The building industry places a high priority on a safe and productive workplace relations environment
Harmonious, safe and productive workplaces are vital for a strong building industry, a thriving economy and more job opportunities for all Australians.
We need 300,000 more workers, independent contractors and apprentices over the next decade, but current workplace laws discourage many from hiring more workers and training more apprentices.
What are the problems?
The building and construction unions have a long history of militant and unlawful behaviour, such as unlawful strikes and other illegal activities, which disrupts workplaces, stifles productivity and adds up to 30% to the cost of building community facilities such as hospitals and schools – an impost funded by taxpayers.
The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) must be maintained and fully resourced to increase productivity, reduce disputes and delays, foster greater cooperation between workers and employers on commercial building sites and the economy in general. A Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) must too be maintained to ensure building unions and their actions are transparent and accountable to members.
To assist in allowing builders and sub-contractors grow and create jobs, Australia must return to a balanced and fair industrial relations system. It must be easily understood and simple, with a focus that priorities workers and employers – the two most important parts of the employment relationship – and not third parties who have no ‘skin in the game’ and don’t have to deal with the ramifications of their intervention.
Ensuring building and construction workplaces are safe is the number one priority for the sector. We are committed to delivering safe and productive workplaces for the more than one million people who work in our sector. The personal and community cost of serious injury and death at work cannot be underestimated and must be addressed.
Safer and more productive workplaces can be achieved without adding to the existing level of complexity and compliance. A common sense, practical approach is needed. The focus must be on the quality, rather than the quantity, of legislation and regulation. The focus must also be on education and awareness, injury prevention, and the practical and achievable management of foreseeable risk, not just paper based compliance. It's about creating a genuine ‘safety culture’ in the workplace.
How can we fix them?
- Maintain respect for the rule of law in the building and construction industry by ensuring the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) continues to operate effectively with appropriate resources.
- Preserve the rights of independent contractors by retaining the current laws to give people choice about how they work and encourage entrepreneurship.
- Maintain the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) to ensure building unions are accountable to members and their officials act like everyday people, and adopt the Heydon Royal Commission recommendations for law reform.
- Adopt a workplace bargaining system in which employers and employees can freely enter into appropriate and lawful workplace agreements, underpinned by simple safety net conditions.
- Ensure all workplace laws respect that employers and employees are the two most important parts of an employment relationship. The role of third parties should only exist where necessary or invited, and must never take precedence over the wishes of employees and employers.
- Implement fair and simple dismissal laws that place more emphasis on the right of employers to manage their own business, reflect community expectations and embrace the notion of 'common sense'.
- Continue to pursue nationally consistent workplace safety laws and increase the focus on practical safety outcomes where a safety-oriented workplace culture and individual responsibility takes precedence over, and is considered as more important, than paper-based compliance.
- Stop and reverse the growth in overlap between safety laws and industrial relations laws, to improve compliance, and reduce complexity and confusion.
- Ensure that the concept of workplace safety is not further sullied by prohibiting notions of 'safety' from being exploited as a tactic to achieve industrial relations outcomes.
- Review the operation and work of Safe Work Australia to reduce duplication with other bodies, focus operational activity and improve engagement with employers, including through the appointment of more business representatives to its Board.