Grace Collier has an important piece in the Australian today where she blows the whistle on some of the practices in the Australian construction industry. She focuses particularly the egregious (surely illegal?) behaviour of head contractors forcing subcontractors into damaging (often bankrupting) arrangements with their workers because the CFMEU has insisted this happen (so-called ‘jump up’ clauses).
She also raises the issues of why the ACCC does not intervene or the police act to remove picketers from blocking access to businesses.
These are legitimate questions and I am not sure I know all the answers. But:
- There must be something in the Fair Work Act that prevents third parties from imposing additional conditions on an employer when there is a current enterprise agreement. But I guess there needs to be complaint lodged by which time the subcontractor is out of business and, any complaint would probably mean the end of any return to the construction business for that subcontractor.
- Why has the ACCC not acted in relation to the CFMEU’s behaviour in respect of Boral? The CFMEU have a dispute with Grocon; Boral supply Grocon; and the CFMEU is directing persons to block the delivery of wet concrete by Boral to Grocon sites. Surely this is classic secondary boycott and yet the ACCC has done absolutely nothing.
- As to the police, certainly in the case of Victoria, the influence of Christine Nixon lives on. She cunningly altered the guidelines in respect of handling industrial pickets. According to the Nixon rules, as long as the picket is peaceful, the police will not intervene even if all access to a business is being prevented. This was the case with Baiada, the chicken processing factory, and lead to a loss in the millions for the company. And there are plenty of other examples.
You will all be pleased to know that the ACCC’s highest priority at the moment is on-line restaurant reviews. In the meantime, the rights of honest business people are being crushed, businesses are destroyed, lawlessness is encouraged and construction costs are significantly inflated. Good one, Rod.