BHP fined $60,000 for unfair dismissal of union officials

BHP has been ordered to pay $60,000 after a court found the company breached industrial laws when it sacked two CFMEU officials from its Peak Downs mine in 2011.

The Federal Court found the miner guilty of unfair dismissal in August and ordered the terminations be treated as null and void.

This week in sentencing Justice Collier said it was a serious breach and a penalty was needed to act as a deterrent to BHP and "other like-minded companies".

Kevin Adams and Justin Winter were officials with the union when they were dismissed in July 2011.

BHP said the men were let go for breaching workplace conduct after allegations they bullied and threatened another employee over his decision to resign from the union.

However the Federal Court said it found no evidence to support the alleged threats, and instead found that Adams and Winter were sacked for union-related activities

Justice Berna Collier said Adams and Winter had acted lawfully when they tried to persuade Robert Cramond to re-join the CFMEU.

Justice Collier also said the mine’s general manager ignored an internal investigation that found no evidence supporting Cramond's claims he had been threatened.

It was also found that BHP funded Cramond's legal defence when Adams sued him for defamation.

Queensland District Court ruled in favour of Cramdon, and Justice Collier said this was used by the Peak Down’s general manager to issue "show cause" notices to the two union members.

The CFMEU said the ruling was evidence that mining companies are targeting union members after Peadbody Energy was this week also found guilty of unfairly sacking three North Goonyella miners due to union activity.

“BHP and Peabody should be ashamed of their actions,” CFMEU Queensland district president Stephen Smyth said.

“These multinationals think they can come to Australia and do what they like without respecting the rights and values of Australian workers.

“This ruling reinforces Australian workers’ rights to stand up for a fair go.”

BMA told Australian Mining it notes the Federal Court’s decision and is considering its options. 

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