The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against the CFMMEU and one of its shop stewards, for allegedly preventing an electrician and apprentice from working on a Melbourne site because they were not members of a union.

The ABCC alleges the shop steward approached the two workers at the site induction and asked if they were union members and had union tickets showing payment of union fees. When the electrician responded that they were not a union based company and did not have tickets, the steward allegedly said “you guys have to get off site. Here’s a hot tip. If you want to work on a big site like this…, you’re going to need to have your union ticket.The pair then left the site as requested.

The ABCC alleges that in preventing the employees from working on site, the union has breached the adverse action and misrepresentation provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act). Under the adverse action provisions of the FW Act, it is unlawful for a person to take adverse action against another person on the basis of whether they are, or are not, a member of a union.

Master Builders commends the ABCC for its continued efforts to enforce the rule of law in the construction industry and in particular, freedom of association - where it appears some unions believe they have a right to bully and intimidate workers into becoming financial members of that union, as the ‘price’ to be paid to work on particular construction sites.

If proven, the maximum penalty per contravention under the FW Act is $63,000 for a body corporate and $12,600 for an individual.