Union faces fines over scab slurs
Union faces fines over scab slurs

The militant union representing maritime workers is facing big fines and compensation payouts after a court found it had illegally vilified Fremantle Ports staff as "scabs".

Federal Court Justice Antony Siopis yesterday released a ruling in which he sided with the Fair Work Ombudsman in its case against the WA branch of the Maritime Union of Australia.

The industrial watchdog had brought the case against the MUA and its local assistant secretary, Will Tracey, after pamphlets were posted branding some workers "scabs" and "treacherous".

Posted at Fremantle port and between South Fremantle and Rockingham in December 2011, the flyers identified five workers who did not take part in a protected strike action.

"After God made the rattlesnake, the toad and the vampire, he had some awful substance left over, with which he made a SCAB," the flyers said.

"No-one has a right to SCAB, as long as there is a pool of water deep enough to drown their body, or a rope long enough to hang their carcass with."

The Ombudsman alleged the posters amounted to "coercion" and "adverse action" under the Fair Work Act.

In his judgment, Justice Siopis ruled the MUA and Mr Tracey had breached the act by subjecting workers named in the flyers to vilification, ostracism, intimidation and the risk of violence from other staff.

"I find that Mr Tracey had the motivation and desire to extract vengeance upon the persons who he, and the MUA, despised," Justice Siopis said.

Under the Fair Work Act, individuals face penalties of $6600 for each breach and the MUA, which was found to have approved of his actions, faces penalties of $33,000 per breach.

It is unclear whether Mr Tracey would be personally liable or whether the union would be held responsible for his actions.

A spokesman for the Ombudsman said it would be pursuing compensation for the adversely named employees.

Mr Tracey could not be contacted for comment.

The West Australian

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