JOHN SETKA COURT
JOHN SETKA COURT

Law-breaking union costing NSW workers millions

EXCLUSIVE: Law-breaking and militancy by the CFMMEU in NSW is ­estimated to have cost union members - the state's building workers - more than $6 million since 2004.

A parliamentary showdown over union activity looms today, with the government to introduce tough union crackdown laws, ramping up political pressure on Labor over its union links.

In NSW, the government estimates­ CFMMEU penalties for 169 workplace law contraventions have cost $2.2 million in penalties and $4.5 million in legal fees.

In Victoria, the powerbase of under-siege union boss John Setka, the CFMMEU has run up legal fees which have cost union members $17 million.

CFMMEU Victorian secretary John Setka. Picture: Julian Smith
CFMMEU Victorian secretary John Setka. Picture: Julian Smith


The Morrison government will seize on the figures as it pushes new laws that will give the courts more power and flexibility to deregister law-breaking unions­ and take action against unions and their officials.

It comes as the PM read the Riot Act to his team yesterday, telling the party room that MPs should be sticking to their "core agenda" and not freelancing in the media. It follows MPs speaking­ about concerns on compulsory superannuation and the Newstart rate.

The government wants today's laws on unions to ­sharpen its attack on Labor. Labor has already indicated it will oppose the laws.

The Morrison government is expected to use the figures as it pushes new anti-union laws. Picture: Mick Tsikas
The Morrison government is expected to use the figures as it pushes new anti-union laws. Picture: Mick Tsikas

"This is just another anti-union piece of legislation­ from a government that is anti-union," leader Anthony­ Albanese said.

"When people do the wrong thing, action should be taken. When unions do the wrong thing, they've been charged, they've been fined."

Attorney-General Christian Porter said that the new bill implemented­ recommendations from the trade union royal commission­.

"We all know that in a small element of the union movement, there are problems that need to be fixed," he said. "The CFMMEU has made law-breaking part of its business model. It has been penalised more than $16 million for more than 2000 contraventions of the law in recent years in cases brought by the Australian Building and Construction Commission­."

The government said it has altered­ the laws to address concerns­ raised by Labor but caucus resolved yesterday to ­reject the bill. Labor has said the laws do not match up with how corporate Australia is dealt with.

Mr Porter said last night that currently the "militant union has 79 representatives before courts in 37 cases brought by the ABCC for about 800 separate alleged conventions of workplace law".

He claimed Labor was ­"endorsing" this law-breaking by failing to back the bill.