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The construction union and an official from its militant Victorian branch have been fined $78,000 for blockading the states’s $4.3 billion Regional Rail Link project, with a federal court judge declaring the union “did not care” if the conduct was “unlawful”.
Penalties against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and its officials topped $1.07 million for the financial year after today’s fine, which related to the union’s bitter industrial war with Boral.
Joseph Myles was penalised $18,000 for unlawful industrial behaviour, and Judge Mortimer ordered the CFMEU must not reimburse Mr Myles, or pay the penalty on his behalf, which is union’s usual practice.
The CFMEU was fined $60,000.
The court heard Mr Myles also threatened the site superintendent with “war” if his demands were not met — that a CFMEU delegate be employed on site.
“The conduct has in common features of abuse of industrial power and the use of whatever means the individuals involved considered likely to achieve outcomes to the interests of the CFMEU, Justice Debra Mortimer said.
“The conduct occurs so regularly, in situations with the same kinds of features, that the only available inference is that there is a conscious and deliberate strategy employed by the CFMEU and its officers to engage in disruptive threatening and abusive behaviour towards employers without regard to the lawfulness of that action”.
Mr Myles with about twenty other people parked nine separate vehicles across the main entrance to the Regional Rail Link project site in May 2013, preventing access by Boral trucks that had been engaged to deliver concrete, the court found.
The 24.4 cubic metres of concrete awaiting delivery in the trucks, as well as an additional 24.4 cubic metres that had already been poured, were wasted.
Mr Myles had earlier demanded the site manager install a CFMEU delegate on the site, despite the Australian Workers’ Union’s workplace agreement which covered the project. The AWU agreement allowed for one of its union representatives to be a delegate on site.
“Given the history of contraventions … by both the CFMEU and Mr Myles, I am prepared to infer that both respondents (and the CFMEU’s other responsible officers) well knew the conduct was unlawful and did not care,” Justice Mortimer said.
The Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate, also known as FWBC, which prosecuted the case, sought the order from the court that the CFMEU be prevented from paying penalties ordered against Mr Myles, or reimbursing him for fines paid.
FWBC director Nigel Hadgkiss said “We are pleased Her Honour issued these orders. FWBC has already sought similar applications in other matters and will continue to seek orders of a similar nature in future.
Mr Hadgkiss added that in the case “the CFMEU and its officials delayed and added cost to an important piece of public infrastructure in order to pursue its own industrial agenda.
“The contempt for the law and the contempt for taxpayers in this matter are frankly astounding,” Mr Hadgkiss said.
“Incidents of coercive behaviour such as this impose huge costs on the industry and the national economy. FWBC will continue to take action against those who break the law in our effort to promote a productive and harmonious building and construction industry.”
The CFMEU did not respond to requests for comment.
This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au
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