QLD contractor to pay $200,000 after discriminating against subbie following CFMMEU threat

The Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane has found Forest Meiers Construction liable to pay $200,000 in compensation for taking adverse action and discriminating against a tiling subcontractor because they did not have an enterprise agreement with the CFMMEU.

The Court found that Forest Meiers and its Construction Manager William Munro, contravened the Fair Work Act by discriminating against the subcontractor.

On 24 February 2014, the tiling company submitted a quote to Forest Meiers for a project in Hamilton, with the tiling company becoming the preferred bidder on the project.

When Forest Meiers asked if the tiling company had an enterprise agreement with the CFMMEU, the company’s managing director said he already had a (non-union) enterprise agreement registered with the Fair Work Commission but was happy to pay the union rates for the purposes of the project.

The tiling company’s managing director then agreed to a Forest Meiers proposal to register a new company so it could sign up to a CFMMEU enterprise agreement.

During a meeting on 18 July 2014, Mr Munro told the tiling company’s managing director.

“The Union contacted me at around 5:00 yesterday. They threatened action on the site if we signed you up.”

Judge Jarrett found that notwithstanding the possibility of union disruption, Forest Meiers had a choice to make:

“I accept that Mr Munro believed that the CFMEU or the BLF would cause disruption and delay which in turn would cause financial disadvantage and reputational issues for Forest Meiers.”

“They were faced with the prospect of industrial action if they engaged C&K and if they did not, the next closest tenderer who had an EBA with the CFMEU was $300,000 more expensive than C&K.”

“I find, that the fact that C&K did not have an enterprise agreement with the CFMEU was a substantive and operative reason for Mr Munro’s decision not to accept C&K’s tender for the Tiling Works.”

“… Forest Meiers had a choice to make. Mr Munro… knew that if the CFMEU was applying pressure not to engage C&K because it had no agreement with that company, that pressure was illegitimate… Notwithstanding that, Mr Munro made a deliberate choice not to award the Tiling Works contract to C&K.”

The matter remains before the courts.

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