Penalty for Australian union

By Helen Wright28 May 2012

The Federal Magistrates Court at Perth, Australia, has ordered the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union of Workers (CFMEUW) and union organiser Walter Molina to pay a fine of AU$ 9240 (US$ 9100) for making false and misleading statements regarding workers' obligation to join the union.

The Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) reported that Mr Molina told employees of a contractor on the Coles-Myer Distribution Centre building site at Perth Airport in 2008 that they could not work on the site unless they became union members. He went on to tell the contractor's industrial relations manager that the employees could not return to the site unless they signed up to the union.

Australian Federal Magistrate Toni Lucev found the union contravened the 2009 Fair Work Act, and ordered CFMEU to pay AU$ 4620 (US$ 4550), CFMEUW to pay AU$ 3960 (US$ 3900) and Mr Molina to pay AU$ 660 (US$ 591) in penalties.

In his judgement, Magistrate Lucev said, "The union has not only not expressed contrition, it has also not taken any corrective action. Moreover, the union's submissions at the penalty hearing that there was no need for corrective action compounds the union's failure."

Commenting on the penalties, ABC Commissioner Leigh Johns said, "Union representatives are permitted to inform workers about the benefits of joining a union but a legal line is crossed if they tell workers they have to sign up as a condition of working at a particular site, as occurred in this instance."

Coercion

The news comes after ABCC launched legal proceedings against CFMEU and six of its organisers in May for 34 counts of unlawful industrial action and nine acts of coercion.

It says the union pressured Abigroup Contractors, part of Lend Lease, to employ particular union members on the company's Peninsula Link project, with illegal industrial action on five major projects in Victoria.

ABCC, which is a government body, alleges 34 counts of unlawful industrial action and nine acts of coercion, with the union targeting five Abigroup projects with a total value of AU$ 1.2 billion (US$ 1.3 billion). The case continues.

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