CFMMEU fined $142,000 for threatening contractors
Construction June 22, 2018 10:26 pm By Miklos Bolza | Sydney

The CFMMEU has been ordered to pay $142,000 in penalties after the Federal Court found the union had aborted an elaborate construction procedure in Melbourne and threatened four contractors if they continued to work onsite.

In March 2015, the CFMMEU shut down a “crane lift” on a Carlton construction site in Victoria after learning that the traffic management company Australian Traffic Control hired for the job was not covered by an enterprise agreement.

In a judgment handed down Friday, Justice Mordy Bromberg accused the union and three union officials, Theo Theodorou, Rob Graauwmans and Ismar Miftari, of multiple conventions of the Fair Work Act for their actions on the day, including implicitly threatening contractor Membrey Cranes if it continued to work for Maxstra Constructions.

After the crane lift shutdown, organised by Theodorou, Miftari was fired. Graauwmans then pressured Maxstra for Miftari’s reinstatement by preventing three separate crane companies, including Membrey, from working onsite. Miftari also threatened painting contractor Emerald Commercial Services if it conducted further work on the site and attempted to coerce the company to engage in industrial activity, Judge Bromberg found.

In April 2015, Miftari was reemployed by Maxstra.

In determining the $142,000 penalty, the judge examined CFMMEU’s “extensive history of prior contraventions of industrial laws”.

“While the Court must be conscious to avoid imposing a penalty for conduct that has previously been penalised, and whilst the maximum penalty is to be reserved for the worse cases, the history of the CFMMEU’s prior contraventions demonstrates a compelling need for specific deterrence,” he said.

“[The] available inference is that the CFMMEU, at least in relation to its building and construction related activities in Victoria, condones non-compliance with industrial laws by its officers and employees. Furthermore, no contrition or remorse has been demonstrated.”

ABC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said that Judge Bromberg’s decision gave a strong message to the CFMMEU that its unlawful behaviour would not be tolerated, calling the conduct “deliberate and serious”.

“Workers should be free to earn their livelihood without being subjected to coercion by union officials undertaken in pursuit of the industrial objectives of the CFMMEU. The unlawful conduct in this case directly threatened the livelihoods of the contractors and their workers,” he said.

The ABCC was represented by the Australian Government Solicitor. The CFMMEU represented itself.

The case is Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union & Ors.

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Miklos Bolza

Miklos Bolza has been a journalist for three years. He has written for a variety of publications, including NZ Lawyer, HRD Australia, and Australian Broker. He is currently the Sydney court reporter for Lawyerly.