Royal Commission hears of Scaffolding price-fixing claims

Thursday, July 30th, 2015
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The construction union has again been accused of trying to set prices – this time in the Canberra scaffolding industry.

The royal commission into trade union governance was also told the CFMEU adopted stand-over tactics after a company director refused to sign an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

Petar Josifoski detailed how meetings were held in late 2012 to negotiate a new agreement with scaffolding sub-contractors in the capital.  He told of how union official Jason O’Mara explained to one gathering they were trying to get the companies to agree on a minimum price for jobs.

“This is price fixing … I could go to jail just for talking about it,” Mr Josifoski recalled saying, before walking out of the meeting.

He explained to the commission how he later told another official, Tony Vitler, that the EBA would be a “death certificate” for his business.  After he also expressed other concerns, including about pay rates, Mr Vitler told him “it looks like MPR (Scaffolding) won’t be around for much longer in the construction industry”.

Shortly after his refusal, the union placed up flyers at sites around Canberra and on Facebook calling for former workers of MPR to contact the CFMEU.

He felt it was an attempt to publicly humiliate his business and scare off any future relationships with new builders, he said.

The union’s lawyer John Agius put it to Mr Josifoski that any discussion of price was simply about what was needed to comply with the EBA.

But the director insisted he still believed it was setting a minimum price, which he deemed to be fixing.

Another attendee of the meetings, Scott Jeffrey of Straight Up Scaffolding said there was talk about $15 to $16 per square metre to cover the EBA, but not fixing.

Adam McEvilly of Higher Up and John Ryan of To The Top Scaffolding claimed Mr O’Mara suggested companies put tens of thousands into a kitty and if someone was to start undercutting they wouldn’t get their money back.

Mr Agius also asked Mr Josifoski if his recollection of Mr Vitler’s remarks about him not being in the industry much longer were wrong.  Mr Josifoski denied that, saying it was a threat.

Another company owner, Nebojsa ‘Ned’ Aleksic, who regularly worked with Mr Josifoski, said in his witness statement the director was harassed by the union into signing an EBA.

Mr Josifoski’s appearance on comes after the CFMEU launched a Federal Circuit Court case against him alleging he underpaid workers.

He has said he believes it was an attempt to discredit him before he gave evidence.

The commission has previously heard allegations of prices being set in the Canberra concreting industry as part of agreement negotiations.

By Jennifer Rajca
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