More IR limits on building unions

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More IR limits on building unions

The Federal Government continues to sideline union intervention with the release of its revised building code guidelines yesterday.

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The Federal Government continues to sideline union intervention with the release of its revised building code guidelines yesterday.

Changes to the National Code and Guidelines for the Building and Construction Industry stipulate a number of new criteria aimed at diminishing union involvement in enterprise agreement making.

Under the guidelines, construction companies must adhere to strict agreement making principles that have the effect of limiting union involvement; otherwise companies will lose out on Australian Government contracts.

Setting up separate companies to tender for Australian Government contracts won’t avoid the strict new guidelines. Complex corporate structures and joint ventures will be required to meet the guidelines, not just parts of the organisation doing business with the Government.

The guidelines come into effect 1 October 2005. While they aren’t law they’ll form the basis of the Government’s procurement principles and be superseded by broader workplace relations laws in 2006.

Agreement guidelines

The guidelines stipulate that any construction company doing business with the Federal Government must operate off industrial agreements that don’t restrict the type of agreement offered to employees now or in the future.

In particular, practices that inhibit AWAs are prohibited.

With right of access, agreements can only grant union access in line with Workplace Relations Act provisions and only organisations who are parties to an agreement can monitor the agreement.

Non-working shop stewards will be banned and contractors cannot be forced to hire union-nominated individuals.

Union mottos and logos on worksites and equipment are also unwelcome.

In regards to dispute resolution, the stipulated processes must give employees a choice about who they want to represent them.

During restructures, redundancy based on certain selection criteria or seniority will be a thing of the past.

Labour arrangements will also be more flexible, where employers must operate off industrial agreements that don’t restrict casual, contract and other short term labour.

And there can be no clauses that seek union approval concerning: the number and source of labour; or the type of payments that employers require.

The guidelines also hint at a move toward doing away with leave entitlements. The final guideline states that an industrial instrument must not preclude the employer from making ‘all-in payments’. This means that employers are allowed to lump legislative and award entitlements, such as annual leave and overtime, into one payment.

Union stand

The CFMEU National Secretary John Sutton homed in on the ‘all in payments’ guidelines saying they amounted to removing annual leave, sick leave and public holidays.

‘All-up payments have long been a way for rogue employers to whittle away entitlements in the building industry and unions have fought hard to keep these practices out of the industry,’ Sutton said.

'The Howard Government's code means that companies which agree that these conditions should not be cashed out will now miss out on lucrative government contracts.

‘The Howard Government is green lighting employers avoiding basic entitlements like annual leave, sick leave and overtime through ''all-in'' payments.

‘Over time, the all-in payment becomes the basic rate and holidays and overtime will disappear from the industrial landscape.’

Master builders welcome changes

The Master Builders welcomed the revised guidelines. ‘Master Builders fully supports the changes that will send a clear message to the building unions that the days of coercive and intimidatory behaviour have no relevance in today’s workplace,’ Master Builders Australia Chief Executive Officer Wilhelm Harnisch said.

He said the guidelines would counter moves by companies and unions who negotiate new agreements before the Government’s workplace reform are enacted.

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