Page 2342 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 5 August 2015

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The CFMEU is perfectly capable of driving smaller operators out of business. It will use bogus occupational health and safety reasons to enter worksites and, in some cases, interrupt time-sensitive work, such as concrete pours.

When health and safety are used as the basis for any industrial conflict, it is invariably the health and safety of workers that are the first victim. To back up all of this, the master builders association conducted their own survey on 101 of their members locally. It found that 71.8 per cent of respondents had been verbally intimidated by the ACT branch of the CFMEU and 41 per cent physically intimidated, and that 58.4 per cent of respondents had received threats to exclude them from the market if they did not agree to pattern enterprise bargaining agreements which required payments to the CFMEU and associated entities. A further 32 per cent had been asked to make donations to the CFMEU or related business entities in exchange for “industrial peace”. And seven per cent were asked outright for bribes.

Most importantly, and most distressing to come out of all of this evidence and publicity, is the impact on the ACT community. At the end of the day, the most dramatic impact is on the ACT economy. Fixed-price arrangements for everything from concrete to scaffolding, as alleged in the royal commission, prove that competition is a myth in the ACT under the CFMEU’s rules. Good businesses simply cannot thrive in this style of cartel, and the ACT community as a whole will never get a fair price in this environment. Fixed pricing unnecessarily drives prices up on every commodity. Effectively, when the competition edge is taken out of the marketplace and backroom deals decide the pricing structure and ultimately the cost of building work, the true cost is unknown. This impacts every aspect of our property sector, from government contracts to first homebuyers.

Yesterday the minister for industrial relations stated very carefully in an answer to a question without notice that he could not recall any cases of bullying or intimidation by CFMEU officials affecting government projects being brought to his attention. Tellingly, the minister would not commit to taking a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and intimidation. It is alarming to think that members of the ACT government’s own work safety body have outlined the intimidation they have been subjected to simply because they were doing their job.

As the royal commission moves to Sydney, just yesterday it heard that the CFMEU garnered more than $1 million into its so-called “general revenue” through clauses in EBAs that were purportedly for training, charity and income protection. It was also alleged yesterday that an insurance scheme paid the CFMEU promoters fees in excess of $200,000. The royal commission will continue to seek evidence that a training body controlled by the union paid almost $800,000 last year in income to the CFMEU.

Counsel assisting the royal commission alleged that the agreements struck with ACT and NSW building firms hid the fact that money paid by employers “facilitates financial money for the union itself”. The CFMEU have defended filling up the coffers with this money and defended their donations to the ALP and Greens on this matter.

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