Construction giant Lend Lease must return to the bargaining table over stalled Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) talks and respect the rights of workers to improve job and income security, the union movement says.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Ged Kearney says unions are seeking equal pay and conditions for employees and sub-contractors alike at Lend Lease sites, including the Barangaroo project in Sydney.
Kearney says the ACTU executive has endorsed a resolution calling on Lend Lease to immediately end what she describes as its refusal to negotiate fairly with workers across the country.
Specifically, she lambasts the company for its refusal to negotiate a job security clause – a condition in the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) that would specify that sub-contractors must receive wages and conditions similar to those received by the company’s employees.
From the union’s point of view, such clauses are essential in order to deter sham contracting, in which companies hire individuals who are effectively workers under a contracting arrangement so as to avoid having to pay entitlements and on-costs associated with a due and proper employment relationship.
“Unions are appalled that an iconic building firm like Lend Lease that last year made a profit of almost half-a-billion dollars is refusing to negotiate a job security clause in their enterprise agreement,” Kearney said. “CFMEU members have been forced to take protected industrial action by the company’s stance. The Fair Work Act clearly allows employment security clauses that seek to protect workers’ jobs by ensuring contractors are not engaged on terms less favourable than those in an agreement.”
Workers at Lend Lease walked off the job for two days on Tuesday and Wednesday last week after a breakdown in negotiations over a new enterprise agreement.
Kearney says the current dispute underscores the importance of a broader push by the ACTU to secure better rights for contract workers.
She says people in casual, labour hire and contracting jobs are forced to effectively put their lives on hold because they have no job or income security to plan for the future.
“These include workers who contribute to the huge profits generated by Lend Lease and it is a blight on such a prosperous nation as Australia that around 40 per cent of the workforce does not have the same rights as those in secure jobs – and some have little or none,” Kearney says.
Last week’s dispute came amid increasingly bitter relations between Lend Lease and the union movement, especially the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).
The union claims that sham contracting practices are rife on work sites operated by Lend Lease around the country.
While unrelated to the current dispute, relations between the company and the union have not been helped by the discovery of asbestos at the site of Lend Lease’s Barangaroo project in Sydney on several occasions during union inspections of the site.