Court slaps 6-figure fine on union, officers for right-of-entry breaches

Union officials failed to display entry permits, refused to leave premises when asked to do so

Court slaps 6-figure fine on union, officers for right-of-entry breaches

In a dispute between a union and an employer, right-of-entry breaches occur when one party fails to follow the legal procedures for entering the other party’s premises.

In a recent decision, the Federal Court fined the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining, and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and six current and former leaders $328,000 for violating right-of-entry laws.

The involved site was referred to as the Logan Enhancement Project, which aimed to upgrade the motorways south of Brisbane, including the construction of new ramps, carriageways and bridge structures in Queensland.

The violations

On separate dates, the officials entered the premises associated with the project, walked around the premises, failed to display entry permits when requested, and refused to leave the premises when asked to do so.

The court determined that CFMMEU personnel violated section 500 of the Fair Work Act when they entered the construction site.

The lawsuit claimed that the union’s violations of the Fair Work Act were “objectively serious” since they were the result of “a concerted, coordinated industrial campaign by the CFMMEU and its officers,” adding that this conduct was an attempt “at powerful (and repeated) displays of defiance through strength in numbers.”

On the other hand, the union claimed that their alleged misconduct “falls at the lowest end of the spectrum of seriousness.”

It also claimed that its officers at the time “were exercising their rights under the state’s Work Health and Safety Act to attend discussions to resolve safety concerns.”

In 2020, the now-defunct Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) filed a lawsuit against the CFMMEU and some of its leaders.

The consideration

In its decision, the court referred to previous breaches by the union and some of the officials. “The [union] has a substantial record of contravening the Fair Work Act,” the court said.

The CFMMEU and six officers were all fined.

In a media release, Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the purpose of court penalties is “to affirm the seriousness of breaching right-of-entry laws in the building and construction sector.”

“Consistent with other industries, in commercial building and construction, the Fair Work Ombudsman will investigate reports of non-compliance and hold to account those who are acting outside the law,” she said.

As of December 2022, responsibility for the case was transferred from the ABCC to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

 

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