Union penalised $60k for unlawful conduct on Melbourne construction site

The Federal Court has imposed $60,040 in penalties against the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and one of its delegates for unlawful conduct on a Melbourne construction site.

The Court has imposed a $55,000 penalty against the CFMMEU and a $5,040 penalty against CFMMEU delegate Jason Roach.

The penalties are the result of legal action commenced by the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) in relation to conduct at the ‘Melbourne Quarter – Commercial Tower 2MQ Project’ site on Collins Street, in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct.

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On 20 April 2020, CFMMEU delegate Jason Roach breached the Fair Work Act when he prevented a subcontractor performing work on the site because he was not a paid-up CFMMEU member. Mr Roach’s conduct was also attributed to the CFMMEU (as a CFMMEU delegate).

The conduct included Mr Roach telling the subcontractor he could not perform work unless he paid a membership fee to the CFMMEU and then preventing the subcontractor from performing work after the subcontractor refused to pay the fee.

In imposing the penalties, Justice Michael Wheelahan found that the matter involved “serious” and “necessarily deliberate” conduct and that Mr Roach knew his representation to the subcontractor that he was required to be a paid-up member of the CFMMEU to work on the site was false and misleading.

Justice Wheelahan found that there was a need to impose penalties to give effect to the object of deterrence and to induce compliance.

“This is intended to have a high deterrent value so as to induce compliance with the Fair Work Act by the Union through all its officials, officers, employees and agents,” Justice Wheelahan said.

Under federal legislation, responsibility for the case transferred from the ABCC to the Fair Work Ombudsman in December 2022.

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Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said court penalties are important to affirm the seriousness of breaching laws related to disrupting work on construction sites.

“Consistent with other industries, in commercial building and construction the Fair Work Ombudsman will investigate reports of non-compliance and hold to account those who are acting outside the law, including the Fair Work Act’s provisions that protect freedom of association,” Ms Hannah said.