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.
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.”