A Sydney tiler allegedly paid bribes to a construction union official to get work in Canberra because "that's the market", the royal commission has heard.
A formwork subcontractor also claimed to have made payments of about $135,000 in cash he allegedly handed to the same Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union organiser in envelopes to guarantee a competitive advantage over rivals.
The Canberra stop of the royal commission into trade unions opened on Monday to explosive allegations of payments in return for CFMEU support to win business.
Counsel assisting, Jeremy Stoljar, in his opening statement, said the capital's hearing would primarily focus on the CFMEU ACT branch, promising details of corrupt payments, stand over and intimidation tactics, and the promotion of cartels.
But the construction union did not even show up on Monday, pledging to boycott the commission until about Thursday in protest at what it said was a lack of procedural fairness at the start of proceedings.
The commission is expected to hear from almost 40 witnesses during the three-week stay in Canberra.
The commission on Monday heard from three company owners who detailed their dealings with CFMEU organiser Halafihi "Fihi" Kivalu.
The first to give evidence, Elias Taleb, a formwork subcontractor, detailed payments of about $135,000 he allegedly handed Mr Kivalu - who the commission heard is no longer with the union, although he is still listed as an official on their website – and said he was forced to pay the union fees and sign union enterprise agreements on behalf of his staff.
He alleged, on one occasion, he paid Mr Kivalu to win a contract to work on a Yarralumla building site.
"I understood from what he told me if I paid ... $50,000 I was guaranteed the job," Mr Taleb said.
Mr Taleb said he handed over the cash because to lose the job would "have had very bad financial consequences for me".
"Just from what I heard around town, obviously the union had a big impression on a lot of builders, pushing them around to get basically what they want."
Sydney tiler, Medwhat Elesawiy, told the commission he received an invitation from Mr Kivalu to meet and discuss his entry into the Canberra construction sector in about 2012.
"So I met him … [to discuss] work in Canberra, how he can help us to get into the market in Canberra, because we are not in and we start from there," Mr Elesawiy said.
When asked what he needed to do to get work in the capital, he replied: "I would have to pay some money. To Fihi."
He said he thought he had no choice but to make the payments, although he could not say whether it won him preferential treatment.
"Every single job in Canberra … the builder will not let any trade contractor without approval by union.
"That's the market, so we tried to get some work."
Antonio Bassil, the owner of concrete pumping companies, mostly based in NSW but with a Canberra branch, said he made donations – out of his own pocket - to help the people of Tonga in the aftermath of Cyclone Ian.
"[Mr Kivalu] come around and said 'We have to help those people, so you have to pay some donations', so we paid him some donations," Mr Bassil said.
Mr Bassil said he believed the payments - estimated to be worth thousands - had actually been donations, although he was told his company would be recommended to builders.
Mr Bassil and Mr Elesawiy said they did not speak about the payments to any other CFMEU officials.
"I didn't know anyone else except him," Mr Elesawiy said.
CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said the allegations of bribery should be referred to the police for investigation.
"Both parties to the alleged bribes which were the subject of evidence today should be prosecuted and dealt with by criminal courts," Mr Noonan said.
"The CFMEU does not tolerate corruption in its ranks and as we have consistently maintained, if there is an investigation, the police will have the full co-operation of the union."
The hearings continue on Tuesday.