On 17 March, two days before the Andrews Labor Government amendments making union pickets easier were passed, the Federal Court found the CFMEU guilty of contempt over a April 2014 blockade at a wind farm in eastern Victoria, 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 15 April 2014.
As a result of the blockade coordinated by at least eight paid CFMEU officials, workers were prevented from entering the project, as well as a number of gravel trucks that were expected to deliver about 600 tonnes of bluestone and aggregate that day.
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 also found that in opting for a show of industrial force in preference to engaging in lawful dispute resolution 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 there was a propensity “on the part of the CFMEU, to continue to commit contempts notwithstanding the imposition of significant sanctions.”
The penalty decision was handed down on the same day that a Federal Court found that the CFMEU had engaged in unlawful coercion in breach of the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act in relation to its unlawful blockade of Grocon sites in 2012. The decision is separate (and in addition) to the ‘criminal contempt’ finding against the CFMEU for breaching Victorian Supreme Court orders.