Dozens of workers face having their cars and houses confiscated for failing to pay thousands of dollars in fines for a 2008 strike at a West Australian Woodside project that was ruled unlawful.
The Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) confirmed that 33 of the 117 workers from the AMWU and CFMEU unions have not paid their fines, with $196,375 outstanding.
For the first time in Australian history, the FWBC has commenced action against the workers after identifying property – mostly cars and houses – for seizure.
Property search and seizure orders have been filed and served by bailiffs, with FWBC director Nigel Hadgkiss saying the action had already resulted in further payments plus costs being received.
“Where we could not identify property we are going to require those workers to attend means examination in the Federal Court,” Mr Hadgkiss said.
“Proceedings have been filed and are in the process of being served on the workers. Hearings in early May have already been scheduled by the court.”
The original fines imposed by the Federal Court totalled more than $1 million, with $387,875 suspended.
“This is a warning to all workers that if they breach workplace laws, FWBC will not hesitate to enforce penalties imposed by the courts,” Mr Hadgkiss said.
Mick Buchan, the WA state secretary for the CFMEU, said tactics were about intimidation not restitution.
“I think they’re trying to send a message of fear and intimidation. It’s out of control at the moment,” he said.
Mr Buchan said the CFMEU members were being supported by the union, and were attempting to work out payment plans with the court.
“They are acting with malice, and callously pursuing these workers, some of whom can’t afford to pay,” Mr Buchan told ABC Radio.