial record of non-compliance with the law” and commented on the conduct of the CFMMEU and its officials, as follows:

…the history, including recent history, of contraventions by the CFMMEU strongly suggests a corporate culture in the CFMMEU which is not conducive to compliance with the FW Act.

The absence of contrition or corrective conduct on the part of the CFMMEU supports the imposition of penalties which will be a meaningful deterrent to future conduct of this nature.

Since December 2016, when the ABCC was re-established, the courts have penalised the CFMMEU (Qld) $3.13 million for 931 contraventions. This recent decision further demonstrates the stern approach being adopted by the courts when union officials breach the FW Act.

We recommend that industry participants familiarise themselves with the powers and obligations of union officials and ensure that officials comply with the relevant obligations and act properly when entering a workplace.

If you have any issues or questions in relation to the rights and obligations of union officials, please contact CDI Lawyers.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader’s specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed. 

Key contacts:

Jay Hatten – Senior Associate
Christopher Rowden – Principal


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