CFMMEU and officials hit with $184,000 in penalties

Australian Building and Construction Commission

The Federal Court has penalised the CFMMEU, former official Gerasimos Danalis and current official Anthony Dimitriou $184,000 for contravening right of entry laws in November 2018 at the Kiama Aged Care Centre construction project.

Mr Danalis was found to have obstructed three concrete trucks on 27 November 2018 resulting in concrete being wasted and work delayed.

Mr Danalis and Mr Dimitriou were found to have returned to the site the following day, 28 November, and acted in an improper manner by refusing to undertake a visitors’ induction and entering the site unaccompanied, contrary to a reasonable request from the site manager.

At one point on 27 November, Mr Danalis walked behind a reversing concrete truck, approached an operating concrete pump and attempted to push the emergency stop on the pump. Mr Danalis disrupted the truck from unloading its contents and prevented a second and third concrete truck from entering the site.

In relation to the actions of both CFMMEU officials, the Court said:

A common feature of the conduct on both days was that the officials exhibited a certain arrogance or sense of entitlement…. None of the contraventions was trivial or insignificant.… Each involved deliberate acts: obstruction on the first day and defiance on the second.

As the Commissioner submitted, suspected safety breaches or safety concerns did not entitle Danalis to take matters into his own hands the first day or entitle Danalis and Dimitriou on the second day to flout the occupier’s reasonable work health safety requirements….

In relation to the conduct of the CFMMEU, the Court remarked:

The Union is a notorious repeat “offender”. It has an extensive history of contravening industrial laws. …

The Union adduced no evidence to show that it has any system in place to ensure compliance or prevent or reduce the risk of its officials or employees breaking the law. It has adduced no evidence to indicate that it has taken any corrective action. It appears to have no culture of compliance. If anything, the evidence suggests it has a culture of non-compliance. While it insists on employers complying with the law, it behaves as if it is above the law.

Acting ABCC Commissioner, Matt Kelleher said:

Regrettably, the findings in this case are reflective of an ongoing pattern of unlawful behaviour by the CFMMEU and its officials, not just in New South Wales, but nationally.

The Court found that the CFMMEU had been found to have contravened right of entry laws 125 times before the events in this matter in November 2018 with penalties imposed in all of those cases.

It is extremely concerning that the CFMMEU and its officials continue to contravene the Fair Work Act, seemingly unphased by the penalties imposed on them.

A site occupier’s reasonable work health and safety requirements must be complied with. It is troubling that, as the Court found, these requirements were flouted by both officials in this case.

The ABCC will continue to investigate and where appropriate, prosecute building industry participants to hold wrongdoers to account for unlawful behaviour on Australia’s building and construction sites.

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