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.”