Justice Richard Tracey has ordered the CFMEU and eight of its senior officials more than $150,000 in fines for their coercive conduct in the 2012 blockade of Grocon sites, finding:
“[The cases] bespeak a deplorable attitude, on the part of the CFMEU, to its legal obligations and the statutory processes which govern relations between unions and employers in this country”.
“This ongoing willingness to engage in contravening conduct must weigh heavily when the need for both specific and general deterrence is brought to account”, Justice Tracy said.
The penalties follow Justice Tracey’s March ruling that the CFMEU was vicariously liable for the conduct of eight of its officials whom he had found unlawfully coerced Grocon to agree to its demand to employ union-nominated representatives on site.
The fines include nearly $20,000 against Victorian CFMEU Secretary John Setka, whom Justice Tracey found to have a “long and deplorable history of contravening industrial laws”.
Referring to specific incidents, Justice Tracey ordered Setka to pay $4,000 for punching the windscreen of a van and telling a Grocon manager he hoped he would “die of your cancer” and would “come after [him]” – finding the comments “particularly callous”, given that Setka knew the manager was being treated for cancer at the time. Justice Tracey also ordered Setka to pay $3500 for calling a group of Grocon employees “f***ing dogs” and “rats” for wanting to work.
Commenting on the decision, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the Federal Court’s ruling showed that federal legislation was failing to stamp out recidivism:
“When the same conduct can result in a penalty of more than $1.25 million under State law, the federal system imposes penalties of less than $100,000 on the CFMEU”.
“This is just unacceptable. Federal penalties are clearly too low to make to make offenders think twice before breaking the law”, Minister Cash said, “It is intolerable that the penalties for illegal conduct are so low that they are just seen as a cost of doing business”.
Master Builders is encouraged by Minister Cash’s comments and acknowledgement that current industrial laws are unable to impose meaningful penalties that prevent repeat offending in the building industry.
Master Builders calls upon the Senate to approve the legislative reforms necessary to introduce the rule of law to the building and construction industry, including by supporting the passage of the Bill to re-establish the ABCC.