The Federal Court has found former CFMMEU official (and current Victorian Socialists’ candidate for Polwarth), Mr Brendan Murphy, abused safety powers to shut a site down because he believed the head contractor was using ‘bottom of the barrel contractors’ because they were not signed up to the CFMMEU Pattern EBA.  

In a decision handed down last week, the Court found that in December 2014, Murphy was acting in his capacity as a CFMMEU official when he breached s.500 of the Fair Work Act 2009 when he refused to show his federal permit when requested, before fabricating a safety concern and unlawfully shutting down a site in Geelong.

In handing down the decision, Justice Mortimer said:

‘The subcontractors and their employees were going about their work on site on a normal day. There were no other issues or impediments to them working that day… There had been no accidents or injuries. There were no safety issues on the site that day… The only relevant event that occurred was [the Union Officials] entering the site, criticising [the Head Contractors] choice of [sub]contractors, making abusive remarks about them (saying they were “bottom of the barrel” contractors), making threats that there would be no work the following day, [and] insisting that they would ensure everyone left the site immediately…’.

She said:

‘[The Union Officials’] language was aggressive. He was swearing. He was intent on confrontation…. His sole intention was to get all the workers off the site, and to make the point he wished to make about what happens to contractors who engage subcontractors of which the CFMEU did not approve.’ 

This decision by the Federal Court illustrates another example of the union’s willingness to abuse safety powers and engage in bullying of small businesses in order to pursue its apparent industrial objective of seeking to exercise cartel-like control over labour arrangements on Victorian commercial construction sites. The decision also serves to provide further compelling evidence in support of the continuing need to retain the ABCC.