CFMEU, official get higher penalties after unlawful conduct appeal

Higher penalties imposed due to severity of misconduct, history of breaches

CFMEU, official get higher penalties after unlawful conduct appeal

The Construction, Forestry, and Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU) and one of its officials received higher penalties after they appealed their unlawful conduct case in court.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court imposed a higher $60,000 penalty against the CFMEU, up from the previous $37,500, for a history of failing to comply with the Fair Work Act.

Dean Rielly, CFMEU official, also got slapped with a higher $6,300 penalty, up from the previous $5,500, after the court considered the seriousness of his conduct.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, Rielly's misconduct took place in July 2021 at a worksite in Brisbane, where the Queensland Cross River Rail project was taking place.

Rielly failed to comply with occupational health and safety requirements and acted in an improper manner after he:

  • failed to sign the visitor register and to complete a visitor induction
  • entered areas of the worksite to which access was restricted and refused to leave when requested to do so
  • failed to read and obey all safety signs at the worksite

"Objectively, Mr. Rielly's behaviour leads us to conclude that he did not consider that he was bound to comply with those requirements for undisclosed reasons at best or, at worst, was fully cognisant of the requirement to comply and chose to ignore them in an act of open defiance," the court justices said as quoted by the FWO.

Rielly, and through him the CFMEU, was found to have breached sections 499 and 500 of the fair Work Act, which apply to permit holders. They subsequently appealed to the Full Federal Court but was only partly successful in their attempt.

The penalties affirmed the severity of breaching laws that mandate permit holders to act in a proper manner, according to Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth.

"There is no place for improper conduct by permit holders on any worksite or for failure to comply with occupational health and safety laws," Booth said in a statement.

"Improving compliance across the building and construction industry is a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman, and we will investigate reports of non-compliance and hold to account those who act outside the law."

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