ABCC head warns of ‘slow moving cancer’ in construction industry

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ABCC head warns of ‘slow moving cancer’ in construction industry

The head of the ABCC has said that the loss of a strong regulator for the construction industry would be like a ‘slow moving cancer’ bringing in widespread unlawful conduct.

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The head of the ABCC has said that the loss of a strong regulator for the construction industry would be like a ‘slow moving cancer’ bringing in widespread unlawful conduct.
 
John Lloyd yesterday told the AiG PIR national conference in Canberra that the unlawful conduct would spread through the industry and affect other parts of the economy.
 
Leave the industry
 
‘Those who embrace lawful conduct may find themselves facing the choices of leaving the industry, avoiding fraught situations or accommodating unlawful conduct with the rationale that that is the way you do business,’ he said.
 
‘The conduct of the industry’s participants has improved. However, it is not ideal. Victoria and Western Australia continue with too many examples of unlawful conduct. We still find instances of unlawful conduct in other states but they are more isolated.’
 
‘On site adherence to right of entry and freedom of association laws is crucial. Where these rights are poorly protected other problems are likely to be encountered during the life of the project. It is not unusual to find coercion and intimidation associated with the disregard for these rights.’
 
‘Send him bankrupt’
 
‘Just last week the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney fined the CFMEU and an organiser $28,600. The organiser threatened a contractor that he would have the contractor audited, send him bankrupt, screw him and make his life a misery.’
 
Lloyd criticised changes to the application of the National Code’s Implementation Guidelines. The 2006 Guidelines stipulated that agreements that contained certain provisions could not be code compliant, such as:
  • the number of employees and the mix between permanent, casual and temporary employees
  • one-in-all-in arrangements for overtime
  • restrictions on engagement of labour, the terms and source of labour
  • the prohibition of all in payments
  • clauses attempting to render ineffective the application of the Guidelines.
 
‘I fully appreciate that the Guidelines have assisted contractors to resist unreasonable claims that reduced flexibility,’ Lloyd said.
 
‘The risk of jeopardising code compliance was a strong argument against unreasonable claims.’
 
Add complexity
 
‘The recent changes remove that prop. In addition the on-site application of agreements will involve added complexity.’
 
‘It will now be possible for there to be a variety of agreements with different versions of the Guidelines applying. For example, a head contractor has an agreement reached under the Workplace Relations Act and won a tender for a Code project covered by the 2006 Guidelines.’
 
‘The head contractor may employ a subcontractor who has an agreement approved under the Fair Work Act. That agreement may include clauses relating to union encouragement not permitted under the 2006 Guidelines. It could be for example a requirement for a union notice board.’
 
‘Code compliance will now be easier. What we have to guard against is that on site practices do not deteriorate.’
 
Gillard comments
 
A spokeswoman for Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard said the new rules ‘reflect the Federal Government's Fair Work laws, which the Australian people voted for’.
 
‘The minister understands that there are stakeholders who wanted to keep WorkChoices but the Australian people voted to get rid of WorkChoices,’ she said.
 
‘The ABCC, which Lloyd heads, will be abolished in accordance with the government's election commitments and replaced with a new Fair Work body that will be a strong cop on the beat in building and construction. In the time that remains before abolition of ABCC, Lloyd will continue to have responsibility for compliance matters.’
 
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