Union rules hiring and firing in construction

BUILDERS and contractors are being told by militant unions such as the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union who to hire and how much to pay them if one of their subcontractors goes broke.

Industry sources say it is common for the CFMEU to lean on the contractor to hire the employees of a subcontractor on EBA rates if that subcontractor goes broke.

The Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry was told how one roofing contractor was subjected to union intimidation on a work site after his firm took on the employees of one of its subcontractors.

Dependable Roofing director Mark Anderson told the commission his company took on employees from its subcontractor Image Roofing that was forced out of business by CFMEU intervention.

“It was obvious the union wanted to sever all ties between the men and Bill George and for that reason we were obliged to engage them to keep the terms of our contract with Broad Constructions,” Mr Anderson said.

He said some of those employees were not members of the CFMEU and therefore not on an EBA. This singled Dependable out for some rough treatment.

His men were surrounded by CFMEU members, one of whom disabled the motor to a scissor lift, stranding several Dependable employees about six metres above the ground.

Another Dependable employee was involved in an incident with CFMEU WA assistant secretary Joe McDonald.

In another case Doric took on workers from a failed subcontractor on one of its sites in the South West.

Doric group director Charles Neophytou said the CFMEU had been unaware of the sub-contractor’s collapse.

“But when they found out we’d taken the workers on they insisted we pay them EBA rates,” Dr Neophytou said.

He said he had heard of several cases where the union had forced head contractors to take on subcontractors’ employees on EBA rates.

However, there have been cases where builders have been forced to take on a defunct sub-contractor’s employees out of project necessity.

GRD Kirfield took on the employees of Glassmasta Systems, which has gone into liquidation, to ensure work on the St George and Victoria Apartments site was completed on time.

GRD’s Ben Gavranich said it had been project, rather than union pressure, that had forced the company to take on the workers.

“We came back from Christmas break and found out (Glassmasta director) Ray Smith had done a runner,” Mr Gavranich said.

“When a subcontractor goes broke just a couple of months away from the finish of a project you just need to get down and get the job done.”

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