Construction union challenges the new building code

By ugly

The Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) is sticking fast to ensuring that its members interests are protected, when they are facing the impositions of the new building code, attached to the ABCC bill which passed over union objections in November.

The union rejects the code because it “discriminates against workers and promotes job insecurity, poor safety and the exploitation of temporary visa workers,” and has vowed to resist it by “by all means available”.

Demands by employers to cut conditions will not be accepted. This would mean, agreements will be, in violation of the code.  Major builders that do not already have agreements, stand to lose millions of dollars of government work.

The union objects to the code and ABCC guidance ban clauses that:

  • give Australian residents and citizens preference over workers on temporary work visas in employment and retrenchment
  • limit casualisation or place restrictions on replacement of permanent employees with labour hire workers
  • set minimum ratios for apprentices
  • ban an “all-up rate of pay”, which the union believes is an attack on overtime penalty rates because employers can pay a total rate of pay that discharges the obligation to pay penalties.

This sets for the possibility of a major confrontation with the Turnbull government.

The Master Builders Australia chief executive, Denita Wawn has reacted, attacked the union for its stand as “stunt” and for “holding the country to ransom”. He has suggested that builders could force the union to negotiate (presumably under the code conditions), with non-union agreements, or good-faith bargaining cases to force the union to renegotiate.

The employment minister, Michaelia Cash response is “The CFMEU’s refusal to respect and adhere to the law is disappointing but unsurprising”.

But recent times are seeing unions drawing closer together and growing disquiet in the workplace about the threat to jobs and conditions. Many see that the attack on construction unions could be turned on other workers. It might end up in a bigger battle than the government and the Master Builders bargained on.

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