Actions of the CFMMEU and its officials have been condemned by two different courts in two recent decisions

Sam McGregor, Master Builders Policy & Industry Adviser shows how these cases draw attention, yet again, to the union's refusal to deviate from its culture of bullying. 

The Federal Circuit Court this week condemned the union and its officials for attempting to coerce a large construction company into signing a union wage deal, while the Fair Work Commission has taken a strong stance against a high ranking CFMMEU official for repeatedly breaking the law by refusing to grant him a Right of Entry permit.

On Friday, the Federal Circuit Court handed down penalties to the union and five of its officials totalling $486,500 for trying to force a large construction company into signing a union wage deal at a site in Sydney.

The Court found that the building union and five of its officials took action intending to coerce a large contractor into signing a union wage deal, when the officials and approximately 70 union members conducted a four-day-long unlawful picket which blocked crucial works, and abused and threatened subcontractors – calling them “f**king scabs” and “filthy dogs.

Today, a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission refused to grant a high ranking CFMMEU official a right of entry permit after being found to be no longer a ‘fit and proper’ after breaking numerous industrial laws.

After the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) intervened in the officials’ application for a permit, the Full Bench found that the NSW Branch Secretary and National Vice President of the Maritime Division had a clear history of persistently breaking industrial laws – so much so that he could not be deemed a “fit and proper person to hold an entry permit”. The official has been found guilty in the past of three breaches of industrial laws, attracting a total of $36,000 in fines for the union.

The two Court decisions are prime examples of the level of lawlessness unions choose to bring to our industry. 

Safety laws are simply too important to be abused by union officials pursuing industrial agendas– and both of these decisions highlight that many building union officials prioritize industrial objectives over the safety of members and their right to go to work and earn an honest living like everyone else in our community. 

These decisions, both collectively and by themselves, add weight to what we and our members have been saying for too long: building unions and their officials are simply too willing to abuse and break the law to get what they want. 

The community must understand that our courts are doing everything in their power to reign in the lawless unions in our sector - but we are hearing the frustration from judges in their decisions. They make it clear that they feel like their hands are tied.

The current framework – whether it is union fines, personal payment orders, or permit refusals – is having no deterrent effect. Since the ABCC was established in 2017, we have seen over 100 building union officials fined nearly $10 million. In this financial year alone, the CFMMEU has been fined $1,224,950 - yet nothing’s changed on building sites. 

Building unions are simply seeing the courts and their penalties as speed bumps on their road to achieving their industrial ends.

Right now, it’s pretty clear that the only hope of truly stopping the bullying in our sector is for the Parliament to pass the Ensuring Integrity Laws. Only when the Parliament sees this as a priority might we see unions treat the courts with the respect they deserve, and fines as less than just ‘the costs of doing business'. 

Ends....

Sam McGregor

Policy & Industry Adviser

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