Shopfitters fear EBA push at Whitford City centre

SHOPFITTERS preparing to do fit-out works at Whitford City Shopping Centre say they will be forced to sign EBAs with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union before they will be allowed to start work.

Some of these shopfitters told the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry last month that they were forced to employ unrequired labourers from a CFMEU list before they were allowed to undertake any of the works they were contracted to do for the Floreat Forum refurbishment.

They expect similar treatment at Whitford City as well as being forced to sign a union EBA.

One shopfitter who did not wish to be named told WA Business News that Westfield Design and Construction, the company responsible for managing the redevelopment, was coercing shopfitters into signing the CFMEU’s EBA – an accusation the company denies.

“As far as I’m aware the whole site [Whitford City] is captured by the CFMEU,” the shopfitter said.

Westfield Design and Construction project manager John Spence denied that Westfield was coercing shopfitters into signing the EBA.

“As far as we’re concerned there are no requirements for coming on site,” Mr Spence said.

“We are just making contractors aware that there is an EBA on this site and that they need to make adjustments for that.

“The EBA we have on site is between Westfield and 10 employees.”

Frontline Interiors’ Steve Russo said his firm was not engaged to conduct any shop fitouts at Whitford City at this time, but that he had heard about the proposed EBA.

“If one of my clients asked me to go up there I wouldn’t sign an EBA,” he said.

Mr Russo said his firm had lost $25,000 on the fitouts it conducted at the Floreat Forum due to the extra workers it had forced on it by the CFMEU.

“On a Saturday we had to hire four labourers to unload a truck that we had already unloaded,” he said.

Under the Whitford City EBA, employers are forced to pay their workers: a $6.15 a day travelling allowance; a $15 per week per employee payment to the Union Education and Training fund; and encourage all employees covered by the EBA to become financial members of the union.

The EBA also states that workers working night shifts, a common occurrence in shopping centre refurbishments, will be paid double time.

Retail Traders Association manager Brian Reynolds said the alleged CFMEU practices hurt shop owners as well as the shopfitters.

“These higher costs will be reflected in higher occupancy costs,” he said.

“Initially the fitter will be forced to wear the higher costs. However, if these costs become widespread they will be reflected in future fitout costs.”

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