Major building firm in court for allegedly discriminating against subcontractor

A tiling company who had a legal enterprise agreement (EBA) registered with the Fair Work Commission was refused a contract with a Queensland construction company because the agreement was not endorsed by the CFMEU, according to a claim lodged in the Federal Circuit Court.

Fair Work Building and Construction has lodged a claim against building firm J Hutchinson Pty Ltd trading as Hutchinson Builders and two if its officers, Eden Hawley and John Berlese, over allegations they took adverse action and unlawfully discriminated against the tiling company based on the type of agreement it had in operation.

FWBC alleges that on 8 October 2012 the tiling company provided a quote to Mr Hawley for tiling work on the Circa One project at Nundah. It is alleged that Mr Hawley responded via email stating: If you are confident that you can resource the project I think we are fairly close to being able to award the package to (tiling company)”.

Following this email, FWBC alleges the tiling company met with Mr Hawley at the project site on 10 October 2012 and it was agreed the tiling company would start on the project the week beginning 22 October.

It is alleged that on 15 October Hutchinson Builders’ team leader, John Berlese, emailed the tiling company requesting a copy of its current enterprise agreement. The agreement was provided via email later that afternoon.

On 24 October 2012, the week the tiling company was scheduled to begin working on the site, it is alleged that Mr Hawley emailed the company to tell them they were no longer engaged on the project. Mr Hawley’s email is alleged to have stated: Thank-you for your time invested in the project, unfortunately without a union endorsed EBA we will not be able to engage (tiling company)”.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said nearly one in nine working Australians were involved in the construction industry, many working for subcontractors such as the tiling company mentioned in this case.

“Subcontractors and their employees are free to enter into whatever enterprise agreement they choose. It is unacceptable for their livelihoods to be put at risk because large building firms agree to unlawful practices such as ‘no ticket no start’ or ‘union EBA only project’,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

“FWBC currently has a number of employers before the court on similar allegations and this is of grave concern for the industry.”

A directions hearing has been scheduled for 21 March 2016.

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