Disputes within the construction sector have risen since the Australian Building and Construction Commission was abolished, a government minister claims.

Seizing on the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Employment Minister Michaela Cash said the number of days lost due to strikes on building sites had increased by 34 per cent since the abolition of the ABCC in June 2012.

According to the government’s analysis of the data, the sector has lost an average of around 12.9 working days per thousand people employed since the ABCC’s abolition in the middle of 2012 – up from 9.6 days over the period of the period during which the ABCC was in operation from September 2005 up until the abolition in 2012.

That contradicts an ACTU analysis which purports to show that disputes fell by 65 per cent following the ABCC’s abolition – the union body saying that adding quarterly figures to reveal annual totals as opposed to using quarterly averages mitigated seasonal variations.

lost construction days

The dispute comes as prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has threatened to call a double dissolution if the Bill to reintroduce the ABCC is rejected by the Senate for a second time. Unions and employer groups are ramping up arguments for and against the reintroduction of the building industry regulator.

In a recent appearance before the Senate Education and Employment Committee, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union National Secretary Dave Noonan said a reintroduced ABCC would provide no benefits for industry but would discriminate against one group of workers by imposing harsher penalties that did not apply to the rest of the workforce.

“Ministers in the Turnbull Government, the media and the Fair Work Building Commission have all said we need a tough ‘cop on the beat’ to stamp out corrupt and criminal behavior,” Noonan said. “The ABCC is an industrial regulator and has never had any role in investigating breaches of the criminal law.

“When looked at objectively, it’s clear that the ABCC is not about improving the industry in any way. It’s about taking away workers’ rights in order to benefit the hip pocket of developers and large multinational construction companies.”

Conversely, Australian Industry Group CEO Innes Willox said the need to restore the regulator had been more than adequately demonstrated.

“The unacceptable actions of the CFMEU and other construction unions add extra costs on to every taxpayer funded road, building, school and hospital across the country,” Willox said.  “These extra costs are inevitably passed on to consumers.

“We strongly urge Senators to pass these Bills when Parliament returns on 18 April and to stop the endless delays.”

  • Politics has nothing to do with reality. Unbiassed journalism would question a very strange 2 column bar graph "according to the government's analysis of the data" from the minister's office and compare it with a simple line graph of disputes going back say 25 years. The suggestion seems to be that a perpetual Building Construction Commission would reduce disputes.

  • The ACTU live in which country ??????????? Union disputes are up , if you don`t have a union sanctioned agreement you can`t work on large sites. Builders are also complicit in assisting the CFMEU control sites by submitting subcontractors names for approval before using them on site. They are too weak to buck the system so they need the ABCC to hold their hands.

  • Good one Andrew.

    In rough figure terms (assuming the bar graph is actually correctly showing the effects of removal of the ABCC)…

    Wages cost for delays seem to be for 1million workers say = 1 000 000 x 2.5 (days average loss per quarter) x 4 (quarters to a year) x $200 (per day wages) = $2 Billion per year cost X a factor for profit = (say) $3 Billion per year????. So it seems that we should definitely have an equally effective commission that resolves domestic disputes where owners in Victoria alone pay out over $3 Billion per year?????

  • Whose statistics do you believe. Isn't the argument about the form the restored ABCC will take? The legislation as usual is driven by peak industry groups to benefit the main contractors. Meanwhile significant numbers of buildings constructed in recent years are potential fire bombs, the industry wrongfully withholds over $14billion from subcontractors and suppliers, imports cheap non-compliant materials to the detriment of Australian business and Families [consumers] are being ripped off purchasing inferior constructed homes and residential apartments then expected to bear the cost of rectification. This news letter revealed quite a few of those companies were associated with Family First Senator Bob Day. The questions to be asked of Senator Day how that sits with his Family First values and does he think that his ex-presidency of the HIA makes him both hypocritical and conflicted . Phoenix trading in the industry if rife costing a reported $3 billion per year mainly borne by small businesses and consumers. with the wrongful withholding estimated to be 7% of all subcontract value — $14billion. The cost to consumers would be huge driven by "greed" over "quality and service". We need uniform federal legislation to govern the Australian Construction Industry generally similar to the competition and consumer laws adopted by the states – not biased rubbish influenced by peak industry groups. Is anybody addressing the issue of the potential fire bombs in our capital cities? When one of these fire bombs kill innocent people I guess we will be able to blame the union. Clean up the whole industry.

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