Baillieu plans crackdown on building unions

The Victorian government said last year it would introduce its own version of the Australian Building and Construction Commission if the ABCC was weakened.

Now, on April 3 Premier Ted Baillieu and finance minister Robert Clark announced the Implementation Guidelines to the Victorian Code of Practice for the Building and Construction Industry.

The guidelines focus on ensuring workers aren’t “forced” to join unions, and that employers are forbidden from agreeing to union demands for over-award or site payments.

The guidelines will apply to all construction projects funded by the Victorian government after July 1. The code includes a range of anti-union measures and bans worker protections such as employee ratios and equivalent pay for subcontractors.

If employers don’t enforce these various anti-union provisions, they won’t win contracts to work on state government projects.

The new head of the Construction Code Compliance Unit, Nigel Hadgkiss, was prevented from answering journalists’ questions at Baillieu’s press conference to release the code.

In comments to The Age on April 4, Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd attacked Nigel Hadgkill as “an ideologue” who “wants to be able to say to employers that if they allow a Eureka flag to fly off a crane, they are not allowed to tender.”

It will be compatible with the national building industry code for federal government-funded construction projects, which was introduced by the former Howard federal government.

If employers don’t enforce the anti-union measures, they won’t win contracts to work on state government projects.

The Victorian code lists practices that are “not allowable”. These include:
- The display of no ticket, no start signs, show card days.

- The display of union or any other logos, mottos or other indicia to company supplied property or equipment, including clothing.
Providing the names of new staff, job applicants, contractors or subcontractors to unions.

- Using employee representatives, site delegates or other union representatives to undertake or administer site induction processes.

- The imposition, or attempted imposition, of a requirement for any contractor, subcontractor or employer to employ a non‐working shop steward or job delegate or to hire an individual nominated by a union.

- Employers unlawfully encouraging or discouraging employees to join a union.

- Parties, i.e. unions, attempting to “unduly” influence employers to have particular workplace arrangements in place such as the imposition of a requirement for a contractor to apply project-specific wages and conditions.

The code also attacks a number of important protections for workers. Specifically, it bans:

- Ratios of employees such as ratios of numbers of guaranteed permanent employees and limitations on the number of temporary and casual employees.

- Last on, first off clauses. The code stipulates that industrial agreements not contain selection criteria for redundancy, such as last on, first off clauses, or redundancy clauses that determine redundancy solely by reference to the seniority of employees.

- Provisions in industrial agreements that force employers to force sub-contractors to provide their workers with equivalent pay and working conditions to the rest of the site, rather than substandard wages and conditions.

- Provisions that require an employer to consult or seek the approval of a union over the number, source, type (for example casual, contract) or payment of labour required by the employer.

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