Union boss Brian Parker says he does not have a close relationship with controversial figure George Alex after a string of intercepted phone calls and texts between the two were revealed at the unions royal commission.
Mr Parker, who has stood aside as NSW secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), told the commission on Thursday he had no personal relationship with Mr Alex, who called him “Sparkles” and ended phone calls with “I love ya.”
“He’s an employer in the industry,” Mr Parker said.
Intercepted calls show Mr Parker and Mr Alex, who has been linked to a series of labour hire companies at the commission, arranging evening meetings at Mr Alex’s apartment, sharing a joke and Mr Parker seeking Mr Alex’s sponsorship for his niece’s overseas softball tour.
In one 2011 phone call, Mr Parker arranged a meeting at Mr Alex’s office, telling him: “I’ve got to tell you a whole heap of things. You’re going to be a bit shocked, I think”.
Mr Alex asks Mr Parker if he is “with us”, to which Mr Parker replies “a hundred per cent”.
Mr Alex ends the call saying: “I love ya, you’re the best” and calling Mr Parker by his nickname, Sparkles.
Mr Parker said there was nothing unusual in Mr Alex using his nickname and ending calls with “love ya” as he said those things to many people.
Asked by counsel assisting the commission, Sarah McNaughton SC, what Mr Alex meant by asking if he was “with” him, Mr Parker said it was just a figure of speech.
Records from Mr Alex’s mobile phone also show Mr Parker tried to call him on the morning of January 28, 2014 – the day a Fairfax Media story linked Mr Alex, the CFMEU and bikie gangs in the supply of labour to Sydney’s Barangaroo construction site.
When asked why he, as a union man rang Mr Alex, “a boss”, Mr Parker replied: “To get the lowdown from Mr Alex about what was going on in the media probably.”
Mr Parker was asked why the CFMEU gave enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) to some labour hire firms that had a history of “phoenixing”.
Phoenix companies – which collapse owing worker entitlements then re-register under a new name – are a subject of inquiries at the commission.
He said the union would give EBAs to phoenix companies to protect the wages and conditions of the employees.
Mr Parker was asked about a labour hire company, Capital, that was linked to Mr Alex and an EBA it secured from the union in 2014.
“There are companies there bigger and a lot worse than probably even some of Mr Alex’s companies, out there in the industry,” he said.