The ACCC has instituted Federal Court civil proceedings against construction company J Hutchinson Pty Ltd (Hutchinson) and the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) over alleged boycott conduct at a building site in Brisbane.
The proceedings relate to an alleged agreement in 2016 between Hutchinson and the CFMMEU, in which Hutchinson allegedly agreed to terminate the contract of an independent waterproofing subcontractor working on the Southpoint A Apartments construction project in South Brisbane.
The ACCC alleges that Hutchinson terminated the subcontractor to avoid conflict with, or industrial action by, the CFMMEU at the site. Hutchinson was the head contractor on the Southpoint A site. The waterproofing subcontractor was not covered by an enterprise agreement with the CFMMEU.
The ACCC alleges that, by making and acting on the agreement, Hutchinson contravened sections 45E and 45EA of the Competition and Consumer Act, which prohibit contracts, arrangements or understandings for the purpose of preventing or hindering the acquisition of goods or services from a supplier.
The CFMMEU allegedly induced or was knowingly concerned in these contraventions.
“Tackling anti-competitive conduct in the construction industry is a priority for the ACCC, and this includes boycotts like the one alleged to have taken place here,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Boycotts are extremely detrimental to competitive markets and the economy, and can do great damage to those businesses targeted. Given this, we will take action to detect and deter such conduct whenever we can.”
The ACCC was assisted by the Australian Building and Construction Commission during the course of its investigation. The ACCC and the ABCC signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2017.
Hutchinson is one of Australia’s biggest privately owned construction companies with around 1,800 staff and over $2.5 billion worth of projects annually.
The CFMMEU is a trade union organisation that represents member employees in a number of industries including the construction industry.
The ACCC’s Commercial Construction Unit was established in 2017. It focuses on anti-competitive conduct and unfair business practices in the construction industry. Issues impacting the construction industry can be reported to the ACCC’s Commercial Construction Unit anonymously at www.accc.gov.au/ccu or contact the Infocentre on 1300 302 502.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, orders for findings of fact, compliance training and, against the CFMMEU only, adverse publicity orders.
The attached document below contains the ACCC’s initiating court document in relation to this matter. We will not be uploading further documents in the event this initial document is subsequently amended.
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