A contractor on a $300-million ACT government project has been accused of wage theft, claims the company strongly denies.
The construction union had launched action in the Fair Work Commission against Dale and Hitchcock Civil Engineering and Landscaping, which has been engaged to complete the groundworks on the London Circuit project.
A snap public protest at the worksite on Monday morning forced the company to agree to an audit without intervention from the commission or other entities, CFMEU ACT secretary Jason O'Mara claimed.
“We’ve met with the company this morning. They have to undertake an audit under various EBAs as part of their obligations but they’ve agreed they’ll press forward without having to go to the Fair Work Commission or to other entities to get that to happen," Mr O'Mara said.
But a spokesman for the company vehemently denied any underpayment of workers.
He said an audit had already been launched before the picket, but the union wanted immediate action.
"We'd already agreed to have the books audited. All we had to agree on was an auditor," the spokesman said.
Work on the project — which will turn the former 9000-square-metre carpark next to the ACT Legislative Assembly, into two buildings, linked by a laneway of cafes and shops — began in December.
A five-storey building — to be leased by the government for 20 years, with an option of another five — will house government offices with 1700 ACT public servants.
The other building will provide 12 levels of commercial offices and a five-star Adina Apartment Hotel Grand with 132 rooms over four levels.
The Snow family's Capital Property Group won the tender for the $300 million government project and hired Construction Control to manage the build. Construction Control has sub-contracted Dale and Hitchcock Civil Engineering and Landscaping to run the civil works.
The project is currently in the earthworks stage. Construction is scheduled for completion by August 2020.
Documents filed by the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union ACT branch alleged Dale and Hitchcock Civil Engineering and Landscaping had committed wage theft by not paying workers wages and allowances in line with the award.
The union argues this is in breach of a 2013 enterprise bargaining agreement, which had expired, but continued to operate as it had not been terminated.
The application said the company believed the enterprise bargaining agreement had expired and was no longer in effect, but agreed to conduct an audit in April.
The company had not responded to the union since, the documents said.
The union claimed the failure to conduct an audit had also been a breach of the agreement.
"It is the CFMMEU's belief that … the dispute cannot be resolved at the workplace level, and/or the dispute is not being progressed in a timely manner," the documents said.
Construction union ACT branch assistant secretary Zach Smith said the concerns of wage theft on the government project had been directly raised with Dale and Hitchcock and Construction Control.
"Neither has addressed the issue," Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith claimed Dale and Hitchcock had engaged more than 20 staff on the site and he estimated those workers could be collectively $70,000 out of pocket due to the alleged non-adherence to the agreement. The company said both claims were untrue.
"It is disgraceful that wage theft is occurring on ACT government projects," Mr Smith said.
"The ACT government made a commitment before the last election to legislate a secure local jobs code which would ensure that ACT government contracts would only go to companies with the highest labour and ethical standards.
"We will keep coming back to this project until the workers are paid what they are owed."
Mr Smith said it was time ACT Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith delivered "a package with real protection for workers".
While ACT Labor minister Mick Gentleman and Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson attended Monday's protest, Ms Stephen-Smith avoided it.
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