John George Barrass, 33, of Mowbray Street, Sheffield, admitted attempted burglary when he appeared at Mansfield Magistrates Court on Thursday.
The court heard he entered the building site owned by Harron Homes, on the morning of October 16, and used a skeleton key to start the digger before using it to pierce the side of the container.
Police were called to the site and waited for Barrass by his car, where he at first denied any wrong doing, but later confirmed he was responsible, said Ruth Snodin, prosecuting.
“He said he went to the building site because they had refused to pay him and sacked him,” she said. “He wanted £700 in back pay.”
Harron Homes said £5,000 of damage was caused to the container, but the figure was disputed by James Whyley, mitigating, who said it was closer to £200.
Barrass intended to break open the container to get items of value, he said, adding: “He has gone about this in the worst possible way.”
Isobel Peach, of the probation service, said Barrass described feeling hard done by and he had spent time trying to be paid.
She said: “He did appear remorseful and recognised that he shouldn’t have gone to those lengths. I am hopeful that this is a one-off.”
District Judge Andrew Meachin told Barrass: “You tried to take the law into your own hands. If society allowed that we would have anarchy in this country.”
He gave Barrass a 12 month community order and ordered him to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work, with £85 court costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
But no compensation was ordered because “it wasn’t set out with sufficient accuracy.”