A re-established ABCC is crucial for our industry, the 1 million workers we employ, and the community who depend on the roads, schools and hospitals we build.
It is necessary to change what a judge has referred to as an “attitude by the CFMEU of ignoring, if not defying, the law and a willingness to contravene it as and when it chooses.”
For almost two decades, Master Builders has had a very simple policy – people working on and running construction sites should be able to go to work in an environment that is just like every other normal, modern Australian workplace – free from bullying, harassment and intimidation.
It is a simple policy and a statement of the obvious. Thuggery has no place in the Australian workplace.
In this day and age we shouldn’t even need to have this policy, and it is almost beyond belief that we have to lobby for it to be implemented. It is, as a judge commenting on the matter said, “a depressing picture.”
After all, this is 2016 not 1970. Other workplaces and industries don’t need special laws against workplace intimidation, but sadly the construction sector is different. It’s because the building unions have a culture that is ingrained and institutionalised where officials have been described as “cowardly, bullying, disgusting, disgraceful and disrespectful.”
It comes from what a judge called “a conscious and deliberate strategy employed by the CFMEU and its officers to engage in disruptive, threatening and abusive behaviour towards employers without regard to the lawfulness of that action, and impervious to the prospect of prosecution and penalties.”
I’ve spent over 30 years around construction sites and it sometimes feels like building union culture and behaviour has been frozen in time. My iphone says it’s 2016 but the conduct occurs so regularly, in situations with the same kinds of features, it’s almost like the building unions think it’s the 1970s.
“It is a depressing picture and bespeaks a deplorable attitude, on the part of the CFMEU,” the judge said, adding that “there has been no apology for such appalling behaviour.
“For the CFMEU, it seems to treat being caught conducting such breaches…simply as occupational hazards in the way in which they conduct their business. The Union has shown no contrition.”
Instead, the CFMEU show an “ongoing willingness to engage in contravening conduct.” They display “an ongoing disregard for the rule of law” and rarely have they expressed any contrition. This only adds to what the judge called a “depressing litany of misbehaviour.
“Nor has (the CFMEU) indicated any willingness to take steps to ensure that its officials in future comply with their legal obligations and often there is no evidence of them suffering any serious disciplinary penalties,” the judge stated.
“The CFMEU is to be regarded as a recidivist rather than as a first offender. The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that the organisation either does not understand or does not care for the legal restrictions on industrial activity imposed by the legislature and the courts.”
The judge added that big penalties handed out by courts “have not caused the CFMEU to desist from similar unlawful conduct and organisers appear to have shown a somewhat cavalier disregard both of the need to comply with the law and of penalties which have been previously imposed on the union for similar conduct.
“There is ample evidence of significant contravention by the CFMEU and its ideological fellow travellers. The CFMEU, as a holistic organisation, has an extensive history of contraventions dating back to at least 1999. The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that the organisation either does not understand or does not care for the legal restrictions on industrial activity imposed by the legislature and the courts.”
This is why the ABCC is needed – to put an end to a long list of contraventions of the law.
As chief executive of Master Builders Australia, you would expect me to call for the ABCC to be restored so that the CFMEU are forced to behave like normal people. As shown in statements made in court, they exhibit behaviour that is condemned in every other workplace, at every sports ground, or in any street, seems to be acceptable when on a construction site.
It’s not, and it has to stop.