Worksite threat lands union a $36k fine

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
4 Min Read

The CFMEU has landed in hot water after an official made an “intimidatory threat” to a health and safety manager on site. 

Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has revealed a heated worksite exchange in 2021 led to the Federal Circuit and Family Court dishing out a $33,000 penalty to the union and another $3000 penalty against the official involved, Gerald McCrudden. 

Ruling Judge Amanda Mansini found McCrudden guilty of trying to intimidate a health and safety manager in a “deliberate attempt to prevent the manager from exercise his workplace right (and responsibility) to make a complaint or inquiry to the then building industry regulator.”

According to the FWO, McCrudden told the health and safety manager, “You’re not going to have much of a future if you continue talking to the ABCC. You’ll see, mate. You’ll see.”

McCrudden, and through him, the CFMEU, admitted to violating the Fair Work Act for taking an adverse action against the manager in the incident at the Mordialloc Freeway extension project in southeast Melbourne.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said the court penalties affirmed the seriousness of breaching laws on construction sites.

“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 are acting outside the law,” Ms Booth said.

“There is no place for adverse action in any workplace in Australia. 

“All workplace participants, including employers and employees, have the right to speak to regulators without facing threats of negative consequences, and we urge them to do so.”

“The cost of doing business”

After finding the conduct serious, Judge Mansini said penalties were necessary to deter the CFMEU and Mr McCrudden from future breaches.

But this isn’t the first time the union have been caught flaunting workplace regulations by the FWO. In December last year, officials were handed a far steeper $171,000 fine for unlawful conduct at a construction site in Southeast Queensland.

In that case, workers Andrew Blakeley and Luke Gibson were found guilty of obstructing a concrete pour by standing directly in the path of a reversing truck to stop it from discharging its load, manoeuvring themselves to stay in the path of the truck and refusing to move despite repeated requests.

Only six months before that the union copped an ever larger $225,320 fine for “failing to observe protocols” when entering the sites, such as completing a visitor induction, taking a vehicle and trailer onto the sites without authority and interrupting construction works.

In both cases, judges called the offences “serious” and “a misuse of power by officials”, echoing the need to impose penalties specifically against the CFMEU. 

But as labour shortages and housing supply constraints make the construction industry increasingly desperate to secure project pipelines, Acting Chief Justice Berna Collier warned that the unions’ growing bargaining power could lead to these penalties being seen as “the cost of doing business”.

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.