On 14 February 2018, the High Court confirmed the power of Courts to order union officials to pay their own fines.
In the case, Mr Myles (the Vice President of the CFMEU Construction and General Division) directed workers to take unlawful industrial action against the joint venturers of a large construction project for the Victorian Government. Mr Myles organised and participated in a blockade of an entrance, stopping materials being delivered, resulting in large quantities of wasted concrete. He also threatened to again blockade the entrance if the CFMEU was not permitted to have a delegate on site. Mr Myles admitted that this was done with the intention of coercing the joint venturers to comply with the CFMEU’s demands.
The original judge handed down pecuniary penalties against the CFMEU of $60,000 and $18,000 against Mr Myles. Importantly, the primary judge also made a non-indemnification order, meaning that Mr Myles penalty could not be reimbursed by the CFMEU. The CFMEU and Mr Myles appealed the non-indemnification order. The High Court has confirmed that courts can issue personal payment orders requiring union officials to pay their own fines.
The decision will discourage CFMEU officials from blatantly disregarding industrial laws because, if they do, they can be ordered to personally pay large fines from their own assets. Despite numerous fines being imposed on the CFMEU and numerous strong criticisms from Judges, the CFMEU has not changed its unlawful behaviour. Hopefully, this decision will finally lead to CFMEU officials taking responsibility for their own actions and complying with the law like every citizen in a civilised society is rightly expected to do.
If you would like more information about union rights of entry and industrial action, please contact Ai Group’s Workplace Advice Service on 1300 55 66 77.
Alternatively, if you would like advice about union actions on your work site please contact your local employment, workplace and industrial lawyer in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Melbourne or Brisbane or email Ai Group Workplace Lawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.