21 August 2013

THE Coalition’s plans to protect Australia’s building and construction sites from a plague of unacceptable and highly damaging trade union conduct illustrates a stark contrast between our competing major political parties, says resource industry employer group AMMA.

AMMA yesterday sent a follow-up letter to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd asking why concerns raised in earlier correspondence about union bullying, intimidation and unlawful behaviour on Australian worksites have not been dealt with. Further relevant developments during the past fortnight include:

  • A Queensland newspaper* reported a union official could face legal action after abusing Fair Work Building & Construction inspectors as ‘a pair of c—s’, ‘scum’ and ‘piece(s) of sh-t’;
  • Media reports* that unionised workers on a WA construction project ‘turned on their colleagues’ and called fellow non-union workers ‘scabs’ over accommodation matters; and
  • Australia’s biggest construction union, the CMFEU, launched a $1 million anti-Coalition campaign.

“One would think Australia’s unions would be on their best behaviour to give Labor the best chance of being re-elected. But we are seeing no let up in union-driven unlawfulness, intimidation and bullying on construction sites,” says AMMA chief executive Steve Knott.

“This anti-productive behaviour has been unleashed by the Labor Government’s naive workplace changes including neutering the construction industry’s IR watchdog in 2012, and now failing to provide explicit protection against union bullying in its draft national code on workplace bullying.

“Recent aggression and outright abuse by trade union officials and supporters sits directly at odds with national commitments through Safe Work Australia to stamp out workplace bullying. Ignoring union conduct suggests bullying only concerns Labor when its industrial wing isn’t the perpetrator.”

In June 2012, Labor replaced the Australian Building and Construction Commission with its new Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate. The accompanying legislative changes hamstrung the inspectorate’s ability to hold unions and union officials to account for unlawful activity and coercive behaviour on building sites, and drastically reduced penalties for those found to be in breach.

AMMA recently compared the workplace policies of the three leading political parties in its 2013 IR Election Scorecard, which shows only the Coalition has addressed the concerns of employers and the community by committing to restore the pre-Labor ABCC and address bullying by trade unions.

“The resource industry’s consistent warnings against watering down the building industry inspectorate were ignored by a Labor Government committed to delivering favours to powerful building industry unions,” Mr Knott says.

“Any workplace relations system that allows and encourages trade union officials to think they have free reign to abuse the working people they represent needs fixing, and the unions that allow their people to do this require a drastic change in culture and leadership.

“Whichever party wins government in 2013 must protect its own staff and working people in the construction industry from being called scum, maggots and dogs as we’ve seen in recent examples.

“AMMA’s letter to the Prime Minister urged for the swift return of a tough cop to the beat on our building sites and that any anti-bullying laws should apply equally to trade unionists and employers.”

*For a PDF of this release, including references to recent media articles and relevant media contact, click here.