"The announcement today by the Federal Government that the Building Code will be stripped back to the bare minimum required by the ABCC Act is of great concern to businesses and should be of great concern to the broader community. It is a backwards step for the fight against bullying and intimidation and will add costs and delays to vital community infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and schools," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.
"The Building Code is playing a vital role in ensuring that all participants in the construction industry comply with industrial laws and maintain high standards of work health and safety.
"How can it be a positive or appropriate step to abolish the drug and alcohol testing requirements that apply on projects funded by the Federal Government? Workers should not have to risk their lives or limbs by working alongside other workers who are impaired by drugs or alcohol. Prior to the implementation of the requirements in the Building Code, the CFMMEU were often not supportive of appropriate drug and alcohol testing requirements. The argument that the matter is being handed back to State WHS authorities fails to recognise that State WHS laws do not expressly require that drug and alcohol testing is implemented and hence enables the unions to oppose such testing.
"In addition, the Building Code and the ABCC are playing a critical role in addressing bullying and intimidation by union officials on building sites. There are major skill and labour shortages in the construction industry and it is of course difficult to attract people into the industry, including women and young people, without a respectful work environment.
"A key recommendation of the Gyles Royal Commission in New South Wales and the Cole Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry was the importance of using the purchasing power of Governments to stimulate reform and ensure that all participants in the construction industry operate within the law. Unions in the construction industry routinely use the commercial risk faced by contractors as a lever to secure industrial concessions. Without proper regulation, including through the Building Code, this drives up project costs and impedes the ability of Governments to deliver vital community infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and schools.
"Ai Group urges the Government to embark upon a thorough consultation process with all stakeholders prior to gutting or abolishing the Building Code," Mr Willox said.
Tony Melville – 0419 190 347