Commission hears more price-fixing claims

The unions royal commission has heard more allegations of price fixing in the Canberra scaffolding industry, as well as claims the CFMEU ran a “dictatorship”.


Bernardo Da Silva told a hearing on Thursday his former company Rovera Scaffolding would have faced “endless headaches” if he didn’t agree to an enterprise bargaining agreement or make all his workers union members.

If he had instead dealt with the Master Builders Association on an agreement the union would have slowed down jobs using their “main attack” of finding safety issues on his sites.

Like other scaffolders, Mr Da Silva told the commission the idea of setting minimum prices for jobs was discussed at EBA negotiations in 2013.

Fellow industry member Donald Thompson of Trojan Scaffolding said he would have been “targeted” by the union if he didn’t sign the agreement.

“I might as well just get out of the industry,” he said, confirming there were talks about not pricing below a certain figure.

The commission has already heard claims of price-fixing in the Canberra concreting sector as part of agreement negotiations.

The CFMEU’s legal team led by John Agius repeatedly put it to witnesses that any discussion of price was simply what was needed to cover the EBA, not what they should charge.

The competition watchdog will investigate allegations of cartel conduct in the ACT construction industry.

A specialist team will examine the allegations aired during the hearings, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims announced on Thursday.

“Cartel conduct such as price fixing, anti-competitive agreements and attempts to bring about collusive arrangements are matters of grave concern to the ACCC,” he said in a statement.

Thursday was the final day of three weeks of public hearings in the capital, with private hearings to take place on Friday.

Representatives of the CFMEU, including ACT branch secretary Dean Hall, won’t give their side of the story to the commission until later in Sydney.

“It is intended that that examination will take place in the last week of August or the first week of September,” counsel assisting Jeremy Stoljar said.

Three witnesses have been arrested by police during the ACT hearings, including a Canberra form-worker accused of giving false evidence.

Tuungafasi (Fasi) Manase was arrested by ACT police on Wednesday night on one count of perjury, following his appearance on July 14.

The 29-year-old appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday where he was granted bail and his lawyer indicated he would plead not guilty when the matter returns to court on October 19.

Organiser John Lomax and his former colleague Halafihi `Fihi’ Kivalu have both been charged over alleged blackmail offences and will face court again in coming weeks.