The United Nations' labour agency has not recommended changes to the coalition government's building industry watchdog after unions raised concerns about the controversial body.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions last year complained the resurrected Australian Building and Construction Commission violated freedom of association and collective bargaining rights.
The International Labour Organisation’s committee on freedom of association responded on Thursday, with only mild criticism of the ABCC.
Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer seized on the findings, saying the ILO rejecting unions’ claim the watchdog is illegal.
“The complaint to the ILO was no more than the latest, desperate attempt by the ACTU to have the ABCC abolished and allow the thugs and bullies in the militant CFMMEU run rampant,” she said on Thursday.
“It’s an embarrassing failure for the ACTU, who have now seen their false claims exposed on the international stage.”
The report found laws banning unlawful picketing were necessary for public safety, order and the protection of rights and freedoms of others.
The committee said ABCC legislation did not affect taking protected industrial action under the Fair Work Act.
There was not enough evidence to suggest higher fines in the construction sector for unlawful industrial action would impede freedom of association.
“Such fines should not be imposed in cases where the unlawful industrial action as defined would not be in conformity with the principles of freedom of association,” the committee wrote.
The ILO committee invited the ACTU to provide detailed examples of how penalties directly affect workers’ rights.
The committee asked the government to tell it about any use of sanctions against trade unions under the laws over the next three years.
The government is also invited to review the building code in consultation with employers and unions.
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil said the ILO had identified a clear threat to workers’ rights including freedom of association and collective bargaining.
“They found that the right of people working in the construction industry to negotiate fair deals with employers is endangered by the actions of the Morrison government,” she said.
“This latest report builds on repeated previous findings by the ILO’s supervisory bodies that the ABCC legislation breaches the most fundamental ILO conventions and international law.”
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson said the ACTU made the complaint to allow construction officials to enforce a culture of lawlessness and coercion.
“The ILO has not recommended changes to Australia’s ABCC legislation or the Building Code and has made no adverse finding about the ABCC’s lawfulness or legitimacy,” he said.