||Issue No. 145||19 July 2002|
Two Wings Flapping
Interview: In The Tent
Bad Boss: The Desk Nazi
Media: Hold the Presses
Workplace: Putting Bullies In Their Place
Industrial: Women and Work
International: Whine and Dine
History: Black Adder
Review: Bad Movie
Poetry: I Remember
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Hooray for Frank!
Reform or Die
Builder Blows Whistle on Kangaroo Court
John, who refused to give his surname because “I am only 41 and want to keep working in this industry” said he was approached by two Cole Commission investigators and asked to give a statement about his dealings with the CFMEU.
"Sure, I've had my problems with the CFMEU, who hasn't?" he told Workers Online. "I'd been through an unfair dismissal case and didn't think I got a fair go."
John said he told investigators of that incident but when they returned with a typed-up statement, three weeks later, "everything had been blown out of all proportion" and at least two untruths had been incorporated. He identified these as being:
- that the union had coerced him into contributing to its picnic fund
- that if a 36-hour week came into the building industry his company would go under
John said he refused to sign the bodgeyed statement but Commission representatives had been loathe to take no for an answer.
He found their attitudes "threatening and intimidating" and insisted they left his property.
The builder said that three weeks later, he received a subpoena to attend the Commission on June 21. When he arrived in the city he was interviewed by one of the Counsels Assisting who again tried to convince him he should sign the inaccurate statutory declaration.
"I told him the statement had been exaggerated and they had added in bits and pieces that I had never said. Then he asked me if I had been threatened by anyone and I said - yes, by your blokes."
John said, during his courthouse interview, Counsel Assisting had zeroed in on two subjects - the Building Trades Group, and a $1000 donation he had made to the CFMEU picnic fund.
"They didn't seem to understand that was a good deal for me. In return, I got as many tickets as I wanted for my staff and their families to have a day out together. I made the donation and didn't have a problem with it," John said.
Another point of contention, he said, had been compulsory unionism. His company had worked on a project subject to Commission scrutiny and he rejected its claims that workers had been forced join the CFMEU.
In the end, Counsel Assisting decided it was a view the Commission didn't need to hear and sent him packing.
"Look, I honestly don't want to get involved," John said, "but I know a Kangaroo Court when I see one. They are putting these things on builders and telling them there will be no cross examination
"Most people don't know what's right and wrong. I think a lot just sign the statements to try and get out of the whole thing."
The revelations are part of a pattern suggesting the Commission has turned into a politically-motivated "show trial" of the country's largest construction union.
The first hint came when employer Glenn Allan Colquhoun gave evidence before the Commissioner. He explained the modus operandi of investigators charged with delving into "corrupt or illegal practices" across the industry.
"At 11.30am during the course of my meeting with CMG and TL, two members of the Commission arrived. I believe one member was Mr Neil Williamson and I am not sure of the other person's name. Mr Williamson said to the effect: "We are investigating the CFMEU's activity in the Illawarra area and are particularly interested in matters pertaining to (Wollongong organiser) Mr Primmer," the official transcript reads.
Since then other employers have revealed that when they were unable to dish dirt on the CFMEU, they were dispensed with, even if they had evidence of criminal behaviour by other parties.
In a statutory declaration, John Chandler manager of JR Rigging, says the Commission brushed evidence of insurance fraud, stand-over tactics, bogus inspection records and major health and safety breaches because the union was not implicated.
Chandler said he provided proof of structural deficiences in a recently completed sports complex that posed an ongoing threat to public safety but the Commission hadn't wanted to know.
At an interview with two commission investigators in December, 2001, Chandler said he made a series of criminal allegations against big building companies. These included fraud, threatening behaviour, conspiracy and collusion, in an effort to suppress legitimate concerns over construction standards.
However, he declared, it was only when he mentioned unions that investigators became "extraordinarily interested".
"My overall impression was that the investigators were much more concerned with hearing anything about the union than they were with large scale cover-ups by a major construction company," he declared.
Chandler said when he tendered supporting documentation, one investigator told him his story was "huge". But, when he rang the commission four months later, on March 18, he was told it would not be investigating his allegations.
Equally instructive is a letter sent to Construction Audit Services (CAS) by a western Sydney employer after she was visited by Commission investigators.
CAS is the independent auditing firm which often checks the records of building companies before the CFMEU enters into negotiations with them. For some reason it took a pounding from Counsels Assisting the Royal Commission who tried to paint it as an off-shoot of the union, and even suggested it operated out of the same Lidcombe address.
CAS, in fact, is based at Rochdale. Its major clients include Workcover and a national real estate firm. Principals say less than 20 percent of their work is union related.
In a letter to partners, Rosemary Saridakis and Angelo Russo, this employer lays out an increasingly familiar scenario. She says she was interviewed in June by two men who identified themselves as Royal Commission investigators. One was a Mr Greg Alford and the other she knew simply as Richard.
After detailing a number of questions she gets to the one that broke the camel's back.
"Is there anything else that was different in your EBA and to what Rosemary has asked you do?" investigators ask.
"No, in fact I often ring Rosemary up for advice and I have found her helpful and she does not even charge our company for the advice I have asked her.
"Rosemary," the employer writes, "this is where Richard switched off the recording machine and said to Greg: "Well that's not what we wanted to hear."
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|