Unions will today call on the Federal Government to take immediate action to reduce deaths in the construction industry and repeal laws that discriminate against building workers.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard will address more than five hundred union delegates at the triennial ACTU Congress meeting in Brisbane today.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the Federal Government was failing in its duty to protect the families of workers in the construction industry.

“More than 40 workers have died on construction sites in the past year – including several in Queensland.

“Every one of these deaths is a tragedy that affects families, friends, workmates and the whole community.

“The high level of deaths and injuries in the construction industry is a national disgrace and yet safety standards have got worse in the period the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has operated.

“In the four years since the Howard Government set it up to pursue an anti-union political agenda, the ABCC has failed to adequately deal with employers who break the law or cut corners on safety.

Unions have pledged to support South Australian construction worker, rigger Ark Tribe, who has been charged for refusing to attend an ABCC interview.

Mr Tribe has refused to tell ABCC investigators about a union meeting held over persistent safety breaches at an Adelaide construction site.

Mr Lawrence said it was important the Federal Government delivered on ALP policy to abolish discriminatory laws and it should abandon its plans to retain a separate inspectorate for building workers in the new Fair Work Australia.

“No group of workers should be subject to discriminatory laws and coercive interrogation powers have no role in industrial relations in a modern democracy,” said Mr Lawrence.