A key building lobby group has lashed out at the nation’s construction union over what it describes as a blatant disregard for the law in two industrial disputes orchestrated by the union on Wednesday.
Wilhelm Harnisch, chief executive officer of Master Builders Australia, has lambasted what he says were calls by Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Brian Boyd for workers to ignore Fair Work Act rules and attend protests without employer permission, saying those calls were ‘arrogant’ and ‘irresponsible’.
Harnisch says actions with regard to the disputes showed that unions continue to display a ‘total disregard’ to the rules administered by the Fair Work Building and Construction agency, which replaced the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
One of the disputes took place in Perth and centred around the federal government’s Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs), while the other, in Melbourne, revolved around a new State Construction Code of Practice for public sector projects in Victoria.
“Today’s rallies against government procurement rules and legitimate migration policies send a clear message that the unions reject lawful channels for pursuing their policy agendas,” Harnisch says.
Harnisch says the act of simply walking off the job without getting prior permission to attend rallies represented unlawful conduct, and that Fair Work Building and Construction must take action in order to prevent a precedent from being set.
He says Wednesday’s events provide further evidence that the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission has hurt taxpayers and the building industry.
“It is a very slippery slope if no action is taken by Fair Work Building and Construction over today’s unlawful protest rallies,” Harnisch says. “You can bet we will see the practice become more and more common.”
He suggested the strikes would have an impact not only on builders but on those living in areas where work was delayed because of workers walking off the job.
“Why should communities and builders have to suffer delays caused by industrial action because the union is unhappy with Commonwealth Government Policy?” he says.
Construction workers marched through the streets of Melbourne to protest a new construction code which the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) fears will limit union power on public sector construction sites.
Boyd says the new rules are unnecessary as the union had already negotiated Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) with major construction firms and that federal laws are already in place to tackle illegal strikes and union actions.
Meanwhile, in Western Australia, members of a number of unions, including the construction, maritime and electrical unions, joined forces to protest against the federal government’s Enterprise Migration Agreements, demand more jobs for local workers and push the case for using the boom to train local workers.