The nation’s biggest building industry union and seven of its officials have been fined a total of $277,000 after being found guilty of illegally blockading the work site of a major hospital construction site.

In its latest decision, the Federal Court has handed down penalties totally $277,000 to the union and seven of its officials over conduct involving illegal blockades of the $1.2 billion Perth Children’s Hospital Project.

On one occasion, around 400 people blockaded the main entrance, preventing a large concrete pour involving 45 trucks.

That blockade had allegedly been organised and controlled by the CFMEU officials organised because the head contractor had failed to agree to a demand for a ‘whole of site’ enterprise bargaining agreement.

In a further incident, the Court found that the union had organised a blockade which prevented 200 workers from entering the site.

In a third and separate blockade, CFMEU official Tawa Harris admitted to attempting to prevent workers from entering the site by physical restraint.

All up, the union itself was fined $220,500 whilst fines totalling $20500, $16,000, $9,000 $3,500, $2,500, $2,500 and $2,5000 were levied upon then CFMEU WA Assistant Secretary Joe McDonald, WA State Secretary Mick Buchan, official Tawa Harris, organiser Brad Upton, National Secretary Dave Noonan, official Steve McCann and official Brad Heathcotte.

Handing down the penalties, Federal Court Justice Michael Barker said Buchan and McDonald had been the primary driving forces behind one of the blockades, saying the two had provided clear endorsements surrounding the action and had thus given it a misplaced legitimacy in the minds of CFMEU members.

Justice also noted the union’s prior history of workplace law contraventions when determinant penalties imposed.

Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss hit out at the union’s actions in blockading the site of what he said was an important new hospital for Western Australia’s young people.

“It is unacceptable for the CFMEU to have blockaded a critical new hospital for children,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

“Once again the CFMEU has chosen to use its industrial muscle in preference to complying with the law.”

  • Will it have an effect though? CFMEU finds it easy to spend other peoples' money. I expect the union will reimburse the individual fines and pillage union members' funds on another purposeful waste of money. Members will surely catch on that their hard earned fees are being used to serve personal follies of trouble making rather than to focus only on any real issues on their behalf.

  • I see that there is no mention here of the shocking history of the company involved in this hospital, the 10,000 defects discovered by the ALP when in opposition, the asbestos, the lead in the water, the poor safety record of John Holland, etc. Why was no action taken against John Holland for using asbestos imported from China? How did the WA Building Commission get to decide the company was not at fault? Why no penalties for JH importing and using a banned and very dangerous product? And why is business protected and the unions the ones called to account and given penalties?
    The answer is simple. Business and the bureaucracy run the show for the sole benefit of big business – no matter the harm to workers, consumers (in this case WA taxpayers) or the public. On the point of money which Bruce raised, in this case it was Western Australian taxpayers whose money paid for this public building, and it is but one of many hospitals across the country that have been built in recent years and riddled with defects and debacles, time and cost blow outs. Who stands up for those paying? No-one!

  • Anne, agree with your points about JH and it's suppliers wrongly managing to slip away from responsibility and penalties for the asbestos debacle, lead etc. Anyone involved with the construction industry supply chain would be fully aware of what goes on with non-compliant materials and false certification, so as not to be able to claim ignorance as an excuse. However, in fairness to Sourceable, those matters have also been covered separately. This article was about another particular topic so I wouldn't think they need to go over all other matters again. These blockades were found not to be justified and I'm sure the union organisers were aware of that beforehand too. If disruption was linked only to the genuine concerns that were not otherwise being heard then the union would probably receive broader support. CFMEU is regarded by many to be in the 'boy that cried wolf' category which weakens their position and often wastes their members' funds.

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