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How a worksite deal has left Hutchies and union facing ACCC court action

Business

Construction company Hutchinson and militant union the CFMMEU will both front court in a case brought by the ACCC over alledged boycott conduct at a Brisbane building site.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the case related to an agreement between Hutchinson and the  union in which Hutchinson allegedly agreed to terminate the contract of an independent waterproofing subcontractor working on the Southpoint Apartments construction project in South Brisbane.

Hutchinson is one of Australia’s biggest privately-owned construction companies with around 1800 staff and over $2.5 billion worth of projects annually.

The ACCC alleges that Hutchinson terminated the subcontractor to avoid conflict with, or industrial action by, the CFMMEU at the site. Hutchinson was the head contractor on the Southpoint A site. The waterproofing subcontractor was not covered by an enterprise agreement with the CFMMEU.

The union has denied the claims and aggressively attacked the ACCC’s motives.

The ACCC alleges that, by making and acting on the agreement, Hutchinson contravened sections 45E and 45EA of the Competition and Consumer Act, which prohibit contracts, arrangements or understandings for the purpose of preventing or hindering the acquisition of goods or services from a supplier.

The CFMMEU allegedly induced or was knowingly concerned in these contraventions.

“Tackling anti-competitive conduct in the construction industry is a priority for the ACCC, and this includes boycotts like the one alleged to have taken place here,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“Boycotts are extremely detrimental to competitive markets and the economy, and can do great damage to those businesses targeted. Given this, we will take action to detect and deter such conduct whenever we can.”

The union state secretary Michael Ravbar accused the ACCC of litigating via press releases and said the ACCC had been compromised under the Morrison government.

“The ACCC’s latest politically-motivated assault – a spurious claim of boycott behaviour on a Brisbane construction site – typifies how unethical the commission has become,” Ravbar said.
“In this instance, the CFMEU did not receive fair notice of the proceedings that have been commenced. The union still has not seen the papers that have been filed in the court, and the allegations were never put to the union before the proceedings were filed.
“Instead the ACCC chooses to litigate its allegations via press release.
“This is a sector with more corporate failures and sharp practices than any others, but the ACCC is more interested in wasting taxpayers’ money chasing headlines on behalf of its political masters than going after real instances of criminality.”
“The CFMEU will not cop trial by media, and looks forward to vigorously defending, and defeating, this baseless action.”

The ACCC said it was seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, orders for findings of fact, compliance training and, against the CFMMEU only, adverse publicity orders.

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