An important new report by Murray Wilcox QC released today confirms that the Howard Government’s building industry watchdog discriminates against construction workers and infringes on their rights.
The ABCC has draconian powers that include the ability to summons any person to give evidence and it is an offence, punishable by up to six month’s jail to refuse to give evidence.
The report comments on Howard Government industrial relations legislation which is still in place, with Mr Wilcox finding: “These rules treat building workers more harshly than people in other industries.”
Mr Wilcox also finds evidence that the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) — the watchdog created by the Howard Government — has not acted fairly, but has taken a one-sided approach that does not respect the rights of workers or union members.
Mr Wilcox questions the need for interrogation powers by the ABCC and raises concerns about a lack of oversight for the body.
Mr Wilcox also expresses doubt over the veracity of claims by building industry employers that productivity has improved since the ABCC was established.
ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said:
“This report confirms what construction workers and their unions have been saying about the unfair and discriminatory Howard Government building industry laws and the ABCC.
“The unprecedented coercive powers of the ABCC have no place in a modern society,” Mr Lawrence said.
“It is abhorrent that construction workers are treated like criminals by these laws and can face jail simply for observing the right to silence.
“All Australian workers should be subject to the same set of laws, no matter what industry they work in.”
“This report adds weight to union demands for the immediate abolition of the ABCC and the urgent revision of the Building and Construction Industry Code,” said Mr Lawrence.
Mr Lawrence said any specialist division of Fair Work Australia must provide for equal rights for construction workers.