FWBC takes building company to court on adverse action allegations

Forest Meiers Construction (FMC) and three of its officers are facing Federal Circuit Court action for allegedly taking adverse action and discriminating against a tiling subcontractor for not having an agreement with the CFMEU, despite the company being the preferred bidder for the project.

The three FMC officers are William Munro, Song Poh (Peter) Sia and Oswald Blacker.

FWBC allege that FMC invited the tiling company to submit a tender for its Remora Road project in Hamilton, QLD. When FMC asked if the tiling company had an EBA with the CFMEU, the company’s managing director said he had an enterprise agreement registered with the Fair Work Commission but was happy to pay the union rates for the purposes of the project.

The managing director of the tiling company said he did not believe it was possible to enter into an EBA with the CFMEU as he believed it was not legal to have two EBAs running concurrently. The managing director then agreed to an FMC proposal to register a new company so the new company could sign up to the CFMEU’s EBA for the purposes of the project.

Following this undertaking, FMC signed a Revised Commitment Authority and informed the tiling company of its decision to engage them for almost $2.5 million worth of work on the Remora Road project.

However, when the  CFMEU refused to enter into an EBA with the tiling company, it is alleged that FMC reneged on the undertaking with Mr Munro emailing Mr Sia on 18 July 2014 to say:

“… we confirm the next tender is (rival firm) who have a union endorsed EBA and have on a number of occasions been referred to by the CFMEU but the difference is $300k. (rival firm) have been in the tiling business for only a short period… whereas (victim firm) have an extended history of tiling.”

Despite acknowledging the original firm was more experienced and a lower price, FMC confirmed it would change to the rival firm in a further email sent from Mr Munro later that day:

“… we have reviewed the industrial relations side of things and confirm that we will proceed with the next tenderer… The consequences of an ongoing protracted scenario with the CFMEU is real with escalating costs both to this project as well as others…”

FWBC director Nigel Hadgkiss said it was unlawful for a sub-contractor to be discriminated against for exercising a workplace right.

“Sub-contractors are small to medium enterprises. It is unlawful for their livelihood and the livelihoods of their workers to be put at risk just because their legally-recognised enterprise agreement is not endorsed by a particular union or industry organisation,”   

A directions hearing for the matter has been set for 21 March 2016. 

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