A prominent national union has been slapped with a record $1 million penalty by the Federal Court over illegal “secondary boycotts” of two businesses.
The massive fine was handed down to the Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union (CFMEU), after the court found it had engaged in conduct which caused substantial loss to Boral and its subsidiary Alsafe.
The union was found to have acted in conjunction with a shop steward at two Victorian construction sites in Hawthorn and Richmond, which the court ruled was in effect a “secondary boycott” that would have likely caused direct financial loss or damage to Boral.
The judge said each of the two actions warranted a penalty of $500,000. A verdict on whether costs will also be awarded has yet to be made.
“This is the highest penalty ever awarded for a breach of the secondary boycott provisions. It signifies the seriousness with which the court regarded the conduct,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in response to the verdict.
“The commercial construction industry is economically important for Australia and this type of conduct can impact the targeted companies as well as subcontractors and competition in the industry more generally.”
Mr Sims added: “We pursued this matter for five years because we wanted to send a strong message to others that this sort of conduct is illegal and will not be tolerated.”
The CFMEU has been contacted for comment.
News of the verdict marks the end of a lengthy process. The ACCC first launched legal action in November 2014, alleging secondary boycotts had taken place at 12 constructions sites right across Melbourne.
The Federal Court gave its judgment on liability in November last year, but issued non-publication and suppression orders which meant many details of the case were blocked from publication.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.