The transition period for a new code of conduct governing workplace relations on Commonwealth funded projects could be reduced from two years to nine months and companies whose agreements do not comply with the Code could be barred from securing Commonwealth work following a backflip by Senator Derryn Hinch on his position regarding the transition period.
In what will be seen as a win for building industry employers, News Corporation has reported that the Turnbull government appears set to amend the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act which restored the Australian Building and Construction Commission last year in order to restore critical provisions which it was forced to remove in order to secure Hinch’s support in the senate.
The amendments follow a mind change on the part of Hinch, who reportedly has had a change of position with regard to some of the amendments over the summer break.
Issued late last year by Senator Michaela Cash under Section 34 of the Act, the Code for Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016 sets out standards which those who wish to perform work on projects which are wholly or partly funded by the Commonwealth Government are expected to follow in respect of their workplace relations practices.
Whilst the Code applied immediately to all companies which did not previously have enterprise bargaining agreements with their workforce, it enabled those which had existing EBAs in place a two-year grace period in which to make their agreements code-compliant by November 29 2018 – a concession to which the government had be agree in order to secure Hinch’s support for the ABCC legislation to pass.
Under the amendments, however, News Corporation has reported that the two-year grace period will be brought back to nine months.
Further, whilst those companies whose EBAs are not code compliant will still be able to tender for work will still be able to tender for work during the transition period, they will not be awarded work unless and until their agreements are code-compliant.
The moves are considered to be a blow to unions, who were reportedly believed to want to use the transition period to push through EBAs on more union friendly terms than would otherwise be allowable under the Code.
Compliance with the Code is compulsory if companies in order for companies to be awarded work on Commonwealth projects with a value above specified thresholds.
According to the aforementioned report, Hinch changed his mind over the Christmas period.
“Over the summer break, spoke to a lot of people – subcontractors and middle sized construction companies,” Hinch told The Australian.
“They told me the legislation was killing them. My view is that I listen to people, and that’s what I did and I contacted Malcolm Turnbull and told him that we needed to look at that again.”