CONSTRUCTION – The 2022 Australian Federal Election before 21 May 2022

CONSTRUCTION – The 2022 Australian Federal Election before 21 May 2022

Current SportsBet odds at March 2022:      Labor $1.36     vs      Coalition $2.95

The Federal election in 2022 will be a turning point for industrial relations in the building and construction sector, with ALP confirming their long-held commitment to abolish both the ABCC and the Building Code 2016, a procurement requirement on Commonwealth funded works. We anticipate a new procurement code similar to Queensland to deliver ‘social objectives‘ akin to high market terms and conditions but with no industry policeman.

The current ALP National Platform includes major reforms to the current landscape with the removal of the ABCC, the removal of the Building Code 2016, a procurement code for Commonwealth funded works and the introduction of social outcomes for construction projects.

Download Labor’s 2021 National Platform here.

The ALP platform, if fully implemented by a supportive Senate, will result in a radical change in industrial behaviour without an industry policeman, without millions in fines for unlawful behaviour and without any attempt to deliver value for money to the public following the introduction of a ‘social objectives‘ artificial level playing field, the holy grail of industrial relations. The only landscape we can visualise for the construction sector is one of the industrial anarchy of the 1990s and a return to the boom or bust work cycles.

We would anticipate industrial action to double if not triple, and project costs on Commonwealth work to have a significant cost increase. It is highly likely that the CFMMEU, in particular, unburned by an industry policeman, will seek retribution.

The ALP Plan

Labor will provide a balanced and effective compliance regime, which will provide procedural and substantive fairness to all parties in the construction industry. Labor will ABOLISH the Australian Building and Construction Commission and REPEAL the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act, including the Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016. The appropriate body to regulate registered organisations is the FWC. Labor will abolish the Registered Organisations Commission and will refer serious contraventions of regulatory laws by registered organisations to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for investigation and prosecution.

The below proposed procurement policy for ‘social objectives‘ is akin to the current Queensland Government’s best practice principles aimed at delivering a level playing field on major projects.

In the building and construction space, Labor will repeal the Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016 and replace it with a comprehensive procurement policy which:

• ensures environmentally sustainable outcomes in government buildings and infrastructure;

• maximises apprenticeship opportunities;

• ensures secure supply chains and the fair treatment of workers within supply chains;

• develops and promotes the Australian manufacturing industry;

promotes collective agreements that reflect and support best practice industrial relations and employment practices;

• ensure compliance with work health and safety laws and encourages best practices;

• prevents the victimisation of employees as a result of their choice to be a member of a union, and promotes the important and legitimate role of unions and union delegates;

• supports and enhances the right of workers to join and fully participate in the activities of their union, including collective bargaining as well as the facilitation, training and adequate protection of the role of union delegates and health and safety representatives in the workplace;

• recognises the legitimate role of union officials in enrolling and representing workers on site or in the workplace;

• ensures that any work which is to be sub-contracted is performed by bona fide contractors only via responsible contracting arrangements; and

• prevents the use of non-conforming and non-complying building product.

Modern infrastructure, transport and regional development Investing in infrastructure development 

Labor is committed to an infrastructure procurement policy that delivers on our long-term economic, environmental and social objectives, whilst being supported by the highest level of probity. Infrastructure procurement policy will be used to support Australian manufacturing, apprenticeships, regional development and jobs growth especially in secure employment.

Labor’s infrastructure procurement policies will ensure regional infrastructure projects directly support regional businesses and jobs and First Nations employment, including training and skills opportunities. Labor’s infrastructure procurement policy will also ensure that entities that choose to tender for Commonwealth funded work will comply with their employee and industrial relations obligations in respect of their workers, contractors and subcontractors, particularly with regard to the fair treatment of workers and upholding their workplace rights including in relation to safety.

Despite only having 14% of the workforce as paid members, the union movement is politically unstoppable and well financed, despite multiple royal commissions, about twenty years of an industry policeman, and a completely frustrated Federal Court system continuing to deal with a “rogue union” after endless millions in fines, costs and hundreds of judicial hours. The judicial system and current laws are outgunned with the impending cost increase only stopped by a market correction of silence as cranes disappear.

Without being alarming, it should be noted that the current Queensland CFMMEU State Secretary has been a long-standing member of the National Executive of the ALP, the body charged with directly overseeing the general organisation and strategy of the party.

As of March 2022, in Queensland alone, the CFMMEU and its representatives have had $3,493,543 in penalties imposed upon them for 982 contraventions in 20 separate cases. Nationally, the CFMMEU and its representatives have had $14,799,263 in penalties imposed for 1,663 contraventions in 82 separate cases.

Despite the social objectives, unions, political will on all sides, community needs and business goals after 25 years of industrial relations advice in construction, the only true advice for employers and employees is to follow the market. The growing shortage of workers, wages growth pressure and exploding cost increases can only end in silence in five to ten years, with construction cost, plus 5-8% for builders and cost, plus 20-30% for subcontractors in the short term. The next ten year round of Commonwealth spending is largely not buildings, hospitals, roads, tunnels, bridges, rail or infrastructure. It is likely to be defence, insulated from any industrial landscape.

For queries about right of entry, posting of union materials, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au 

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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