The Australian Building & Construction Commission (ABC) said that a CFMEU official had falsely claimed the Gladstone Boardwalk project was a “union site” and initially gave workers five minutes to decide whether to join the CFMEU or they would be “removed” from the project.
Judge Jarrett In the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane found that union organiser Jody Moses warned workers in September 2013 with words to the effect that: “This is the way it will be. You have to join the union otherwise you won’t be able to work on site and we will make sure you don’t work on site.”
The Court had previously been told that workers had objected to the threats during “angry” and “heated” discussions at meetings, saying words to the effect: “This is bullying. You can’t force us to join a union” and “This is not the way to get people into the union, this is bullying.”
In handing down the penalty decision, Judge Jarrett described the contravention in this case as “serious”: “It involved a flagrant disregard of workplace rights and the freedoms of associations guaranteed under the Fair Work Act.”
The court penalised the CFMEU $45,000 for coercion, misrepresentation and freedom of association contraventions.
Moses was penalised AU$5,500 while CFMEU delegate Gregg Churchman was penalised AU$4,000 for “remaining silent and offering implicit support” to Moses. The judge said that both Mr Moses and Mr Churchman had shown a “deliberate disregard of the law”.
Acting ABC Commissioner Cathy Cato said the court had sent a strong message that employees have the right to work on construction sites without being forced to join a union. “Threatening workers to join a union has no place in any Australian workplace,” she said. “The evidence of workers complaining of being ‘bullied’ by the union was extremely concerning. This was an important project for the Gladstone community and workers had every right to go about their normal duties without being forced into signing up to a union membership.”