February 17, 2017

In passing the so called Building Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Amendment Bill, the Government and Senate crossbenchers have denied workers in the building and construction industry the same rights and entitlements afforded to workers in every other sector of our economy.
They have thrown the construction industry into chaos by effectively eliminating the transition period for companies to become compliant with the Building Code, despite the Minister and the Prime Minister assuring the industry on 2 December last year that they had until 29 November 2018 to do so.
The draconian Building Code will result in less apprentices and more temporary work visa holders on building and construction sites.
It will limit the ability to negotiate on things like Australian made content for protective clothing or asbestos safety training.
Despite trumpeting their support for apprentices, Australian jobs, and workplace safety, Senator Xenophon, Senator Hinch, and One Nation have capitulated to the Government’s anti-worker agenda and supported legislation which will throw the construction industry into immediate chaos and will harm Australian workers.
As the guardian of workers’ rights, Labor offered a number of amendments to the Bill that if accepted would go some way to protecting Australian workers in the building industry from this unfair attack. Unfortunately the Government and the Senate crossbenchers decided against supporting Australian workers.
We must look at what this Government does, not what they say.
Labor’s amendments, introduced yesterday, would have ensured:
• That enterprise agreements could specify the number of apprentices employed; that employees can lawfully work in Australia; that foreign workers are made redundant before Australian workers; that best endeavours are undertaken to use Australian made uniforms; and that accredited asbestos awareness training is covered in agreements.  
• That the essential services industry is exempt from the Code.
• That the Code must be consistent with the Fair Work Act.
The building and construction industry now only has until 1 September, 2017 to attempt to renegotiate enterprise agreements, which were made in good faith and in compliance with the law. The Minister was unable to tell the Senate during debate last night how many enterprise agreements would have to be renegotiated – it could be as many as tens of thousands. The Minister also had no idea whether the Fair Work Commission had the capacity to approve that many renegotiated agreements in that time frame.
The ABCC legislation is bad legislation. When the ABCC was last in place, worker fatalities went up and productivity went down. The Code will only make matters worse.

The Turnbull Government will stop at nothing to further its anti-worker agenda.