Larry Schlesinger | 19 November 2012

Victorian construction unions threaten to pull super funds from Cbus over ties with Grocon

Victorian construction industry unions are threatening to quit industry super fund Cbus over its ties with construction giant Grocon.

The unions threatening action include the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), which is currently locked in a $10.5 million legal battle with Grocon over its blockade of a number of Melbourne projects in August.

The other union named by the Australian Financial Review is the Electrical Trades Union.

The threats from the unions came just ahead of the Victorian Supreme Court today dismissing the CFMEU's application for a stay of Grocon's damages case against the union and ordered that CFMEU pay Grocon's court costs for the application at the determination of the proceeding.

"Grocon is pleased that its rights to seek a fair reckoning for the CFMEU’s blockades in August and September 2012 remain unhindered," says Grocon spokespeson Michael Zorbas.

The unions have called for a meeting with Cbus chairman (and former Victorian premier) Steve Bracks and Cbus chief executive David Atkin to seek an explanation of the superfund’s ties with Grocon and its ethical standards and policies.

Cbus is the industry super fund for the building and construction industry, but according to the AFR, the unions are considering Brisbane-based BUSSQ Building Super as an alternative.

BUSSQ has around $2 billion in member super funds under management compared, with the $18 billion managed by Cbus.

The CFMEU is represented on the Cbus board with three seats: Rita Mallia,  president, CFMEU Construction and General Division (NSW divisional branch), Dave Noonan, national secretary, CFMEU Construction and Frank O’Grady, assistant national secretary of the CFMEU.

Cbus has a $2 billion property development arm – Cbus Property – which invests large building projects, some of which are being built by Grocon, according to the AFR.

None of the current major commercial projects listed on Cbus Property appear to involve Grocon and the most recent annual report does not include a mention of the building group.

Grocon built the ultra-modern 1 Bligh Street office tower in the Sydney CBD, which was jointly developed and is jointly owned by Cbus Property and Dexus.

Tensions between the CFMEU and Grocon continue to simmer.

The November issue of CFMEU’s Hardchat Express mentions that it won a “significant backpay” for Grocon employees and subcontractors on a project in Footscray after the Victorian Building Industry Disputes Panel found that employees should have been paid $4.10 per hour rather than $3.70 per hour.

The newsletter also mentions that the CFMEU “remains in dispute with Grocon over safety and workplace reps".

“These incidents show how vital it is that the Union continues to fight until  workers on Grocon sites have full safety rights.”


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