New construction watchdog — a mixed breed

News

New construction watchdog — a mixed breed

Changes to the construction industry’s watchdog, announced yesterday by IR Minister Julia Gillard, will reduce its powers and tie it in a myriad of red tape, according to the mining industry. Meanwhile, the ACTU says the new watchdog laws to cover construction workers favour property developers and big builders, while the Federal Opposition says they favour militant unions.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

Changes to the construction industry’s watchdog, announced yesterday by IR Minister Julia Gillard, will reduce its powers and tie it in a myriad of red tape, according to the mining industry. Meanwhile the ACTU says the new watchdog laws to cover construction workers favour property developers and big builders, while the Federal Opposition says they favour militant unions.
 
Building watchdog will be tied up in red tape: AMMA
 
Changes to the construction industry’s watchdog, announced yesterday by IR Minister Julia Gillard, ill reduce its powers and tie it in a myriad of red tape, according to the mining industry.
 
Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) CEO, Steve Knott, said the new Inspectorate under FWA will replace the existing industry watchdog with a 'Milli Vanilli' version.
 
He said the recent public argy-bargy being played out between the Rudd Government and the union movement, had cleverly diverted attention away from the fact that the effectiveness and powers of the current building watchdog are to be significantly watered down.
 
Undo years of hard work
 
He also said the reported proposals to wind back the accompanying building code and guidelines will also undo years of hard work, which has secured years of cultural and economic change in the sector.
 
‘The Government’s compromise deal with the union movement will reduce the penalties for unlawful activity in the construction sector, reduce the powers of the independent watchdog, and tie the replacement body in a myriad of red tape and ineffective bureaucratic procedures,’ Knott said.
 
‘These reforms will weaken the capacity of the watchdog in the future to deal with unlawful behaviour by making the process overly bureaucratic, which will in turn lead to delays in investigations.
 
More disputes
 
‘This will lead to increased industrial disputation and job losses in an already weakened sector.
 
‘The powers of a truly independent watchdog are being taken away and being replaced with the lip-sync version of an independent watchdog.’
 
Knott said that given global financial uncertainty has already seen a considerable downturn in business confidence and investment, now is not the time to be adding to that uncertainty by watering down the powers of a body that has significantly reduced strikes within the construction sector.
 
He said the proposed laws were a compromise designed to placate militant unions. ‘Attempting to placate the unions by introducing a mechanism to switch off the independent watchdogs coercive powers for peaceful parts of the industry simply adds to business uncertainty,’ he said.
 
More uncertainty
 
‘There is uncertainty about just what constitutes a peaceful part of the industry and how exactly this will be defined in the future.
 
‘The Prime Minister himself last week recognised that real problems of intimidation and unlawfulness were still occurring in the construction industry, particularly in WA and Victoria.
 
‘It makes no sense at all to water down the powers of the construction watchdog at the same time as we see both the Federal Government, as well as successive State Governments, commit themselves to large infrastructure building programs in order to both build the nation for the future and weather the global financial storm.’
 
New construction laws good (or bad) for everybody
 
Meanwhile, the ACTU says the new watchdog laws to cover construction workers favour property developers and big builders, while the Federal Opposition says they favour militant unions.
 
ACTU Secretary, Jeff Lawrence, said big construction companies and property developers are crying crocodile tears over the new building industry watchdog which will benefit them at the expense of workers’ rights.
 
Lawrence said rather than pretending to be disappointed, business groups should be honest and admit that they stand to gain from the proposed laws that threaten innocent workers with six months jail.
 
Unfair treatment
 
‘The new Building Industry Inspectorate and accompanying legislation will retain much of the ABCC’s coercive powers and unfair treatment that existed alongside the Howard Government’s WorkChoices.
 
‘Under the proposed new laws introduced into Parliament today, workers who are not accused of any wrongdoing still face a jail sentence of up to six months if they fail to attend an interview or answer the questions of the Inspectorate.
 
‘This could prevent workers on building sites from speaking out when when a situation is unsafe or unfair, and could lead to lower safety standards in an already-dangerous industry.’
 
Exaggerated claims
 
Lawrence said business groups should also cease misleading the public with wildly exaggerated claims about the nature of the construction industry.
 
‘It is highly misleading to say special laws are needed for the construction industry to deal with alleged violence and intimidation when these issues are criminal matters, unrelated to industrial law and outside the remit of the ABCC or the proposed new inspectorate,’ he said.
 
However the Opposition’s IR spokesman, Michael Keenan, said the legislation introduced into Parliament yesterday by IR Minister Julia Gillard confirms that ‘militant unions are more important to Labor than jobs and productivity’.
 
‘These new laws confirm two things,’ he said.
 
Keeping militant unions happy
 
‘Firstly, it shows that Labor believes that keeping militant unions happy is more important than keeping people in jobs and improving productivity.
 
‘Secondly, it shows that we must not listen to what this Government says, but watch what it actually does.
 
‘We were told that Labor would keep a tough cop on the beat and would "stare down" the militant unions. Despite the spin and rhetoric, the new laws show that they have done neither.
 
‘Even worse, Julia Gillard has "directed" the construction cop to slow down its policing efforts until the ABCC is abolished.
 
Green light for thuggery
 
‘These laws are a green light for militant construction unions to return to the days of thuggery, lawlessness, and intimidation.
 
‘Julia Gillard has effectively opened the doors of every construction site in the country and said “Come on back boys — and go your hardest”.’
 
Lawrence said unions would continue campaigning for equal rights for construction workers and an end to coercive powers in the industry.
Post details