Court Rejects CFMEU Contempt Appeal

The CFMEU’s attempt to overturn criminal contempt convictions against it for unlawfully blockading construction sites has been rejected by the Victorian Court of Appeal.

Last week, the Court upheld Justice Cavanough’s previous finding against the union for the blockades of Grocon’s Emporium site in the Melbourne CBD and the McNab site in Footscray.

On 31 March 2014, Justice Cavanough ordered the CFMEU to pay a penalty of $1.25 million for contempt of the Supreme Court in relation to the CFMEU’s interference with access to Grocon sites in 2012 and two related contempt matters in 2013.

This was the largest fine ever imposed in Australia for a contempt of court in an industrial context, and the first time that contempts of court committed in an industrial context have been explicitly found to be criminal.

It is worth noting that a number of the CFMEU (Construction and General Division) officials found to have been involved, continue to hold senior executive positions within the union.

Given its demonstrable contempt for the rule of law within its senior leadership, it is hardly surprising that the CFMEU continues to be an outspoken critic of the Royal Commission into Union Corruption and Governance, the recent move to establish a joint federal / state police taskforce and calls to re-establish the ABCC.

Master Builders is concerned, however, by the level of support the CFMEU continues to receive from the broader union movement, including its peak body the ACTU and its political arm, the Labor Party (and in a less formal sense, the Australian Greens). Whilst the CFMEU’s position can be clearly understood by its contempt for the rule of law, its apparent support from the broader union movement within Australia is disappointing to say the least.

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