CFMEU accused of routine threats
Secret recordings, threats of violence and underworld figures have been brought to light by the royal commission into union corruption.PT1M40S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3bm11 620 349 July 9, 2014
Union boss John Setka allegedly threatened to bury a concreter's head "next to Ned Kelly's" unless the man was kicked off the old Pentridge prison work site, a royal commission has heard.
Melbourne developer Leigh Chiavaroli has alleged that Mr Setka - of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union - told him that he hated concreter Paul Costa, who was a subcontractor at the Coburg building site, because he was a brother-in-law of developer Daniel Grollo.
Mr Setka threatened in a phone call to "come down there [and] rip his head off", the commission was told.
Formal elevation: John Setka. Photo: Craig Abraham
The testimony was among a series of damning recordings and sworn witness statements alleging threats and standover tactics used in the union's campaign to control the Pentridge building site. Allegations have also implicated the union in links to underworld associates turned "union fixers" at the site.
The site was largely non-union until a worker was crushed and killed in October 2009. After the death, the CFMEU mounted a campaign to unionise and control the $800-million project's site.
With cross-examination of the witnesses' allegations not due to take place for weeks, CFMEU secretary Dave Noonan said it was unfair that the claims were being heard unchallenged during the commission hearing. He said the union's involvement in the Pentridge site was due to serious safety fears for the workforce.
"A worker lost his life on the Pentridge site. You would like to think a royal commission might show a bit of concern about those sort of things, but what we will see today is a rehash of discredited and tired allegations that can't be tested by cross-examination," Mr Noonan said. "We are dealing with the dregs of the building industry. When you look at these property developers, these are people who have conducted unsafe sites."
Mr Chiavaroli said Mr Setka demanded that the developers employ his friend Anton Sucic and brother-in-law Ivan Dadic as safety officers, or else the CFMEU would shut the site down. He said both men were "hardly ever" on site and overstated the hours they worked.
A recording of a phone call between the CFMEU's Gerard Benstead and Mr Chiavaroli after a worker had lodged a complaint to the federal building industry watchdog was aired during the hearing.
"Don't go talking the ABCC [Australian Building and Construction Commission]. You go running to the ABCC, forget about it ... that will be the worst move you'll ever make," Mr Benstead said in the recording.
"Everything works on a bit for youse and a bit for us. Forget about the law, all right? I give you a bit, you give me a bit, right?"
Mr Chiavaroli said there were two or three union-related problems on the site each week, including work stoppages.
His father Peter Chiavaroli gave evidence that he was told by industrial consultant Ken Hardy he could pay Melbourne gangland identity Mick Gatto $50,000 each time he wanted a problem with the union fixed.
In further allegations of bullying and intimidation, Melbourne builder Andrew Zaf said in a sworn witness statement that he provided a free roof to Mr Setka during the 1990s as a bribe to avoid workplace problems on a building site in Sunshine that the CFMEU was plaguing with work stoppages.
"Things went on a lot better for a while and you could notice the difference," Mr Zaf told the hearing.
"He asked, he got. If he didn't get what he wanted, there was trouble for me."
Mr Setka has previously rejected the claim as a "blatant lie", saying he had purchased roofing products from a business connected to Mr Zaf at trade prices.
The commission's Melbourne hearing will resume on Wednesday.