CFMMEU, officials fined $1m over picket

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A judge lamenting the CFMMEU's "appalling" history of unlawful action has fined the construction union and four officials more than $1 million over the illegal blockade of a Sydney crane operator.

The snap protest outside Botany Cranes in January 2019 included threatening and coercive behaviour, chants and a speech by the president of the union's NSW branch, Federal Court Justice Steven Rares said on Thursday.

Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union officials acknowledged during the protest the conduct they were inciting was not protected industrial action.

"(The union's) history of contraventions of industrial law is appalling," Justice Rares said.

"That history reflects an embedded culture throughout the organisation of conscious and often, as here, flagrant breaches of the law."

The fines of $850,000 for the union and $172,500 for four officials also contained penalties for further bullying of the business after the January 25 protest.

The picket was sparked when the managing director sacked the union delegate over suspicion he was sabotaging the business.

The union was at the time trying to get a new enterprise agreement signed.

Former NRL player Michael Greenfield - who was fined $100,000 - organised the picket as branch assistant secretary.

With "calculated menace", he told those gathered the law was "stacked against us" and "we're not going to stop" until the sacked worker was back, the judge said.

A softer address by branch president Rita Mallia symbolically and powerfully indicated the whole branch was ready to "enforce its will, regardless of the law, over Botany Cranes until it capitulated", the judge said.

The officials were intent on "wiping the floor" with the company by using "union power", Justice Rares said, referencing phrases uttered by assistant secretary Robert Kera.

In a later picket, Mr Greenfield told the managing director they'd start "negotiating fairly, give you what you want" and leave Botany Cranes' customers alone if the union delegate was reinstated.

"Everything against you will cease," he said, according to agreed facts before the court.

Part of the fine may be paid to NSW Police, which monitored the protest, and a Botany Cranes office worker who cried when arriving to work to the sounds of "here's one of them" and "they're a bunch of dogs".

The Australian Building and Construction Commission, which brought the court action, says the fines are the largest under a 2016 law governing industrial action in the sector.

Penalties imposed on the CFMMEU and its officials since December 2016 exceed $12 million, it said.