Union penalised more than $300k for defying right of entry breaches

“I am satisfied that the [union] has a substantial record of contravening the Fair Work Act."

The Federal Court has imposed $328,000 in penalties against the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and six current and former officials for defying right of entry laws.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) commenced the court action against the CFMMEU and several of its officials in 2020.

The penalty was imposed against the CFMMEU and Beau Seiffert, Te Aranui Albert, Blake Hynes, Shaun Desmond, Craig Davidson and Anthony Harding.

- Advertisement -

The court found these employees of the CFMMEU breached section 500 of the Fair Work Act when they entered the Logan and Gateway motorways extension construction site in Brisbane in 2018 and neither left when asked nor produced any entry permit.

The CFMMEU officials variously entered the site on four dates in May and June 2018, walked around the premises, failed to display entry permits when requested and did not leave when asked. Mr Seiffert entered the site on each of the four dates.

The court found the CFMMEU to have accessorial liability for the actions of its officials, and ordered the union to pay penalties totalling $275,000 for 11 contraventions.

Mr Seiffert was ordered to pay a total of $24,000 for his four contraventions. Mr Hynes was ordered to pay a total of $12,000 for his two contraventions. Mr Albert was ordered to pay a total of $10,000 for his two contraventions. Mr Desmond was ordered to pay a penalty of $3,000 for a single contravention, and Mr Davidson and Mr Harding were each ordered to pay $2,000 for their respective single contravention.  

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

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said court penalties are important to affirm the seriousness of breaching right of entry laws in the building and construction sector.

- Advertisement -

“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.”

In imposing the penalties, Federal Court Justice Berna Joan Collier referred to the previous breaches of the union and some of the officials.

“I am satisfied that the [union] has a substantial record of contravening the Fair Work Act,” Justice Collier said.

Four of the officials, Mr Seiffert, Mr Hynes, Mr Albert and Mr Desmond, had also previously breached the Fair Work Act on multiple occasions.

The court made personal penalty orders in relation to Mr Seiffert and Mr Hynes “given the[ir] record of previous contraventions”. These orders require them to pay their penalties without financial support from the CFMMEU.

Only Mr Seiffert and Mr Albert continue to act as CFMMEU officials.