Federal Construction IR Bill gets urgent as Victoria takes backward step

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The Victorian Government has abolished the Victorian construction code and implementation guidelines, and has disbanded the Construction Code Compliance Unit. Ai Group has expressed strong concern about the decision and has called for the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill to be passed urgently to reduce the impact.

The decision is very disappointing as the Victorian Code, Guidelines and the regulator were playing a vital role in protecting employers and the community from unlawful, unacceptable and unproductive practices on construction sites.

This development in Victoria increases the urgency for the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill to be passed by the Senate. The Bill would restore arrangements similar to those that were successful between 2005 and 2009, when a strong regulator (the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner), a strong code and appropriate penalties for non-compliance were in place. During this period the construction industry had never been a better place to work and invest, and the rule of law prevailed.

The watering down from 2009 of the powers of the federal construction industry regulator, the absence of an effective federal construction code and a huge reduction in penalties has led to the unacceptable practices of the past returning to construction sites. The state codes in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have reduced somewhat the damaging effects of the watering down, but the abolition of the Victorian Code will now embolden unions.

There are a number of major industry-wide pattern agreements that are currently being negotiated and federal and state codes play a critical role in preventing a raft of unproductive provisions being included in these agreements and implemented across the construction industry at great cost to the community. Experience has shown that employers will not concede damaging enterprise agreement clauses or implement unproductive site practices if they are locked out of Government construction work as a consequence.

The maintenance of strong construction industry codes was a key recommendation of the Cole Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry, the Gyles Royal Commission in New South Wales, and the recent Productivity Commission inquiry into Public Infrastructure.

Ai Group has called for every Senator to support the passage of the Bill, which has been the subject of two Senate inquiries in which Ai Group was also heavily involved.

Do you work in Construction? Has the watering down of industry IR regulation impacted you and your business? Share your thoughts below.

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Stephen Smith
Ai Group's Head of National Workplace Relations Policy, Stephen Smith is responsible for workplace relations policy development and advocacy. He regularly represents industry’s views to governments and opposition parties, and in numerous inquiries and major cases. He is Special Counsel for, and Chairman of the Board of, Ai Group Workplace Lawyers, a national law firm operated by Ai Group.

2 Comments

  1. Jack Schwarz

    Thanks for sharing useful information on developing story related to the construction industry. Find it very useful for any construction firm.

    Reply
    1. Stephen SmithStephen Smith (Post author)

      Thanks for your feedback Jack. Ai Group is continuing to press all Senators to support the passage of the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill through Parliament. A relevant recent media release can be found here: http://www.aigroup.com.au/link/n3

      Reply

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