The ACTU has welcomed the announcement that the head of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) will not seek reappointment when his term expires in September.

The ABCC was set up by the Howard Government and has been an abject failure. It should now be abolished, said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.

“Under John Lloyd the ABCC has engaged in politically partisan behaviour that is inconsistent with its obligations as a statutory body.

“Earlier this year a major report by the International Labour organisation (ILO) found the Australian Building and Construction Commission is in breach of international laws and fails to protect workers.

“International industrial laws are intended to protect the rights of workers, not persecute them,” said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.

“Yet this is precisely what the ABCC does. Overwhelmingly, the ABCC has investigated and prosecuted workers rather than employers.

“The ABCC has wasted millions of dollars while health and safety in the construction industry has not improved.

“There should be one set of laws for all workers, regardless of the industry they work in.

“We remain absolutely opposed to the continuation of coercive powers that impinge upon the civil liberties and the right to be members of a union.

In its report released in March 2010, the ILO’s Committee of Experts said the ABCC was likely to be in breach of a number of international labour standards, including freedom of association, the right to organise and collective bargaining. The report said:

The Committee considers that the prosecution of workers does not constitute part of the primary duties of inspectors and may not only seriously interfere with the effective discharge of their primary duties – which should be centred on the protection of workers under Article 3 of the Convention – but also prejudice the authority and impartiality necessary in the relations between inspectors and employers and workers.
Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, ILO, 2010, p. 490

Mr Lawrence said the ABCC had been set up by the Howard Government, and until it was abolished, part of WorkChoices would live on.

“The ABCC undermines the rights of 900,000 hardworking Australians who every day risk their lives on building sites around the nation and play a major role in driving the economy.

“We need to make the construction industry one in which people want to work and are respected for their contribution.

“Any government law enforcement agencies should be focused on policing safety and workplace rights, not prosecuting workers for exercising their workplace rights.”