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Issue #1755      November 2, 2016

Stark bias

The Fair Work Building Commission (FWBC) has come under criticism by the CFMEU for its continued partisan behaviour following the tabling of its annual report in Parliament last week.

National CFMEU Construction secretary Dave Noonan said the report – designed to inform the parliament about the FWBC’s performance and activities – was notable for what it did not contain.

“It is nothing but a piece of propaganda written specifically to serve the political purposes of the Turnbull government. The report highlights the high number of legal proceedings but it does not say that none of them are against employers who break the law.

“It also does not mention the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s criticisms of the methods deployed by the FWBC – in particular that the agency breached confidentiality and used questionable interviewing methods.

“There is also no mention of the fact that the FWBC cut funding to the Ombudsman – the body that monitors its coercive powers.”

Noonan said a more honest and representative report that would show the bias of the FWBC would contain the following facts:

  • Number of employers prosecuted by FWBC for non-payment or underpayment of wages and entitlements or sham contracting – zero.
  • Number of employers referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman for wages and entitlements breaches – one.
  • Number of employers prosecuted for victimising workers for exercising their right to be union members – zero (not in annual report but likely, based on FWBC approach)
  • Number of employers referred to Dept of Immigration and Border Protection for suspected immigration breach – one.
  • Number of OHS referrals to state authorities – two.
  • Number of referrals from trade union royal commission to FWBC – 16
  • Number still under investigation – 6.
  • Amount of taxpayer’s money spent on legal expenses prosecuting workers and unions in one year $8 million (up from $3.4 million in the previous year) including $3.3m to Clayton Utz alone.
  • About one third of all the FWBC inquiries are about matters other than the ones they “focus” on and consider their “core business” (i.e. union/worker breaches for industrial action, right of entry, coercion and freedom of association). They either refer these matters to other bodies or take no further action. Another one third of all investigations relate to alleged breaches of the highly prescriptive right of entry laws by union officials.
  • FWBC approach to employer compliance with Building Code including drug and alcohol requirements – “FWBC assisted contractors to voluntarily rectify issues to achieve compliance.” Compare to highly litigious approach for workers/unions.
  • Number of times the FWBC Advisory Board met during the year – not reported (but understood to be zero). Number of recommendations from Advisory Board to FWBC – zero.
  • Total cost of ABCC/FWBC to Australian taxpayers so far exceeds a quarter of a billion dollars.

Next article – Armed guards and intimidation tactics

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