The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and one of its officials have been fined more than $50,000 after the official targeted a group of Chevron gas workers with an expletive-laden rant for leaving the union.
Federal Court Justice Michael Barker fined the CFMEU $43,200 and Bradley Upton another $8,100 on Thursday, after a liability ruling last year that the union and the Western Australia-branch official had breached the Fair Work Act.
In imposing the fines, Judge Barker said Upton’s “appalling” rant on December 3, 2105, directed at a group of Chevron gas workers at the Gorgon Project site on Barrow Island, was the type of conduct that gives unions and union members “a bad name”.
“I do not need to repeat the language that he used. It was foul. It was calculated to send a strong message to all employees, whether members of the CFMEU and other unions, or not, that continued membership of unions was essential to obtaining continued employment on sites such as the Gorgon Project,” the judge said.
“The language used was intended to intimidate employees into accepting that they must be union members if they wanted work.”
Judge Barker also noted the CFMEU’s long history of breaking industrial law.
“The fact the CFMEU has continued to repeatedly act in contravention of industrial laws is directly relevant to both specific and general deterrence in this case and the warranting of substantial penalties,” the judge said.
While he disagreed with the Australian Building and Construction Commission that the CFMEU and Upton were on the hook for penalties for each of the three separate FW Act provisions they had breached, Judge Barker ruled that the fines should be substantial enough to deter the defendants.
The contraventions were deliberate, and neither the union nor Upton had expressed remorse for the offending behaviour or cooperated with the ABCC, which brought the action.
“There is no evidence that any corrective action has been taken, either by Mr Upton or the CFMEU. As I say, it really is time where large and influential unions such as the CFMEU, like any other responsible entity in Australia that has been found responsible for contraventions of a regulatory system, acknowledge misconduct and take positive steps to correct it in the public interest,” Judge Barker said.
The judge set Upton’s fine at 75 percent of the maximum penalty under the FW Act. The CFMEU’s penalty was 80 percent of the maximum, he said.
The ABCC is represented by Clayton Utz; Upton is represented by Nicholas Legal and the CFMEU by Eureka Lawyers.
The case is Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Upton (The Gorgon Project Case).
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