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Threat of union reprisals gags builders

CONCERNS are mounting that builders will be too scared to speak out when the Cole Royal Commission into Building Industry Corruption comes to town on March 18.

Industry sources say the threat of union reprisals will gag many builders.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union started a campaign to show its disapproval of the commission last week by hanging banners on city building sites.

Its members threatened to go on strike for 48 hours if the banners that read: “We built this city. Howard’s royal commission is a political stunt” were removed.

The commission starts its hearings in Perth on March 18, although the venue for the hearings is yet to be determined.

Its hearings in Melbourne were inconvenienced because the fit-out of the commission’s venue was not completed in time.

However, the commission’s media director Rick Willis said he did not expect to have the same problem in Perth.

Master Builders’ Association of WA director Michael McLean said he believed builders would respond to the commission and answer its questions if they were called.

“But there is fear and uncertainty about retribution out there,” Mr McLean said.

BGC Construction general manager Gerry Forde said many builders would be afraid to speak out, “especially now the new legislation is in”.

Mr Forde did not expect BGC to be called to give evidence at the commission as it had never signed an enterprise bargaining agreement with a union.

However, he said the company would help the commission if required.

Doric Constructions director Charles Neophytou said a handful of builders would come forward to give evidence.

His company had problems with the CFMEU on its Burswood Casino building site.

“We certainly will give evidence if required,” Mr Neophytou said.

“But some people I’ve spoken to are afraid to come forward.”

CFMEU assistant secretary Joe McDonald anticipated some builders would “get their day in court”.

However, he said the CFMEU was not concerned about what the commission would discover.

“It’s just a political witch hunt. I’ve not lost any sleep over it,” Mr McDonald said.

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