Construction rules softened under new guidelines


Construction rules softened under new guidelines

New guidelines for the construction industry show the Federal Government has softened some of the restrictions imposed on the industry by the Howard Government.


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New guidelines for the construction industry show the Federal Government has softened some of the restrictions imposed on the industry by the Howard Government.
Under the guidelines, the old practice of ‘last on first off’, which was proscribed under the previous guidelines, can be reimposed by agreement between unions and employers.
It will also be possible to reintroduce the ‘one in, all in’ rule, where if one worker is offered overtime then all must be offered it.
The government will also give preference to tenderers who can demonstrate a commitment to employing or retaining apprentices, and/or who employ women or Indigenous people.
Also, project agreements will generally be limited to projects worth more than $100m, up from the previous threshold of $25m.
Damage productivity
Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia said the government’s new Implementation Guidelines, to operate from 1 August 2009, will allow unacceptable union practices to return and damage productivity in the building and construction industry.
‘Master Builders is very concerned that at a time of global financial crisis, the Government has decided to water down the powers of the industry watchdog,’ he said.
‘This is inconsistent with the Rudd Government’s commitment to retain a tough cop on the beat and having no tolerance for conduct which breaks the law.'
‘The building industry has enjoyed unprecedented industrial harmony and improvements in productivity following the five years that the ABCC has been in existence and where the Code and Guidelines have been properly enforced. These benefits are measured at $5.5 billion per annum and are critical to the Government’s strategy to lift the Australian economy out of recession.'
Powers weakened
‘Not only have we recently seen the draft legislation with changes that weaken the powers of the ABCC but there are now new rules which further weaken the rules governing agreement content.'
‘The building industry is very concerned that the new rules will assist unions to gain control of construction sites by allowing such matters as agreement practices which restrict an employer’s freedom to decide the way in which it is able to engage with its workforce, for example, the restriction on the use of casual labour or the requirement for union consent to expand ratios of employees.’
CFMEU Construction national secretary, Dave Noonan said the new guidelines contained some encouragement for employers to hire and train apprentices but fell short of the action needed to improve safety on Australian building sites.
Modest measures
‘These are modest measures, we would have liked the code to have more teeth, but it is a step in the right direction,’ he said.
Noonan said the union will be monitoring the Commonwealth funded construction sites where the code will be implemented, to ensure that it results in jobs for young Australians.
‘We want to see the changes to the code enhancing the skills and capacity of the construction industry,’ he said. 
‘We will be working with employers to make sure women, Indigenous people and apprentices can grab the opportunity to work in construction.'
Safety still a concern
‘Safety continues to be the main concern for the construction industry, where on average one worker dies each week.'
‘The new measures in the Government’s guidelines don’t address the unacceptable safety record in the construction industry or deal with employers with poor safety records.'
‘There must be a ban on any construction company with a poor safety record, in particular those who are responsible for workplace fatalities, bidding for Federal Government work.’
ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the new Implementation Guidelines would restore the national construction code to its original purpose of encouraging ethical tendering practices.
‘Procurement policies such as the National Code of Practice for the Construction Industry should be consistent with the Government’s other policy objectives.'
Old guidelines ‘obsolete’
‘With the demise of WorkChoices and beginning of the new Fair Work industrial relations laws on 1 July, the guidelines were totally out of kilter with Government policy and effectively obsolete.'
‘Under the Howard Government, procurement in construction became another arm of WorkChoices. The revised code brings it into alignment with the new IR laws.’
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