Building workers condemn new anti-union laws

In the first construction worker rally in years, up to 10,000 workers marched through Melbourne on July 4, telling the state government to dump its new building code.

Premier Ted Baillieu’s Coalition government began to implement its Code of Practice for the Building and Construction Industry on July 1.

Unions say the new code is all about attacking unions. Building companies that fail to comply with the code on any site will be thrown off the government tender list.

To comply, companies have to rewrite enterprise bargaining agreements to promote labour hire and “all-in” sham contracting, restrict entry of union officials to work sites, ban union logos from work issue clothing and limit the freedom of union representatives on worksites.

The Liberal government will spend $7 million to enforce the code. The money includes a big salary for former Australian Building and Construction Commission deputy commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss.

Hadgkiss was appointed in April to head the state government’s new Construction Code Compliance Unit and its team of about 10 officers. Unions say it is well known in the industry that Hadgkiss had made a career of going after union officials.

The appointment is further evidence that the new code is an attack on building unions.
Now that the ABCC has been dismantled and watered down with the Fair Work Australia act, the Baillieu government has seen fit to set up its own code to cause more tension and conflict in the industry.

Building unions are already subject to anti-worker laws restricting their right to represent workers without this new Code of Conduct.

The Plumbing Trade Employees Union said on June 28: “The code does nothing to improve safety, employ more apprentices or support local manufacturing jobs. The state government needs to focus on saving Victorian jobs and getting new construction projects going, not another anti-union drive.”

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