The Federal Court has increased penalties against the CFMEU. 

The fines went up for the Construction, Forestry, and Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU) and its official, Dean Rielly, following an appeal concerning their conduct at a Brisbane worksite. 

The court had been looking at incidents that occurred in July 2021 at the Queensland Cross River Rail project.

Originally, the Federal Circuit and Family Court had levied fines totalling $37,500 against the CFMEU and $5,500 against Rielly. 

These penalties were for failing to adhere to occupational health and safety requirements, under sections 499 and 500 of the Fair Work Act, which dictate proper conduct for permit holders. 

However, upon appeal, while some aspects were successful, the Full Federal Court opted to raise these penalties to $60,000 for the CFMEU and $6,300 for Rielly.

This decision was influenced by the severity of Rielly's misconduct, which involved him bypassing the visitor register, entering restricted areas, and disregarding safety signage. 

“Objectively, Mr Rielly’s behaviour leads us to conclude that he did not consider that he was bound to comply with those requirements for undisclosed reasons at best or, at worst, was fully cognisant of the requirement to comply and chose to ignore them in an act of open defiance,” said justices John Halley, Scott Goodman and Shaun McElwaine.

The Fair Work Ombudsman, Anna Booth, says it was an important decision. 

“There is no place for improper conduct by permit holders on any worksite or for failure to comply with occupational health and safety laws,” she said. 

She said the Ombudsman's office is committed to enforcing compliance within the building and construction industry and holding those who ignore the law accountable.

This case is part of a broader effort by the Fair Work Ombudsman to bolster compliance, with the office securing over $3 million in penalties since the oversight of such cases was transitioned from the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner in December 2022.