Page 2341 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 5 August 2015

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hearings; they were dragged kicking and screaming to the commission, making all sorts of claims along the way. But they cannot hide from the evidence presented and the criminal allegations levelled against them in the royal commission.

The statements made by witnesses at the royal commission are damning. Previously, only people retiring from the construction industry locally or whose businesses were about to fold were game to speak out. For the first time ever, contractors, business operators and even an ACT public servant took the brave step to stand up publicly in the royal commission and detail their experiences of working in the ACT’s construction industry. Over three weeks, witness after witness came forward with statements that asserted and alleged widespread intimidation, bribery, corruption, thuggery and cartel behaviour being perpetrated by the ACT branch of the CFMEU on ACT construction sites across the territory on a daily basis and over a long period of time.

These allegations include threats by CFMEU organisers to exclude companies from the commercial construction market if they do not meet union demands. On the first day of the hearings in Canberra, one witness stated as evidence:

I understood from what he told me if I paid ... $50,000 I was guaranteed the job …

On subsequent days another business owner stated:

He said without paying it’s possible that I cannot stay in Canberra for work …

CFMEU organisers allegedly carried out those threats and demands by way of intimidation. They do not baulk at the use of standover tactics or deliberately and wilfully disrupting work on sites. There are allegations of corruption levelled against one particular CFMEU organiser that he allegedly extorted a substantial sum of money from Canberra-based building firms on various work sites. Another organiser has today been charged with bribery.

There are allegations of CFMEU organisers promoting cartel and price-fixing arrangements. Allegations have also been made of the CFMEU forcing employers to pay for union memberships for employees even where employees do not wish to join, and lodging enterprise agreements with the Fair Work Commission that employees have not voted on. This is not new behaviour, and it has been allowed to go unchecked for far too long.

Judith Sloan stated in the Australian on 14 July:

The big employers understand the game and create space in their tenders for this extortion. It is generally the small players, the subcontractors, that get burnt if they don’t play by the rules. These rules involve operating under CFMEU-approved enterprise bargaining agreements that match the pay and conditions set by the head contractor and agreeing to closed shops—every worker is a union member, whether or not that worker actually pays the dues.

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