The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), alleging it engaged, or attempted to engage, in a secondary boycott conduct directed at Boral Resources Pty Ltd, in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Since at least 2012, the CFMEU has been in dispute with Grocon, of whom Boral is the exclusive concrete supplier. The dispute has included CFMEU initiated work stoppages and picketing at certain Grocon construction sites. In response, Grocon has taken its own proceedings seeking injunctions and damages.
It is alleged that, as a result of Boral continuing to supply Grocon with concrete during the CFMEU’s dispute with Grocon, the CFMEU targeted Boral by banning it from supplying concrete on metropolitan Melbourne commercial construction sites.
The ACCC alleges that between February 2013 and April 2014, the CFMEU instructed shop stewards to ban the use of Boral concrete at commercial construction sites in metropolitan Melbourne. Shop stewards then allegedly told Boral customers that on certain commercial construction sites Boral concrete was not permitted, or that safety checks on Boral concrete trucks, causing significant delays, would be conducted if a customer proceeded to acquire Boral concrete.
“The ACCC considers unions have an important role in protecting the rights of workers and ensuring safe and productive work places. However, the ACCC will not hesitate to take action where it has evidence that unions or individuals have engaged in conduct which goes beyond what is reasonable to protect workers, and is deliberately targeted at damaging business,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“These proceedings relate to complex allegations of conduct spanning a 14 month period ending in April 2014, and occurring at 12 commercial construction sites. The ACCC’s comprehensive investigation into the allegations against the CFMEU and its executives commenced in April 2013 and the ACCC has only been able to progress the investigation by compelling people to give evidence,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, declarations and injunctions against the CFMEU, Mr Setka and Mr Reardon, as well as publication orders against the CFMEU.