Bikie Amin Fakhri takes up an enterprising pursuit
Standing nearly two metres tall and weighing more than 150 kilograms, Amin Fakhri makes an impression wherever he goes.
For years, Fakhri's presence has been felt in Sydney's outlaw motorcycle gangs. The hulking Comanchero has been a regular police target and faced court in 2006 over possession of an illegal firearm.
Gear shift: Comanchero Amin Fakhri had an unexpected career change in 2011, joining a labour hire company. Photo: Supplied
But in 2011, the shaven-headed and bearded bikie had an unexpected career change: He became the new manager of a labour hire company for city building sites.
Fakhri, a plumber, according to reports of his court case, was appointed manager of United, also known as Active Labour Hire, by its owner, Sydney businessman and former bankrupt George Alex.
An associate of both men says Alex knew what he was doing when he put Fakhri in the top job.
''Amin is a bikie, not a labour hire specialist,'' the associate says. ''But that is the point.''
Alex has been successful in Sydney by cultivating ties with influential officials of the NSW Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), who in turn gave his company an enterprise bargaining agreement, which meant his workforce could be placed on any site in the city.
Alex, who declined to be interviewed, wanted the same deal for United in Melbourne, and sent Fakhri south. One of United's first moves was to was bring in local underworld boss Mick Gatto to help negotiate with the Victorian CFMEU branch.
It is believed Gatto was paid tens of thousands of dollars to act as a consultant for United. Soon enough, United had an enterprise bargaining agreement in Victoria, despite the union's distaste for labour hire companies because of the belief they led to the loss of full-time jobs for members.
Alex's firm was now ready to compete with other labour hire companies for Victorian jobs, including those that had already provided payments and gifts to union figures to get their own enterprise bargaining agreements.
A Victorian union shop steward with ties to Melbourne's underworld was encouraged to send work United's way.
The support from NSW and Victorian CFMEUs for United has puzzled owners of other labour hire companies which have been unsuccessful in securing enterprise agreements, particularly as Alex's companies had a record of going bust and owing workers money.
A former associate calls Alex a ''financial ghost''. Tax authorities have been chasing him for years in regards to his labour hire and construction business spread across Victoria, NSW and Queensland.
But he has remained on reasonable terms with some officials within the NSW CFMEU. Union state secretary Brian Parker told Fairfax Media last year that Alex had always acted ''in a professional manner'' and paid his workers fully and on time. ''George comes across as extremely professional … He sticks to his word,'' Parker said.
On Monday, Parker said he did not have a
social relationship with Alex and had not played any role in
promoting his company on the Barangaroo project.