Federal Court fines CFMEU $125,000

The Federal Court has today found the CFMEU guilty of contempt over a blockade at a wind farm in eastern Victorian, and fined it $125,000. The Court also ordered indemnity costs against the CFMEU.

FWBC filed contempt of court charges against the CFMEU after it breached a court undertaking by blockading the Bald Hills Wind Farm Project with cars and barbeque trailers for about eight hours on April 15, 2014. The $400 million Bald Hills Wind Farm in South Gippsland will house 52 wind turbines.

“…There was a coordinated blockade of seven entrances to the compounds at the site. At least eight paid officials (including the Branch Vice President, Mr Derek Christopher,) converged on a remote construction site at dawn,” the Court said in its penalty decision today.

A number of gravel trucks were unable to enter the project. The trucks were expected to deliver about 600 tonnes of bluestone and aggregate that day. Workers were also prevented from entering the project.

The Federal Court said “the CFMEU is to be regarded as a recidivist”. It also said: “The overwhelming inference is that the CFMEU, not for the first time, decided that its wishes should prevail over the interests of the companies and that this end justified the means.”

The Court said the CFMEU “opted for a show of industrial force in preference to engagement in lawful dispute settling procedures.”

“It may reasonably be inferred that the CFMEU well knew the likely consequences of a breach of the undertakings but determined to proceed anyway. In doing so it displayed, at best for it, a cavalier attitude which could only serve to undermine respect for Court processes,” The Court said.

The Court said there was a propensity “on the part of the CFMEU, to continue to commit contempts notwithstanding the imposition of significant sanctions.”

The Court fined the CFMEU $100,000 for contempt for breaching its undertaking to the court to stop blockading activity.

The Court fined the CFMEU a further $25,000 for failing to comply with Court orders to file an affidavit. “The failure, by the CFMEU, to file the confirming affidavit constitutes a deliberate and flagrant breach of Davies J’s order,” the Court said.

The court decision is the result of months of work by a team of approximately a dozen FWBC personnel, including investigators and lawyers.