Building and construction industry groups have unanimously panned what they see as a grossly inadequate assessment of the Fair Work Act.
Hours after the Fair Work Australia Review Panel’s report was made public on Thursday, a significant number of groups, including Master Builders Australia, the Housing Industry Association (HIA), the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the Australian Industry Group (AIG) each issued separate statements saying the review fell well short of the mark and that the panel’s recommendations fail to address critical issues affecting productivity.
Labelling the review ‘an exercise in denying the reality of on-ground problems’, Master Builders Australia CEO Wilhelm Harnisch says that apart from the recognition that the Fair Work Act is stopping the timely introduction of Greenfields agreements, the report fails to address a number of the stark realities faced by business on the ground.
“The Report’s findings are at odds with day-to-day reality of builders,” Harnisch says.
Harnisch is particularly critical of the panel’s failure to address union attacks on legitimate contractor arrangements.
“The Report says that the regulation of contractors under enterprise agreements was a matter that has been before the courts for many decades,” he says. “The Panel had an opportunity to recommend change so that the illegitimate regulation of contractors via enterprise agreements could be curtailed. Unions are using ‘sign up or else’ tactics to push contractor clauses that would, in the commercial world, constitute a breach of trade practices legislation.”
“Instead of offering a solution, the Panel has pointed out that history should be repeated and that more litigation will sort out the problem.”
Meanwhile, Housing Industry Association industrial relations spokesman David Humphrey says the residential building industry has been left ‘underwhelmed’ by the release of the panel’s findings.
“The Fair Work review was a chance to address the many problems in the Act, but unfortunately that opportunity appears to have been lost,” he says.
Humphrey says that, while the panel made 53 recommendations, many of these were of a technical nature and very few were relevant for small business.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox was no less derisive, saying that key issues faced by business have been ignored.
“The biggest problem with the Fair Work Act Review report is that in virtually all of the key areas, the recommended changes fall short of what is necessary to address the big problems with the Act,” Willox says.
The attacks follow the public release of the Fair Work Act Review on Thursday. In the report, the Fair Work Act Review Panel conclude that essentially, the Act was operating as intended and achieving the objectives set out in the original Act.
The review was prompted by a requirement in the original Act that the legislation be reviewed as soon as practical after the first two years of operation to ensure that it was meeting objectives and to perform any necessary fine tuning.