Media & Speeches

ABCC essential to combatting unlawful union behaviour on construction sites

Joint statement by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group and Business Council of Australia

Unlawful behaviour by unions on Australia’s building and construction sites may reach crisis point unless Parliament acts now to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

As groups representing businesses that employ millions of Australians across all sectors of the economy, we have intensified our calls for Parliament to support the Bill to restore the ABCC.

Today we have heard from Fair Work Building and Construction director Nigel Hadgkiss that his agency is being stretched to the limit by unlawful behaviour on multiple sites across all cities.

Illegal behaviour adds significantly to the cost of construction of every school, every hospital and every road that is built. All Australians feel the impact through higher prices being passed on to them and their tax dollars being spent less efficiently.

It is clear this behaviour is ongoing. The 2015/16 annual report of FWBC showed that the penalties awarded against the CFMEU in cases brought by FWBC exceeded $1.7 million, that the agency initiated 27 cases against the CFMEU, that there were consistently more than 100 CFMEU officials before the courts, facing more than 1800 allegations of contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

A new video released just yesterday showed unlawful and threatening behaviour by a union official towards a manager on a Queensland building site.

Several Royal Commissions have investigated behaviour like this and found there is a need for cultural change. Every day without an industry watchdog with the necessary powers is a day when workers face intimidation, young people are discouraged from entering the industry and costs are passed on to consumers.

Small businesses are also suffering from the unlawful and inappropriate conduct in the industry. The union dominance on building sites has led to practices that discourage smaller contractors from providing services.

The Parliament needs to stand up for workers and contractors by empowering the industry regulator to deal with this issue and increase penalties for wrongdoing. Bringing back the ABCC will help to break down the culture that is leading to abuse, intimidation, lost work opportunities and unfairness.

As our third biggest employing industry, the building sector provides more than one million jobs. Stamping out unlawful conduct will be critical in restoring a respectful culture in the industry, and in doing so improve productivity.

We are pleased that the House of Representatives has passed the legislation to bring back the ABCC. We urge the Senate to do so as well at the next opportunity so that we can get the building and construction industry back on track.