A union is blackmailing a major concrete supplier in a “criminal conspiracy” to control Melbourne’s construction sites, a royal commission has heard.
Boral says it’s been frozen out of Melbourne’s high rise construction projects after the CMFEU black-banned the company as part of a “war” with developer Grocon.
Boral chief executive Michael Kane said he rejected the union’s demand to stop supplying concrete to Grocon – and Boral and its contractors paid a heavy price.
He told the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption his company was an unintended target of the dispute, but it had still lost more than $8 million as a result.
“I was roadkill, I was an accident,” Mr Kane said on Wednesday.
Despite getting a Supreme Court injunction against the CFMEU ban, he said Boral trucks are still being turned away from construction sites and builders have stopped asking the company for quotes.
“It’s my considered opinion that, based on 41 years in the construction industry, that on the construction sites in Melbourne the law doesn’t apply – the law is applied by the CFMEU,” Mr Kane told the commission sitting in Melbourne.
CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said he would not respond to Mr Kane’s allegations when there were cases proceeding in the Supreme Court and Federal Court.
“There are a number of matters in front of the courts and that is where the union will deal with claims in respect of the Trade Practices Act,” Mr Noonan told reporters.
“The real court cases happen in real courts.”
Boral was last year granted an injunction by default when the CFMEU did not turn up to a Supreme Court hearing.
Commissioner Dyson Heydon asked Boral to provide more details of the efforts it made to get a legal response from the Supreme Court, the ACCC and the Fair Work Commission.
“The evidence you are giving is very disturbing in terms of the unreality of legal protection,” Mr Heydon said.
Boral executive general manager for construction supplies in Victoria Paul Dalton said he met CFMEU state secretary John Setka to talk about the ban.
He alleges Mr Setka told him: “We’re at war with Grocon, and in a war you cut the supply lines. The CFMEU will decide who gets what and what market share Boral will get.”
Mr Kane said if a corporate manager spoke about dividing market share through intimidation they would be facing charges in court.
“This is a criminal conspiracy to interfere in the market place. It’s blackmail by any other definition I’ve ever heard of,” he told the commission.
Mr Noonan said blackmail was a criminal matter and should be dealt with by local authorities.
“If he was fair dinkum about that he would have rung Victoria Police,” Mr Noonan said.
Mr Kane said Boral’s share of the Melbourne CBD high rise market had gone from nearly 40 per cent to less than 10 per cent since the ban started in April 2013.
He described the CFMEU’s tactics as “cartel behaviour”, and there seemed to be no legal response to it.
The commission also heard evidence that as recently as Monday customers told Boral they could not use them for a job because the site was controlled by the CFMEU.