Australia’s construction union and two of its officials have been fined after being found to have unlawfully disrupted work on a multi-billion dollar road project and levelled false accusations of corruption.
In its lates judgement, the Federal Court has levied fines against the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union and two of its officials – Paul Tzimas and Ron Buckley – for their actions in blocking work on the West Gate Tunnel Project being delivered by John Holland in Melbourne’s inner-west.
The incident occurred in December 2019.
Works had been scheduled to lift and install five bridge beams weighing 16 tonnes each to construct a bridge between Millers Road and Kororoit Creek Road in Brooklyn, west of Melbourne.
The road had been closed from 9.30pm to 4.00am to allow the works to occur on 3 and 4 December 2019.
The works were unable to proceed after CFMMEU officials, Paul Tzimas and Ron Buckley entered the project and positioned themselves in an exclusion zone.
This made it unsafe for the bridge beams to be lifted into place.
Despite repeated requests from project management, the officials refused to leave. The head contractor then called WorkSafe and Victoria Police to attend the site.
After the WorkSafe Inspector found there was no imminent threat to safety that would justify works stopping and asked the officials to leave and allow work to continue,
They responded by accusing him of being “lap dog”, “corrupt”, “incompetent” and a “disgrace”.
The officials also accused Victoria Police officers of being on the head contractor’s ‘payroll’, acting as ‘lap dogs’ and demonstrating ‘corruption at its finest’.
In its judgement, the Court ruled that both officials had contravened the Fair Work Act by acting in an improper manner while exercising rights to enter site under the Act.
It slammed the conduct of both men.
“Mr Buckley’s abusive comments in the aftermath of those events to the effect that the police were on John Holland’s payroll, had been exhibiting corruption at its finest and had sided with Mr Drury in defending a tyrant went beyond that which can be accepted,” it said.
In relation to Tzimas, the Court ruled that:
“a direct allegation that Mr Drury, a WorkSafe Inspector, was willing to risk the safety of employees as a result of corruption, cannot be characterised as other than a grossly wrongful instance of an official “acting in an improper manner”..”
The union received fines of $63,000 whilst Tzimas and Buckley were fined $8,899 and $3,780 (suspended for two years) respectively.
The ABCC Commissioner has filed an appeal to the Full Court of the Federal Court, arguing that the penalties imposed were manifestly inadequate.