Big construction companies and property developers are crying crocodile tears over the new building industry watchdog that will benefit them at the expense of workers’ rights, say unions.
Commenting on the release of new legislation today, ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said rather than pretending to be disappointed, business groups should be honest and admit that they stand to gain from the proposed laws that threaten innocent workers with six months jail.
“The Australian Building and Construction Commission was introduced by the Howard Government to favour the property industry and to undermine the rights of construction workers,” Mr Lawrence said.
“The new Building Industry Inspectorate and accompanying legislation will retain much of the coercive powers and unfair treatment that existed alongside the Howard Government’s WorkChoices.
“Under the proposed new laws introduced into Parliament today, workers who are not accused of any wrongdoing still face a jail sentence of up to six months if they fail to attend an interview or answer the questions of the inspectorate.
“This could prevent workers on building sites from speaking out when when a situation is unsafe or unfair, and could lead to lower safety standards in an already-dangerous industry.
Business groups should also cease misleading the public with wildly exaggerated claims about the nature of the construction industry, Mr Lawrence said.
He said there are more than 900,000 people employed in Australia’s construction industry.
“These workers are driving Australia’s economic recovery and are the key to implementing the Government’s stimulus package: they deserve more respect.
“It is highly misleading to say special laws are needed for the construction industry to deal with alleged violence and intimidation when these issues are criminal matters,  unrelated to industrial law and outside the remit of the ABCC or the proposed new inspectorate,” said Mr Lawrence.
Unions have pledged to continue campaigning for equal rights for construction workers and an end to coercive powers in the industry.