Thousands of Victorian construction workers have marched through Melbourne to protest a new building code which came into effect this week.
Bill Oliver, state secretary for the construction department of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), says the new rules do nothing to improve safety in the industry.
The new rules were brought in to protect Victorian public infrastructure projects from unlawful industrial activity in the wake of the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) – the national building watchdog.
Under the rules, those submitting tenders for public sector work in Victoria will have to commit to compliance with the law, productivity, safety and freedom of association rules.
The new rules will also require those submitting tenders for major projects to submit detailed plans that identify their approach to various matters including workplace safety, dispute resolution, response to industrial action, right of entry, management of subcontractors and communication and consultation with the workforce.
Such plans will have to be submitted where the government contribution to the project is either more than $10 million or is at least $5 million and represents at least half of the total construction project value.
Compliance with the new rules will be monitored by the Department of Treasury and Finance, which will have the power to refer abuses of the law to the appropriate authorities.
State Finance Minister Robert Clark says the new rules will eliminate unlawful activity on public sector construction sites, promote a safe and productive culture across the industry and help to deliver positive outcomes on major infrastructure projects.
Protester Mick Douglas says, however, that the new code represents an attack on workers and unions.
“Instead of just making it a priority to destroy unions, he (Premier Ted Baillieu) should worry about his own back yard,” Douglas says.