The CFMEU and its officials have been hit with record fines of $2.4 million over an unlawful blockade.
The following report is from The Australian:
Judge Geoffrey Flick also referred four officials, including NSW secretary Brian Parker, to the Director of Public Prosecutions for possible criminal prosecution over concerns they allegedly gave false testimony during the proceedings.
Justice Flick ordered maximum penalties of $1.32m imposed on the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union over unlawful industrial action by 1000 workers at the Barangaroo site in Sydney in 2014.
He said $956,249 should be imposed on the CFMEU’s NSW branch and penalties totalling $187,650 on eight officials.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash seized on the judgment, which comes as the Coalition pursues an aggressive legislative agenda to try to weaken the power and finances of the union movement.
The government is pushing a bill to torpedo the CFMEU’s merging with the maritime union, and seeking the right to have union officials who repeatedly break the law banned from holding office.
After The Australian reported last week that unions had a combined $1.5 billion in assets and $900m in income, the Coalition unveiled proposed laws to deny unions access to $25m a year in worker entitlement funds and planned new powers to force the superannuation industry to disclose millions of dollars in payments to unions.
In finding that maximum penalties should be imposed on the CFMEU, Justice Flick said: “It is, with respect, not possible to envisage worse union behaviour. The prior imposition of penalties — some nearing the maximum — against the CFMEU has not deterred it from engaging in clearly unlawful industrial action.
“Indeed, the conduct for which the CFMEU assumes liability in the present proceeding shows a further and serious contempt for the law.
“The CFMEU’s conduct exposes a cavalier disregard for the prior penalties imposed by this court and exposes the fact that such prior impositions of penalties have failed to act as a deterrent against further unlawful industrial action.”
Justice Flick ordered the union to pay for publication of notices in two Sydney newspapers and the union’s journal about the unlawful conduct of its officials. “There is a legitimate public interest in informing members of the CFMEU as to how the fees paid by its members are being expended,’’ he said.
“The militant actions taken by the CFMEU and its repeated recourse to unlawful industrial action and the depletion of assets derived from member’s subscriptions should not be regarded by its members as a ‘badge of courage’ or ‘badge of honour’; such actions should be regarded by both the public and the CFMEU members with condemnation of the unlawful conduct of its officers, employees or agents which will not be tolerated.”
CFMEU construction division national secretary Dave Noonan said union lawyers were studying the judgment “with a view to an appeal”.
Senator Cash said the lawless strikes at one of the largest construction sites in the southern hemisphere involved more than 1000 workers and demonstrated the “utter disregard this militant union has for Australian law”.
Finding that the union was a “recidivist offender”, Justice Flick said: “The CFMEU has long demonstrated by its conduct that it pays but little regard to compliance with the law and has repeatedly sought to place itself above the law.”
He said the union’s behaviour had worsened since a critical judgment in 2015 and without further legislative action it might “regrettably” be expected even maximum penalties imposed would not act as a deterrent.
The court previously found the CFMEU forced a shutdown of the Barangaroo site in support of union delegate Peter Genovese, who had been suspended after throwing a punch at a site manager and threatening to “kill” him.
Justice Flick said Mr Parker and other senior CFMEU officials had led industrial action involving more than 1000 workers that shut down the site on July 24 and 25, 2014. Workers who had tried to enter the site were abused by CFMEU officials and called “scum” and “dogs”.
A policewoman at the site said Mr Parker “made sure I was feeling either intimidated or scared”.
CFMEU NSW assistant secretary Robert Kera was heard describing agency inspectors as “f..king dogs” and union organiser Luke Collier read out an inspector’s phone number during an address to workers, telling the inspector “you’re a f..king grub” and “lower than a pedophile”.