The head of a charity set up to assist construction sector employees with drug and alcohol problems claims to have been silenced about a deal that allegedly saw funds earmarked for the charity siphoned off to the union.

In his testimony before the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, Construction Industry Drug and Alcohol Foundation Executive Officer Trevor Sharp claimed to have been instructed to remain quiet about the deal by then Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union NSW state secretary Andrew Ferguson.

According to Sharp, whilst the charity was funded with a clause in workplace agreements requiring companies to pay a mandatory levy (which started at $1 per week for each worker but rose to $3 per week) under a special drug and alcohol levy cause within Enterprise Bargaining Agreements, moves to amend this clause to include payments made to the union were done without his knowledge and without him being consulted.

Sharp says when he subsequently met Ferguson about the changes, CFMEU official Brian Fitzpatrick joined the conversation whilst the two were at the office door and said the charity should be given only 25 percent ‘or better still, give ’em nothing’, and that the EBAs were the union’s agreements and that the union would decide where the money goes, to which Ferguson had responded that that couldn’t be done as ‘we need them (the charity) to hide behind’

“Mr Ferguson instructed me to remain quiet about the new clause because employers would not be happy if they realised they were funding the union,” Mr Sharp said in his witness statement to the Commission, according to the Australian Financial Review.

“They’ve (the union) made me a stooge to their wishes and desires.”

Sharp’s evidence follows earlier statements to the Commission from Master Builders Association Executive Director Brian Seidler that he resigned as executive director of the charity after discovering that the union was siphoning off money intended to be paid to the charity for its own uses.

According to the Financial Review, the union is alleged to have raised up to $1 million for its own activities through the clause.