Australia’s largest building and construction union is spearheading an international legal challenge against the Federal Government’s building industry watchdog, claiming up to 500 workers across various states are being targeted for prosecution for standing up for safety, jobs, wages and conditions.
Speaking at the union’s national conference on September 8, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national secretary Dave Noonan said more than 500 workers from within the building sector were being prosecuted by the Federal Government’s Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate, which regulates workplace behaviour within the sector.
“These prosecutions are a blatant attempt to intimidate workers who take a stand for safety, jobs, wages and conditions,” Noonan said.
“These prosecutions blatantly offend Australia’s obligations under conventions of the International Labour Organisation.
“Today I call on the ACTU to lodge a complaint with the ILO on behalf of these workers and I call on the Global Union Federations of construction workers to support this complaint.”
According to media reports, the ACTU has confirmed its intention to heed Noonan’s call and file the complaint.
Since the Abbott government came to power in 2013, Fair Work Building and Construction (another name for the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate) has ramped up its efforts to combat what the organisation says is unlawful industrial behaviour within the industry.
Last month, the regulator said it had a record 52 cases before the courts across the country.
Whilst this has been welcomed by industry lobby groups, it has riled unions, who say its officials and members are being harassed whilst the regulator and the Abbott government ignore concerns about safety, unpaid wages and abuse of worker rights.
Noonan says the union movement will press on despite what it says are attacks from a number of corners, and that the union was gaining ‘hundreds’ of new collective agreements which deliver attractive wages and conditions for workers.
“Even as Abbott and his cheer squad in business and the media do their best to destroy us, our union and its members continue to achieve…” Noonan said.
“We continue to recover millions of dollars of underpayments for workers every year; underpayments that the Keystone coppers at Abbotts building commission deliberately and corruptly ignore.”