Closer to 36-hour week

April 5, 2000


MELBOURNE — The Construction, Forestry, Mining, Energy Union (CFMEU) appears close to a 36-hour week agreement with construction corporation Multiplex in Victoria.

The union put bans on Multiplex on March 30 after the company failed to agree on inclement weather and rostering provisions. However, future negotiations are likely to produce agreement, CFMEU president John Cummins said on community radio 3CR on March 31.

The union may also be on the threshold of a deal with a group of breakaway building companies, which have been in negotiations with the CFMEU despite a Master Builders Association (MBA) campaign against the 36-hour week. A deal has already been struck with Grollo and associated subcontractors which guarantees a 36-hour week and that award conditions will not be reduced.

Suggestions by the breakaway companies that the union has agreed to the productivity gains they sought in exchange for the 36-hour week have been described by Cummins as industry propaganda. "The trade-off days of the 1980s are long gone", Cummins told 3CR. Winning the 36-hour week was not a matter of making productivity concessions, he said, but a question of "finetuning a few processes".

The MBA claims that 100 building companies have signed a petition calling on the breakaway group to abandon the 36-hour negotiations. The MBA wants the industry employers to concentrate on getting a favourable decision from the Industrial Relations Commission.

According to Cummins, this petition was actually the attendance list at the MBA's last meeting. One of the companies on the list has already done an interim deal with the CFMEU.

It now appears certain that the building industry employers only hope of counterattack comes from federal or state government intervention.

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