Cole legislation introduced into parliament

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Cole legislation introduced into parliament

The Federal Government is introducing the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill 2003 into Parliament today – putting into legislative form the recommendations of the Cole Inquiry into the industry.

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The Federal Government is introducing the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill 2003 into Parliament today – putting into legislative form the recommendations of the Cole Inquiry into the industry.

The proposed legislation has elements impacting on both the industrial relations and occupational health and safety in the industry.

Outline of Bill

If passed, the Federal Government says the legislation will:

  • Establish the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABC Commissioner) and the Federal Safety Commissioner;

  • Restrict pattern bargaining and provide for mandatory ‘cooling off’ periods during which protected industrial action is not permitted;

  • Make unlawful all industrial action within constitutional limits, other than protected industrial action, with industry participants able to recover any losses they suffer due to unlawful action;

  • Strengthen freedom of association provisions so that a wider range of inappropriate behaviour identified by the Royal Commission is effectively dealt with;

  • Enhance the right of entry system to clearly spell out parties’ rights and responsibilities, and limit scope for State law to be used to circumvent Federal requirements;

  • Ensure that registered organisations are accountable for the actions of their officials and employees; and

  • Improve the compliance regime, by increasing penalties and enhancing access to damages for unlawful conduct. 

The Bill is made up of 13 Chapters, including:

Chapter 3, which allows the Minister to issue a Building Code. This goes towards implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations that the Commonwealth use its purchasing powers as a building client to foster cultural change in the building and construction industry. The Chapter also sets out obligations to report on Building Code compliance.

Chapter 4 is the Government’s response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations concerning Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). The Chapter establishes the Federal Safety Commissioner, and an OHS accreditation scheme to be administered by the Federal Safety Commissioner. The accreditation scheme will ensure that any person wishing to contract with the Commonwealth for building work must meet certain OHS standards. Chapter 4 also contains provisions dealing with the process to be followed in cases where employees stop work due to OHS concerns. The new provisions will ensure that employees who abide by the proper processes will be entitled to be paid while addressing the Royal Commission’s concern about misuse of OHS for industrial purposes.

Chapter 5 contains provisions relating to awards and certified agreements in the building industry, as well as other provisions about employment conditions. The Federal Government says this Chapter also implements Royal Commission recommendations in relation to pattern bargaining by:

  • making it clear that pattern bargaining is not genuine bargaining;

  • providing that the ABC Commissioner or any other person can seek an injunction to stop pattern bargaining conduct;

  • providing an opportunity for employees to vote on whether they wish to be represented by a union in agreement negotiations;

  • rendering project agreements not certified under the Workplace Relations Act (WR Act) unenforceable.

Chapter 6 is the Government’s response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations in relation to industrial action. It makes certain forms of industrial action unlawful and provides improved access to sanctions against unlawful industrial action in the form of injunctions, pecuniary penalties and compensation for loss.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill is available online.

The Royal Commission’s report was tabled in the Parliament on 26 and 27 March 2003 (see previous story).

 

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