More than 100 striking workers have been slapped with a record fine of $1 million for unlawful industrial action on the Burrup Peninsula five years ago, in a sign of tough industrial standards likely to return under the Abbott Government.
The fine, including up to $10,000 for some individuals, is for an eight-day strike by 117 workers employed by CBI Construction at Woodside's Pluto project in 2008, over a dispute about redundancy payments.
About $680,000 of the $1 million fine is due within months, with the rest suspended and payable only if workers break industrial law during the next three years.
The amount due is more than twice that levied on a similar number of workers who held strikes on the Perth to Mandurah rail line in 2006, excluding suspended penalties.
Federal Court Justice John Gilmour said the illegal strike had resulted in significant economic losses and project delays, and was in defiance of a return-to-work order issued by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
The legal action and penalty for the strike was levied under the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill, which was amended under the previous Labor Government but which is likely to return in some greater form under the Abbott Government. Master Builders Association spokesman Kim Richardson welcomed the court's decision and the looming return of the construction watchdog's full suite of powers.
He said the construction sector would pressure the Government to come good on pre-election promises to beef up the watchdog.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said yesterday said it was a "vindictive judgment".
WA branch secretary Mick Buchan accused the court of levying the fine against individuals because it had failed to pin responsibility for the strike on the CFMEU.
Mr Buchan said it was unfair that construction workers risked huge financial penalties for withdrawing their labour during legitimate grievances, while other workers, such as this week's striking teachers, were not subject to individual fines.
"Now the Abbott Government wants to bring these draconian laws back in the face of every international labour convention under the International Labour Organisation," he said.
'Now the Abbott Government wants to bring these draconian laws back.'"CFMEU WA branch secretary *Mick Buchan *