27 February 2020

practice of officials hiding behind safety to justify illegal conduct and gives the Parliament yet another reason to pass the Ensuring Integrity Laws.

In handing down $59,500 in fines to the CFMMEU and an official, the Federal Court found that the official – apparently employed as a “safety adviser” within the union “Health and Safety Unit” - abused and threatened an actual Safe Work Victoria inspector.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said, “The decision highlights the pattern of illegal behavior that building unions continue to roll-out on construction sites across the country.”

“It’s not the first time building unions have abused government inspectors and makes a mockery of the union’s claim that they put safety first – this is simply not true. Instead, they seem to see safety as a justification for thuggery.”

“Only last year we saw Queensland government safety inspectors refuse to go near sites with building unions because they were worried about their own safety – that sends a very clear message and we hope the Parliament is listening”

“When reading the decision, you can almost feel Justice Anastassiou’s frustration at building unions who won’t play by the rules, never say sorry, never admit wrongdoing, and just keep doing what they want, when they want. In fact, the Judge even made comments about how building unions appear empowered when other Judges criticise them which is something we’ve not seen before,” Denita Wawn said.

In handing down the decision, Justice Anastassiou stated:

The CFMMEU has “been engaged in a lengthy and repeated pattern of unrepentant, outlaw behavior”; and

In the present case … continues to arrogate to itself the license to decide if, and how, it and its officers may behave, irrespective of the relevant proscriptions of the [Fair Work] Act”.

Importantly, addressing the unions penchant for recidivism, his Honor stated:

The reasons for deploring such systematic disobedience have been explained repeatedly by judges of [the Federal Court]… Indeed, the [u]nion’s unabated recidivism is reason to infer that the more often condemnation to the same effect is repeated with no apparent deterrent effect, the more emboldened the Union may become in its defiance.”

Addressing the conduct of the union official, His Honor stated:

“The permit Mr Tadic had to enter the site was not a license to bully, intimidate or threaten Mr Sharples, or anyone else for that matter”.

… “[The officials] conduct went beyond what was justifiable in pursuit of the protection of health and safety of workers on the site. It strayed into the realm of intimidation and abuse directed at a WorkSafe official attempting to discharge his duties, which were aimed at … the protection of the health and safety of workers”.

“The simple facts are that building unions think they are a law unto themselves. That they thumb their nose at Judges and consider fines and penalties as nothing more than ‘a cost of doing business’ – it shows the current laws aren’t working and are failing construction workers and small business,” Denita Wawn said.

“How many more Court findings like this do we need to have, before the Parliament listens and passes the Ensuring Integrity Bill, to unshackle the Courts hands and give them the power they need to stop the bullying?” Denita Wawn said.

Ends...