Case Note: Fair Work Ombudsman v Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union (North East Link Project Case) [2024] FedCFamC2G 396

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The Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU) and one of its officials have had $51,280.00 in penalties imposed against them for unlawful conduct at a North East Link Project site in February 2021.

The action was commenced by the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner but responsibility transferred to the Fair Work Ombudsman in December 2022.

The proceedings related to Paul Tzimas, a CFMEU official, entering an area where an excavator was operating without authorisation and failing to leave when reasonably requested to do so.

Mr Tzimas admitted to breaching sections 499 and 500 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), which both apply to permit holders. Section 499 related to failing to comply with an occupational health and safety requirement and section 500 related to acting in an improper manner.

Section 793 of the Act creates a statutory attribution of Mr Tzimas’ conduct to the CFMEU, and the CFMEU did not submit that Mr Tzimas was acting outside of scope. Therefore, his conduct is also taken to be engaged in by the CFMEU.

The CFMEU was penalised $43,290.00 and Mr Tzimas was penalised $7,990.00.

In describing the conduct, Judge Mark Champion stated:

“The seriousness of the impropriety of the conduct – with its stark departure from acceptable OHS standards – requires the imposition of a meaningful penalty against the CFMEU to achieve the aim of deterrence.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman, Anna Booth, separately stated:

“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.”

Author: Katy Gale

This article is a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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