The Federal Court has handed down a huge fine to the CFMEU and two of its officials, one of whom told a project manager he was crocodile hunter Steve Irwin when asked to provide his details.
The Court found the CFMEU and officials Chad Anthony Bragdon and Anthony Kong broke right of entry laws at a construction site at Sydney Domestic Airport in June 2013.
Handing down his decision today, Justice Flick fined Mr Kong, who claimed to be Steve Irwin, $27,500. He fined Mr Bragdon $20,000 and the CFMEU $225,000. Flick J said that Mr Kong and Mr Bragdon must pay their own fines, and that they must not be paid by the CFMEU.
“A penalty, if it were to be paid or reimbursed by an employing union, would cease to act as a deterrent to the contravening “individual”. An “individual” so reimbursed could act with impunity in full knowledge that his employing union conferred what could be seen as a licence for him to continue his past transgressions,” his Honour said in his penalty judgment.
The court rejected the respondents’ submissions that they were on the site for safety reasons. In reaching his penalty decision, Flick J said it was important to consider “the fact that both entered the site knowing they should have waited for personal protective equipment to have been provided and to be escorted on site.” These were both safety requirements on the site. The court also noted “the fact that the conduct in which they engaged was deliberate and intentional”.
In his liability decision handed down in July, His Honour said: “Whatever may have been the reasons why Messrs Bragdon and Kong behaved in the manner they did, their conduct brought no credit to themselves or to the Union that they represent.” “Once on site, it has been further concluded that they purported to exercise powers which they knew they did not possess. They behaved in a manner which was abusive and misleading. Their conduct can only be described as contemptuous of the limits to their power and the people on site with whom they were dealing.”
Once on site, Mr Bragdon – who no longer works for the CFMEU – and Mr Kong directed workers to stop a concrete pour, which they had no authority to do. The project manager asked the two officials for their right of entry permits: “Can I at least get your names?” Mr Kong replied: “Steve Irwin”. The project manager asked: “What as in the crocodile hunter?” Mr Kong replied: “Yeah, that’s it.”
FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said the fact union officials were again using questionable safety concerns to try and access a site only to disobey safety laws themselves were disturbing. “Safety rules exist to protect everybody on site. Safety is paramount on building and construction sites and it is appalling that union officials are abusing safety which potentially puts them and others at risk,” Mr Hadgkiss said.
Mr Hadgkiss said he hoped the significant penalties imposed in this case acted as a strong deterrent to the CFMEU and officials, and any others considering flouting workplace laws in the construction industry.