CFMMEU and officials penalised $179,000 for Queensland right of entry breaches

21 March 2023

The Federal Court has imposed $179,000 in penalties against the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and seven current and former officials for defying right of entry laws on a Sunshine Coast project site.

The penalties have been imposed after legal action commenced by the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) against the CFMMEU and the seven officials: Kurt Pauls, Beau Seiffert, Te Aranui Albert, Blake Hynes, Luke Gibson, Matthew Parfitt and Royce Kupsch.

In 2019, the court found that the officials had, in early 2018, breached the Fair Work Act by unlawfully entering the Bruce Highway, Caloundra project site (and by other conduct after entry), and found that the CFMMEU and Kurt Pauls had accessorial liability for the conduct of the respondents.

The project involved a major upgrade of the Bruce Highway to six lanes between Caloundra Road and the Sunshine Motorway.

Between 8 March and 18 April 2018, CFMMEU officials entered the project site on nine separate occasions, each time refusing to show their federal right of entry permits.

On each occasion, the CFMMEU officials told site managers they were entering the site under section 81(3) of Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act, and as a result they weren’t required to show their federal right of entry permits.

Of the seven CFMMEU officials involved, all with the exception of one, Kurt Pauls, held valid federal right of entry permits.

In its liability judgment on the matter, the Federal Court ruled that union officials must hold and show a valid federal right of entry permit upon request when visiting construction sites for safety reasons.

Breaches after the entry related to actions including officials walking around the site without supervision and entering work areas causing work to stop.

The Federal Court has now imposed penalties of $85,000 against the CFMMEU in relation to twenty-four contraventions, $30,000 against Mr Pauls for eight contraventions and $25,000 against Mr Seiffert for seven contraventions.

The court has further ordered $15,000 in penalties against Mr Hynes for three contraventions, $10,000 against Mr Parfitt for two contraventions, $7,000 against Mr Gibson for two contraventions, and $3,500 against each of Mr Albert and Mr Kupsch for one contravention each.

Under federal legislation, responsibility for the case transferred from the ABCC to the Fair Work Ombudsman in December 2022.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said court penalties are important to affirm the seriousness of breaching right of entry laws in the building and construction sector.

“Consistent with other industries, in commercial building and construction the Fair Work Ombudsman will investigate reports of non-compliance and hold to account those who are acting outside the law,” Ms Parker said.

The court has made personal payment orders against each of the officials, and declined to wholly suspend the penalties on Luke Gibson, Te Aranui Albert and Royce Kupsch as proposed by the union.

For more information about abolition of the ABCC and transfer of matters to the FWO, see: Abolition of the ABCC and ROC.

Employers and employees can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

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