Construction giant faces ban for union discrimination

by Miklos Bolza23 Aug 2016
Construction giant Hutchinson Builders may be banned from tendering for Commonwealth-funded construction work by up to 12 months if action by Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) is successful.
 
The watchdog is considering applying to Employment Minister Michaelia Cash to have sanctions imposed on the Hutchinson for breaching the federal building code. If the action goes forward, this will mark the first time FWBC has formally suggested sanctions against any organisation for this reason.
 
Last Tuesday (16 August), the Federal Court ordered Hutchinson to pay $25,575 for discriminating against a tiling company which did not have an enterprise agreement with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).
 
Two employees were also fined an additional $1,800 each.
 
FWBC alleges Hutchinson refused to award a contract to the tiler because it was not endorsed by the union.
 
The FWBC was “currently considering whether to formally recommend a sanction in relation to this conduct,” director Nigel Hadgkiss told the Australian Financial Review.
 
“There is no such thing as a ‘union EBA project’,” he said.
 
“Subcontractors should not be disadvantaged just because their enterprise agreement is not endorsed by a particular union or industry organisation.”

The FWBC was deeply concerned as it had a number of other employers also before the courts for similar allegations of discrimination, he added.
 
In his final judgment, Judge Salvatore Vasta said the actions by Hutchinson were a “blatant case of discrimination” against the tiler.
 
Hutchinson allegedly engaged the tiling company for a project at Nundah in 2012. After sending a quote and then meeting with the construction company, the tiler was told it could commence work on 22 October.
 
However, Hutchinson emailed the firm on 24 October allegedly saying the firm was no longer to be engaged on the project.
 
“Thank you for your time invested in the project, unfortunately without a union endorsed EBA we will not be able to engage (tiling company),” Edwin Hawley of Hutchinson Builders allegedly said in an email.
 
When contacted by HC, a spokesperson for FWBC confirmed that the possibility for a sanction remains under active consideration.
 
However “it would not be appropriate to comment on further specific details at this stage,” he added.
 
HC also contacted Hutchinson Builders which failed to respond prior to publication.
 
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