Employers urge Senators to block bill to kill construction watchdog

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Employers urge Senators to block bill to kill construction watchdog

A major employer organisation has called on the two independent Senators to vote down the Federal Government’s plan to abolish the ABCC.

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A major employer organisation has called on the two independent Senators to vote down the Federal Government’s plan to abolish the ABCC.
 
The legislation is due to come before the Senate in the current session, and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) wants Senators Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon to block it.
 
This would see the Bill defeated in the Senate because the Opposition has vowed to vote against it. The legislation is intended to replace the ABCC with a new regulatory body under FWA.
 
Conflict and intimidation
 
‘The ABCC came about following the recommendations of a Royal Commission, which concluded that a powerful independent regulator was needed to bring about long-term cultural change in an industry historically driven by conflict and intimidation,’ said Peter Anderson, ACCI chief executive.
 
‘Since its establishment, the ABCC has been highly successful in forcing an end to most unlawful and coercive industrial relations conduct by big construction companies and powerful unions, but that job is not yet complete.’
 
Anderson said the construction industry comprises almost 10% of Australia’s GDP. Tens of thousands of employees, tradespeople, and contractors work directly in the industry, and many thousands more in the supply chain.
 
Stood over
 
‘Tradies, small businesses, independent contractors, and other employees want to work at a place where the normal freedoms and responsibilities of a modern working environment are respected, and where something is done to protect them if they are stood over,’ he said.
 
‘While the Government claims that the industry will continue to be regulated by the new Fair Work body’s building industry division, getting rid of one regulator to replace it with another is either a complete waste of time and money, or is meant to change something.
 
‘If industrial coercion and thuggery returns to the industry, the price will flow on quickly to small businesses and consumers.
 
‘Senators Fielding and Xenophon have a perfect issue during this session to show their small business credentials.’
 
Reduced penalties
 
The Opposition has denounced plans to reduce penalties currently applying under the ABCC Act, to have a five year ‘sunset’ clause applying to the coercive powers, and introduce a system where the coercive powers can be turned off for good behaviour.
 
Unions have been strongly attacking the ABCC, saying there should be the same rules and penalties for workers, regardless of their industry.
 
Decline in disputes
 
However employer groups have been pointing to the rapid decline in industrial disputes in the construction industry since the setting up of the ABCC, and the rise in unlawful union activity on some sites in Melbourne and Perth as reasons to maintain the ABCC.
 
There are suggestions IR Minister Julia Gillard would not be overly dismayed at the demise of the legislation in the Senate, as the Government would get the blame if there was a rise in industrial action and unlawful behaviour once the ABCC had gone.
 
The current head of the ABCC, John Lloyd, has been making speeches to employer groups warning of a rise in intimidation on building sites if the current powers of the ABCC are not maintained.
 
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