CFMEU And Officials Penalised For Improper Conduct

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $108,980 in penalties in court against the Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU) and three of its officials for unlawful conduct at a construction site in Melbourne.

The Federal Court has imposed penalties of $95,000 against the CFMEU, $3,990 against Paul Tzimas, $3,330 against Gerald McCrudden, and $6,660 against James Harris.

Mr Tzimas, Mr McCrudden and Mr Harris, and through them the CFMEU, admitted breaching section 500 of the Fair Work Act by acting in an improper manner at the Mordialloc Freeway extension project in south-east Melbourne.

The unlawful conduct by Mr Tzimas and Mr McCrudden occurred during their visit to a construction site associated with the project on 18 November 2020.

The conduct involved Mr Tzimas saying to a health and safety manager at the site: “you’re pathetic” and “you’re a disgrace” and McCrudden saying to two health and safety managers at the site: “you’re f…ed this time”.

The unlawful conduct by Mr Harris occurred during his visit to a construction site associated with the project on 2 December 2020. It involved Mr Harris blocking three concrete trucks that were trying to complete a concrete pour.

Justice John Snaden described the conduct of Mr Tzimas and Mr McCrudden as “needlessly obnoxious and rude” and Mr Harris’s conduct as “inherently aggressive”, “potentially dangerous”, “disruptive”, and “wildly improper”.

Justice Snaden found that there was a need to impose penalties to deter similar future conduct.

Justice Snaden said the penalties impose would “serve as an appropriate deterrent, specifically and generally, against future contravention of the kinds that are the subject of this matter”.

The legal action against the CFMEU, Mr Tzimas, Mr McCrudden and Mr Harris was commenced by the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) in 2021.

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 the court penalties affirmed the seriousness of breaching laws requiring permit holders to act in a proper manner.

“There is no place for improper conduct by permit holders on any worksite,” Ms Booth said.

“Improving compliance across the building and construction industry is a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman, and we will investigate reports of non-compliance and hold to account those who act outside the law.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman has now secured total penalties of more than $3 million in court cases that have been finalised since they were transferred to it from the ABCC in December 2022.

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

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