Parliamentarians should stand up to construction union intimidation by supporting changes to require all businesses seeking Government-funded work to comply with the Building Code by September, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said today.
The Government last week flagged changes to the introduction of its Building Code, based on indications of support from Senator Derryn Hinch and senators in the Nick Xenophon Team. Those senators have since been the targets of a campaign by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.
James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber, said: “We have seen unions use intimidation tactics on construction sites in the past, so it is no surprise they are now seeking to intimidate parliamentarians who seek to curb their power.
“The proposed changes to the implementation of the Building Code are sensible because they will restore the rule of law to construction sites sooner and more effectively. Senators have already voted to restore the ABCC and continue to use the purchasing power of government to combat workplace relations abuses, so there is no reason to delay the commencement.
“The industry has known since 2014 about the standards that would be required for those undertaking Commonwealth-funded work when the Australian Building and Construction Commission was reinstated. Enforcing compliance with the Code will help ensure efficient delivery of publicly funded infrastructure and minimise costly delays.
“The code will:
- ensure government-funded construction work, including hospitals, schools and roads, is delivered efficiently and with maximum value for money;
- allow construction businesses to choose the right skills and labour to deliver the projects they are contracted to undertake;
- ensure subcontractors can share in government work opportunities and cannot be locked out by union misuse of enterprise agreements;
- ensure construction unions cannot dictate who can and cannot get work on sites by prohibiting clauses that require union approval before employing or engaging someone;
- reinforce workplace safety, with the Code expressly requiring employers to comply with work health and safety laws. A poor safety record may also prevent businesses from securing government-funded work; and
- maintain opportunities for apprentices, with the Code expressly requiring employers to demonstrate a commitment to training and skill development for their workforce.
“The Code offers no threat to Australian jobs. The Code requires employers to advertise jobs in Australia and demonstrate that no Australian citizen or permanent resident is suitable for the job before engaging non-citizens or non-residents.
“The legislation to bring back the ABCC helps businesses to reject union claims that do not meet the Code’s standards. The law has strengthened penalties for unlawful industrial action and coercion.
“For more than a decade, Labor and the Coalition have used the purchasing power of government to set workplace relations standards and to police breaches.
“We urge parliamentarians to stand up to intimidation and vote for a more productive and harmonious construction industry, so it can deliver the infrastructure Australia needs.”