Mining and Heavy Industries, Staffing, Recruitment & Training

“Recidivist” union fined over Brisbane dispute, wins elsewhere

It’s been a big week for the CFMEU, after the bulk handling industry’s prominent workers’ union faced massive fines in a Federal court, and won Fair Work Commission support over surveillance allegations against Glencore.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Salvatore Vasta torched the union last week, as he handed down maximum penalties of $306,000 over a 2015 dispute at a Brisbane building site between a union official and management.

“This court has been asked to ensure that the industrial relations regime as created by Parliament is observed and complied with,” Judge Vasta said, per The Australian. “The Parliament has given the court only one weapon to ensure such compliance, and that is the ability to impose pecuniary penalties.”

Judge Vasta described the CFMEU’s “astounding” history of similar offences, and suggested that while financial penalties have been shown to impact employers, “this cannot be said of the CFMEU”.

“The deterrent aspect of the pecuniary penalty system is not having the desired effect,” the Federal judge said. “The CFMEU has not changed its attitude in any meaningful way. The court can only impose the maximum penalty in an attempt to fulfil its duty and deter the CFMEU from acting in the nefarious way in which it does.”

Describing the union as “the most recidivist corporate offender in Australian history,” Judge Vasta said if the public remained unconvinced the union would change its ways as a result of the fines, “the next step is a matter for the Parliament”.

The penalties stemmed from a 2015 dispute at a Fortitude Valley construction site, in which former Queensland CFMEU president David Hanna allegedly entered the worksite without permission, verbally abused a site manager and squirted water at him, before declaring “I can do what I like”.

Hanna was also fined the maximum possible penalty of $10,200 over the event.

It wasn’t all bad news for the union over the last week, however: This week, the Fair Work Commission reportedly ordered Glencore stop surveilling its Oaky North employees, after the union alleged the miner was monitoring its employees’ movements with a separate contracted workforce.

“Glencore’s private security guards were monitoring them and their families at their homes and in the town of Tieri,” CFMEU Queensland district president Stephen Smyth was quoted by News.

“On one occasion, a worker reported that a private security guard had filmed them using body cameras while they were at the local pub.”

190 workers have been locked out of the Oaky North mine in Central Queensland for almost 120 days, after the union launched industrial action earlier this year. Picketing union members have been accused of threatening non-union workers, and security staff, during the dispute.

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