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CFMMEU bullying targets small business


The latest case of CFMMEU bullying reinforces the need for Parliament to pass the ‘Ensuring Integrity’ laws.

This is the fifth judgment handed down in the last four weeks where the CFMMEU has bullied small businesses to either sign union deals, or to force workers to join the union.  – resulting in almost $600,000 in penalties for what the Court has now called a “war” by the CFMMEU against the rights of workers and small business” said Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said.

“The ‘Ensuring Integrity’ laws will mean that the CFMMEU will have to learn to play by the rules while giving desperately needed extra protections for small business people, workers and apprentices,” she said.

“This decision is the latest to highlight that the CFMMEU’s Construction and General Division has an entrenched culture of bullying and that John Setka is merely the most infamous of its officials when it comes to repeatedly showing his contempt for the law,” Denita Wawn said.

The Federal Court has imposed fines of almost $70,000 against the CFMMEU and an official for conducting what it observed to be a “war” against the right of workers to be free to decide whether or not to join a union.

This latest judgment – Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Pattinson [2019] FCA 1654 – found that the CFMMEU and its official unlawfully stopped an apprentice and an electrician from working on a Frankston construction site because they weren’t union members.

The Court found the union had broken the Freedom of Association provisions within the Fair Work Act, when the official told the apprentice and the electrician that they weren’t allowed to come on site because they didn’t have a union membership card.

In making the findings, the Court ordered the highest available penalty given the long list of similar recent contraventions, combined with a failure to show contrition or take steps to stop further contraventions, with His Honor Justice Snaden noting:

“…The Union is a ’serial offender” that has, over a long period, exhibited a willingness to contravene workplace laws in the service of its industrial objectives; and one that appears to treat the imposition of financial penalties in respect of these contraventions as little more than the cost of its preferred business model.

…I regard the Union’s Agreed Contraventions – viewing them, as I do, against the backdrop of its sorry record of statutory contravention – as very much of the gravest, most serious kind. It is bad enough that it should so casually intrude upon rights of free association so valued by societies of conscience; much worse that it should do so, yet again, in deliberate defiance of the law that it has been told time and time again that it must obey.

it appears to be wholly unmoved by the prospect that it might be forced yet again to dig into its members “big pots of gold” in the name of “fight[ing] the good fight”…”

The Court decided to use the description of “war” with reference to the official involved, causing His Honour to say:

“…given his long-held position and rank within the Union, it is patently absurd to conclude anything other than that he did what he did out of fealty to his Union’s policy of enforcing a “no ticket, no start” regime at the construction sites over which it wields influence. Mr Pattinson is merely the latest foot soldier in what seems to be the Union’s war against free association on Australian building sites.

“Since the start of 2017, have accounted for 88% of the total breaches of the Fair Work laws that deal with Freedom of Association, Right of Entry and Coercion – which is 44 times higher than the breaches of all other unions combined,” Denita Wawn said.

“Today’s judgment hammers home the message that workers and small business deserve better than the CFMMEU. Bullying and thuggish behaviour have no place on building sites or in any workplace, Denita Wawn said.

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