The Guardian June 26, 2002


CFMEU takes Abbott to task over MCG funding

by Janice Hamilton

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott's bid to require States to bow to 
federal industrial relations rules on federally funded construction 
projects is facing its own legal challenge. The Building and Construction 
Union (CFMEU) is applying to the Federal Court for orders declaring the 
Government's National Construction Industry Code of Practice and associated 
guidelines in breach of the Workplace Relations Act. These are the same 
"rules" Abbott attempted to impose on Commonwealth Games construction 
projects in Melbourne, leading to his withdrawal of funding for Melbourne 
Cricket Ground (MCG) renovations.

The CFMEU is arguing that the code and guidelines amount to: unlawful 
coercion by threatening to ban builders from government jobs, and is a 
breach of Freedom of Association laws by discriminating against union 
members and delegates over their union activities.

The union also argues that: the Employment Advocate's role in policing the 
code and guidelines is beyond his powers under the Workplace Relations Act.

Tony Abbott's threat is to make all federal construction funding 
conditional on State Governments implementing the Federal Government's 
rules is an attempt to pressgang the States into joining his ideological 
crusade against the CFMEU and its members.

Meanwhile in NSW, the Royal Commission into the building industry is still 
sitting. Under considerable public pressure, the Commissioner asked the 
union to nominate sites that he should inspect.

The union did. When the builder at 38 Marlborough St, Flemington, declined 
to co-operate, Cole opted for a guided tour around Grocon's Manning House 
development in inner city Pitt St.

Workcover have issued fines, prohibition and improvement notices against 
the Flemington site which Building Industry Royal Commissioner Terence Cole 
refused to visit.

If he had paid a visit, he would have found a handful of workers keeping 
union membership under wraps for fear of repercussions.

Between them, the builder and sub-contractors, received three prohibition 
notices, two improvement notices and two fines for occupational health and 
safety breaches.

It is also a shame that he declined to visit the adjoining site as 
suggested by the CFMEU, which state government safety officers have shut 
down

It was worse next door. Inspectors closed the job, giving notice of their 
intention to issue six improvement notices, four prohibition notices and 
level thousands of dollars in fines.

It seems that Commissioner Cole does not want to see the issues that effect 
workers every day.

The CFMEU has asked the Royal Commission to subpoena all relevant 
documentation relating to payments to contractors on these site i.e. 
contract payments, wage and time records, taxation and superannuation 
payments.

"In terms of safety, the CFMEU seeks that you subpoena footage from Channel 
Ten (not screened on TV) taken on Sunday June 16, 2002. This footage will 
verify to the Royal Commission the appalling safety standards on this 
site."

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