Cole report - South Australia

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Cole report - South Australia

Cole report - South Australia

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South Australia experiences less industrial disputation and unlawful industrial activity than other States. Dispute resolution procedures are more often followed.
 
Freedom of association is generally observed following a stand taken by major contractors in 1994.
 
These features are attributable to a smaller market and more limited employment opportunities.
 
However, significant protected industrial action has occurred as part of industry enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) campaigns. A number of major contractors have EBAs containing terms which require them to encourage subcontractors to have an EBA.
 
Union opposition to subcontracting, in particular pyramid subcontracting, has caused a number of industrial disputes.
 
Interstate contractors can experience industrial disruption unless they comply with local industrial practices.
 
The specific instances of unlawful conduct in the building and construction industry in South Australia that I have found to have occurred are set out in the Schedule to this State Overview.
 
In addition, there was evidence of other categories of conduct that are in my view inappropriate. Some of the conduct in those categories is unlawful in some circumstances but not in others because of deficiencies in the relevant law. These deficiencies are addressed by recommendations. Other conduct in these categories is not at present unlawful, although I have recommended that some of it be made unlawful, and that the remainder be discouraged in other ways.
 
Inappropriate conduct
 
Categories of conduct identified by the Royal Commission in the building and construction industry in South Australia which I regard as inappropriate include:
(a) agreements between head contractors and unions restricting the way in which subcontractors can conduct their businesses;
 
(b) interstate workers seeking to work in South Australia being required to become members of a union and pay membership fees for which they were reimbursed by a head contractor;
 
(c) a union acting without appropriate consultation with employees or subcontractors;
 
(d) industrial action to force workers, against their will, to become employees at a reduced remuneration;
 
(e) failure to observe occupational health and safety standards;
 
(f) the union tactic of obtaining EBAs with subcontractors by asserting that head contractors had agreed with the union to use only those subcontractors with EBAs;
 
(g) the methods used to resolve disputes about whether workers were properly characterised as employees or as independent contractors;
 
(h) misuse of safety issues for industrial purposes;
 
(i) demarcation disputes between unions;
 
(j) non-payment by employers of workers compensation premiums;
 
(k) non-payment of taxation obligations including payroll tax.
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