The sixth and last of my Research Reports into Workplace Relations in the Resources Sector that I have been doing for the Australian Mines and Metals Association since 2010 was released today. And what a dismal story it tells. There are a number of features that really do highlight just how damaging union activity has been since the introduction of the Fair Work Act but the section in this report I found the most astonishing were the results on trying to get a new project under way which is referred to in the industry as a greenfield site. Here is the key question:
Q: Has a union refused to make a [greenfield] agreement when you have sought to reach one? And the results:
Comments were sought on the risks involved in starting up a new project without a greenfield agreement in place? The most telling replies:
“This is possibly a show-stopper for all major projects. IR disruption is a significant risk and investors would be unlikely to provide capital on this basis.”
“A new project is at significant risk without greenfields agreements (for all contractors and subbies). The risk is significant enough to stall or kill off projects.”
“Given increasing union militancy, commencing or even pricing a project without having fixed labour rates via a binding agreement would be extremely risky.”
“Our clients would not support work without an enterprise agreement or steps to implement one in place.”
“For us it would be contract rather than project. Given slender margins, you would be giving the unions the ability to hold you to ransom at risk of bankrupting the business.”
“No certainty around terms and conditions, labour costs, etc.”
“We may literally not be able to submit a complying tender to our clients.”
“Protected industrial action, no certainty of costs.”
“All risks that you could possibly think of in terms of industrial action and breaches.”
“Schedule delay and budget blowout.”
“It was a much better system when you could have a greenfields agreement without the union. It gave you a number of years to work with your workforce minus the union influence.”
The dreadful and deteriorating productivity of the sector is also an ongoing concern with the latest results showing a large downwards shift from the already pretty low rate of productivity recorded in earlier survey results.
You can also read the report on the survey in today’s Australian here.