The building industry in Victoria is under investigation in a move designed to root out violence, intimidation and lawlessness following weeks of union blockades at the Myer Emporium and other sites as part of the union’s disputes with construction giant Grocon Ltd.
Announcing the probe yesterday, state Finance Minister Robert Clark said productive and law-abiding construction sites are vital for jobs and investment in Victoria.
“Recent events have demonstrated that certain elements of the industry appear to consider themselves above the law,” he says. “The Coalition Government is determined to ensure that all participants in the building industry abide by the rule of law and the same standards of behaviour that apply to everyone else. Unlawful blockades, intimidation and harassment should have no place in any Victorian workplace.”
The moves follow building industry fears of a return to illegal practices within the industry following the Grocon blockade and the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) earlier this year.
Those fears were underscored by the recent Grocon disputes, in which members of the Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union continued to blockade the company’s Myer Emporium construction site for more than a week despite a Supreme Court order to end the action.
The moves also follow the enactment in July of new workplace guidelines for the building industry in Victoria.
Under the probe, the Construction Code Compliance Unit (CCCU) is to undertake a full and detailed investigation with regard to the current state of compliance with the law and applicable codes of practice within the industry.
The CCCU is expected to produce two reports. An interim report, to be provided to the government on October 15, will focus specifically on the Grocon blockades and will look into any unlawful conduct during the dispute as well as recommendations for immediate action to strengthen compliance within the law.
A further detailed report will focus more broadly on practices that create a tolerance of unlawful conduct and the impact that recent legislative changes, as were seen in Guidelines to the National Code and with the abolition of the ABCC, have had on behaviour within the industry.
That report, which will also look into the possible involvement of organised crime elements within the industry, will report to the government by March 31 next year.