Parliament House Canberra

The Civil Contractors Federation National (CCF) has vehemently disapproved of recent amendments to the Secure Jobs Better Pay Bill introduced in the House of Representatives, calling the changes a risk to private investment and thousands of jobs. 

CCF National CEO, Chris Melham, said the industrial relations bill, introduced on 9 November should not pass the Parliament in its current form.

“It would put at risk private sector investment that currently comprises approximately 50 per cent of Australia’s annual $84 billion civil infrastructure investment pipeline and will inevitably cost thousands of employees their jobs at a time when the economy desperately needs a productive and efficient sector to contribute to Australia’s economy,” Mr Melham said. 

The Federal Government proposed an amendment which redefined the meaning of ‘Building and Construction’ and removed the multi-employer bargaining exemption from civil construction. 

The CCF said this amendment puts the IR Bill at odds with the Building and Construction General On-site Award 2020. As a result, the two pieces of legislation are now at odds with each other regarding ‘coverage’. 

“This ill-considered policy on the run approach is regulatory discrimination that will cause serious disruption to Australia’s infrastructure sector (caused by wide spread industrial strikes when there is a disagreement) including the construction of Australia’s roads, railways, bridges, pipelines and the utilities sector,” Mr Melham said. 

“The ripple effect up and down the construction supply chain is going to bring some of Australia’s most important sectors to a standstill, including transport. 

“The Bill must exclude civil construction from the multi-employer bargaining in all cases as defined in the Building and Construction General On-site Award 2020

The CCF said the sector is amongst the highest paying and certainly does not fit within the government’s Bill criteria of applying to “low paid” industries.

“CCF supports an effective industrial relations framework that enhances productivity by minimising workplace and workforce disruptions, however, the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill 2022 falls far short of meeting this objective. Rather, it would act as a drag on productivity which is one of the key problems facing the civil construction industry.” 

Mr Melham said a large number of contractors negotiate directly with their employees, however, the multi-employer bargaining provisions appear to give preferential representative and bargaining rights to unions whether sought by employees concerned or not. 

The civil construction industry is unique, in comparison to other building and construction industries, in regard to the distribution of bargaining power amongst employers. 

According to the CCF, civil construction has a small number of large companies with very strong bargaining power and a huge number of small business employers without any real bargaining power which creates a perfect environment via pattern bargaining for abuse of small businesses and consequently their elimination from the market. 

“The Government’s “one size fits all” pattern dealing approach to bargaining will stifle competitiveness and innovation at the enterprise level and will inevitably benefit large business at the expense of smaller businesses,” Mr Melham said. 

“We reiterate our call for proper scrutiny of this Bill through genuine consultation with affected industry groups.

“CCF calls on the Senate to block these proposed changes until there is a thorough examination of their potential effect on industry.”

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