A construction union canvassed options for paying out and sacking an official after he raised concerns about underworld links, an inquiry has heard.
A construction union boss has denied she tried to force a whistleblower out of the organisation because he complained about links to underworld figure George Alex.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) NSW president Rita Malia told the unions royal commission on Thursday there was no plan to kick Brian Fitzpatrick out of the union after the veteran official raised concerns about the union’s support of a string of failed companies linked to Mr Alex.
Mr Fitzpatrick has testified he received a death threat from fellow CFMEU official Darren Greenfield in March 2013, after pursuing scaffolding and labour hire companies run by Mr Alex over unpaid workers’ superannuation.
Emails presented to the commission showed Ms Malia and other officials were looking at options to sack Mr Fitzpatrick with a year’s pay in May the same year.
Counsel assisting the commission Jeremy Stoljar SC said Ms Malia was trying to kick Mr Fitzpatrick out of the union.
“The problem was that Mr Fitzpatrick had raised those links between the branch and Mr Alex … and you were looking at ways of getting rid of him as soon as you could,” he said.
Ms Malia said while it was a possible option, “there was no decision or anything in my mind at this stage about Mr Fitzpatrick being terminated”.
Mr Stoljar said Mr Fitzpatrick had exposed a problem where “somebody who stood behind companies that were consistently being phoenixed (collapsing then rising again under a new name) and who otherwise had criminal connections … was continuing to be involved with officials in the branch”.
Ms Malia said Mr Alex was simply a representative of a company from which the union was trying to recover entitlements.
Previous witnesses have given evidence that companies run by Mr Alex paid kickbacks of $2500 a week to the CFMEU.
The construction union continued to sign workplace agreements with companies linked to Mr Alex despite companies collapsing and cheques for unpaid workers’ entitlements being dishonoured, the inquiry has heard.
One company, Active Payroll, was wound up in 2013 and its employees taken on by another Alex company, Active Labour, the commission heard.
Ms Malia said she understood Active Labour was now under administration.
Mr Stoljar asked why the CFMEU continued to deal with Mr Alex’s companies when it could choose which operators with whom it endorsed agreements.
“They had employees and those employees had not been paid their entitlements. We were pursuing them to make good those entitlements,” Ms Malia said.
Ms Malia said the union had recovered nearly $1 million for workers from the companies.
Mr Alex is expected to appear at the inquiry next week.