Independent contractors who work in the construction industry in Victoria operate in an environment of fear, intimidation and threats of violence by members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and other unions, an industry body claims.
In its submission to the Victorian inquiry into construction union violence, Independent Contractors Australia (ICA) has called for action to prosecute violence and harassment on worksites and to investigate reports that bikie gangs and drug trafficking operations are active within parts of the industry.
In its submission, ICA included a video of mobile phone footage it says was taken by workers whilst walking past a union protest to their worksite on the Westgate Bridge upgrade during 2009-10.
The video shows the workers, who were not part of a CFMEU, being harassed, bullied and shouted at as they made their way through the crowd.
The ICA says the workers were frequently threatened with taunts about being thrown off the bridge, with the taunt “it’s a long way to fall, mate” being shouted at them on a regular basis.
Though noting that union officials were prosecuted for their conduct with regard to that incident, ICA says the harassment directed at Grocon workers during the recent Myer Emporium dispute provides evidence that such activity remains prevalent on building sites today.
“The policing activities of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), prior to about 2010, in large measure curtailed a good deal of the abuse and harassment in the Victorian construction industry, although it did not eliminate it” the ICA said in its submission.
“With the closing down of the ABCC much of that abusive environment has quickly returned. The violent activities of construction unions directed against Grocon workers during August 2012 have demonstrated that nothing has changed. Violence, abuse and harassment directed towards workers by other workers on Victorian construction sites is endemic”.
In its submission, the ICA says that violent and threatening behaviour which occurs during industrial disputes should be prosecuted under occupational health and safety laws.
The ICA has also called for an investigation to determine the accuracy of reports that bikie gangs and major drug trafficking rings are active in the sector.
The ICA is the latest in a string of industry groups who complain that militant union activity within the construction industry following the abolition of the ABCC.
Last month, Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Innes Willox declared that building union was out of control and that the industry had returned to its lawless past following the Grocon affair and the building regulator’s end.