The Federal Court has issued personal payment orders against two CFMMEU officials for contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Two Victorian organisers have received penalties totalling $19,300 while the Union was penalised $100,000.
The penalties were ordered for contraventions of the right of entry provisions of the Act, following a prosecution originally brought by the ABCC in 2017. The action concerned the unlawful entry to a construction site where the two officials refused to show entry permits or notices but proceeded to enter in order to hold discussions with employees.
In the first instance, Justice Bromberg of the Federal Court found that the officials had not contravened s 500 of the Act. This section prohibits an official from intentionally hindering or obstructing a person, or otherwise acting improperly when exercising right of entry. In his judgment, Justice Bromberg held that such a contravention was not possible when an official had declined to show their permit and therefore was not, strictly speaking, exercising a right of entry.
Members may recall that this finding was subsequently overturned by the Full Federal Court last year. The Full Court held that failure to produce a permit or notice of entry will not preclude a contravention of s 500 where an organiser subsequently hinders or obstructs persons on a work site.
The matter was remitted to Justice Bromberg to determine the penalties in light of the full Federal Court’s findings.
The prosecution serves as yet another reminder of the ABCC’s efforts to ensure compliance with the law. Master Builders commends the regulator’s continuing commitment to upholding the rule of law in the construction industry.
The penalties against the two organisers are the third time a personal payment order has been issued against a CFMMEU official since the validity of such orders was confirmed by a High Court majority last year.