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Mon August 03 2020

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Australian union fined $150k over building site scuffle

6 Oct 14 Australian construction union CFMEU and five of its officials have been fined a total of AU$152,600 (£80,300) after admitting to conduct including a physical altercation at an Adelaide building site.

The Federal Court of Australia Court found the officials had contravened ‘Right of Entry laws’ earlier this year by acting in an improper manner and intentionally hindering and obstructing Hansen & Yuncken management on the AU$75m (£39.5m) CBus construction site.

On 20 March, CFMEU state secretary Aaron Cartledge was told by the site manager that he was not allowed on site because he had failed to give 24 hours’ notice. Cartledge told the site supervisor “You have to do what you have to do and we are going to do what we want to do” and entered the site.

CFMEU organiser Brendan Pitt, who had travelled from Victoria to join his South Australia colleagues, said: “You are making a big mistake for stopping our entry. There will be trouble.”

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Pitt and CFMEU organiser Jim O’Connor then used physical force against the site supervisor to gain access to the site. After the physical altercation Pitt said: “You’ve just made things a hell of a lot harder for you now.”

In a penalty decision handed down in the Federal Court, the judge said: “The CFMEU has a significant history of non-compliance with the provisions of industrial legislation...I have remarked upon the fact that each of the individual respondents’ conduct indicates that each (with the exception of Stephenson) simply did not care about complying with the entry provisions.” Luke Stephenson, a former CFMEU official, no longer works for the CFMEU SA branch.

The director of the government’s Fair Work Building & Construction department, Nigel Hadgkiss, said that ‘Right of Entry’ laws must be obeyed. “People who do not respect the rule of law must expect there will be consequences,” he said. “Senior officers of the CFMEU, such as Mr Pitt and Mr Cartledge, should be well aware of their obligations under the Fair Work Act. A Right of Entry permit is a privilege, not a licence to act above the law.”

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