20 September 2019

A Federal Circuit Court decision delivered today demonstrates why there is an urgent need for the Federal Parliament to pass proposed Ensuring Integrity laws to ensure that building unions and their officials play by the rules.

The decision found that a small business sub-contractor had been deliberately denied work because they did not have a union endorsed pattern EBA. A larger construction company was pressured to deny this opportunity because they were threatened by the CFMMEU for not engaging its preferred subcontractors who did operate under a union pattern EBA.

The court found that: “The [CFMMEU] contacted me at around 5:00 yesterday. They threatened action on the site if we signed you up." And that this resulted in the construction company to: "…deliberately chose to contravene the Fair Work Act. The evidence clearly establishes that faced with two commercially unpalatable alternatives, they chose the one which led Forest Meiers to knowingly contravene the Fair Work Act, rather than to take a stance against the CFMEU."

And that this conduct: "….has the potential to perpetuate a culture of submission in the building and construction industry where economic duress is able to be applied to subcontractors to force them to become covered by an enterprise agreement that also covers a union."

Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said that, "This case shows why the Parliament needs to urgently pass the Ensuring Integrity laws, so that building unions and their officials can be properly held to account for their ongoing culture of bullying, threats and thuggery.”

"This case is yet another in a long line of decisions in which building unions threaten one company so they can control who gets work and who doesn’t,” Denita Wawn said.

"It's a way to signal to subcontractors, who are mainly small and family businesses, that they have one choice: they must do what the union says – or - have their business, livelihoods and those of their workers threatened or jeopardised,” she said.

"That a company thinks the prospect of facing Government Regulator investigations, Federal Court proceedings and exposure to significant fines and penalties – is better than facing the wrath of building unions who think they are above the law – says it all,” Denita Wawn said.

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