Federal government settles dispute between ACCC and construction union over $1 million in legal fees

The federal government has ended a long-running battle between the Canberra construction union and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over an unsuccessful lawsuit, with a settlement of more than a year. million dollars for legal costs.

The charges against the Construction, Forestry, Marine, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) stem from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Trade Unions.

It all started five years ago with a raid on the union office in Canberra.

The union and its then-boss, Jason O’Mara, have been accused of cartel behavior.

The ACCC alleged that the union tried to induce local steel repairers and scaffolders to set a minimum price to allow for a wage increase, in 2012 and 2013.

The ACT Labor Court heard allegations that the union was accused of threatening to ‘run businesses out of town’ if they did not cooperate.

But the case never went beyond opening statements.

It was dropped in August last year due to problems with evidence.

At the time, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said it was dropped due to the extended time that had elapsed since the alleged conduct and the challenges it posed to the memory of witnesses.

Zac Smith of the union said the government had only recently agreed to the out-of-court settlement for $1.265 million.

“That’s not the full amount the union has committed and it’s probably only a fraction of what the federal government has spent,” Smith said.

Mr Smith said the charges were initially spurious.

“The prosecution was always doomed,” he said.

“It was a case that should never have been brought and it was the politicization of the ACCC by the then Conservative government to attack the CFMEU.”

Mr Smith said Mr O’Mara, who has now quit his union job, was relieved by the final settlement.

“He always knew he had done nothing wrong, he always tried to do what all good union officials do, which is to negotiate a good deal for their members,” he said. he declared.

“It’s a vindication for Jason, it’s a vindication for the CFMEU.”

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