CFMMEU penalised for right of entry breaches

28 September 2023

The Federal Court has imposed a total of $66,500 in penalties against the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and a former official for unlawful conduct on a Gold Coast construction site.

The penalties are the result of legal action commenced by the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC).

The CFMMEU has been penalised $58,000 and one of the CFMMEU’s former Queensland representatives Dean Reilly has been penalised $8,500.

The CFMMEU and Mr Reilly contravened right of entry laws in the Fair Work Act at the Pacific Motorway project between Varsity Lakes and Burleigh in April 2021.

The conduct involved Mr Reilly acting improperly by failing to comply with a site requirement for all visitors to be accompanied at all times by a fully inducted representative of the site occupier. Mr Reilly walked around the site and entered work areas with heavy machinery for periods without being accompanied.

In his judgment on the matter, Justice David Thomas described the conduct as “deliberate” and “dangerous”.

Justice Thomas found that there was a need to impose penalties to achieve both general deterrence and to specifically deter the CFMMEU from further contraventions of right of entry laws in future.

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

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said court penalties are important to affirm the seriousness of breaching right of entry laws.

“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 Booth said.

All building and construction industry employers and employees can seek sector-specific workplace information, advice and assistance from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Employers and employees can also visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Earlier this year the FWO discontinued proceedings against Mr Paul Fitzpatrick, a CFMMEU official who had been the second respondent in this matter when the ABCC commenced court proceedings in December 2021.

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