An attempt by the Labor Party to prevent the introduction of a new Code which sets out rules in respect of workplace relations which will apply to Commonwealth funded building and infrastructure projects has been thwarted.
In an effort to prevent the step the federal government’s Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work (Buidling Code 2016), Labor Senator Doug Cameron introduced a Senate motion to move that the new Code be disallowed.
The motion was defeated, however, after the Xenophon team and One Nation voted against it.
Introduced as part of reforms which saw the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the Building Code 2016 sets out requirements which apply to the workplace relations arrangements of all contractors who apply for work on projects in regard to which the Commonwealth’s contribution is worth more than $10 million or is equal to or more than 50 percent of any project whose costs equal or exceed $5 million.
It covers issues such as the need for workplace management plan, security of payment, prohibited content of enterprise agreements, sham contracting, collusive tendering practice, labour market testing, above-entitlement payments, right of entry and the management of drug and alcohol issues in the workplace.
As part of the timeline applicable under the Code, businesses wishing to tender for work on or after September will have to have ensure that all its enterprise agreements made after the date of April 25 2014 are compliant with the Code.
Contractors whose practices do not meet Code requirements will be barred from obtaining work on the aforementioned projects.
According to the government, the Code is needed to ensure that taxpayer funded projects are not unduly impacted by unlawful workplace behaviour – particularly from unions.
Unions slammed the rejection of the disallowance motion, accusing the minor parties of siding with the Coalition in an attack on workers.
“It’s now clear that One Nation and the Nick Xenophon are in lock step with the Liberal Party on its war on workers’ rights,” CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan said.
“The Building Code is an all-out attack on job security and working conditions. It casualises the workforce by promoting the use of labour hire over direct and secure employment, and paves the way for employers to force workers into excessive overtime.”
“Neither Hanson or Xenophon, despite their rhetoric, are there for workers or the small people. They’ve sided with big corporations, property developers and building companies.”
But the Australian Industry Group welcomed the rejection of the disallowance motion, saying that the Code was needed to ensure that practices on building sites were safe and productive.
Ai Group chief executive officer Innes Willox accuses unions of thwarting efforts of builders to renegotiate agreements in order to ensure that these are Code compliant, and called on all parties including unions to work together to ensure code-compliance.
"For months, the construction unions have been refusing to re-negotiate enterprise agreements to ensure Code-compliance, in the hope that Parliament would disallow the Code,” Willox said.
“There is now an extremely tight timeframe for the negotiation of more than 1,000 construction industry enterprise agreements. There is not a day to waste. The unions need to start supporting and facilitating the varying of these agreements to ensure compliance with the Building Code 2016, or else the jobs of thousands of their members who work on Government projects will be threatened.
"From 1 September 2017, a business will only be able to express interest in, tender for, or be awarded Commonwealth funded building work if all enterprise agreements made after 25 April 2014 by the employer and its related entities comply with the Building Code 2016.
"Over 1,000 contractors and subcontractors have enterprise agreements that were made after 25 April 2014 which are not compliant with the Building Code 2016. These contractors and subcontractors are facing exclusion from Commonwealth funded building work from 1 September unless the agreements are varied.
“All parties need to pull out all stops to ensure that these agreements are varied without delay.”