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AWU welcomes first step in scrapping ABCC

July 25, 2022

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has moved to curb the worst aspects of the Australian Building and Construction Commission’s draconian powers in a move welcomed by the AWU.

Mr Burke said that under a new Interim Building Code, the ABCC’s powers would be “pulled back to the bare legal minimum” and its “most ridiculous” powers would be scrapped, with legitimate responsibilities handed to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

He said the change was a “down payment” on the Albanese Government’s commitment to abolish the “totally unnecessary” institution, ahead of the introduction of legislation by the end of the year.

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton says the union had long opposed the ABCC, which was re-established by the Turnbull Government in 2016 in what many regarded as a purely union-bashing exercise.

Mr Walton said that since then construction industry employers and workers on government-funded building jobs had been subject to restrictions that didn’t apply to people in any other industries.

“The ABCC was one of the ideological projects of the Coalition Government, which spent nearly a decade attacking unions and suppressing wages,” Mr Walton said.

“George Orwell could not have dreamt up a better piece of legislation than the ABCC’s.

“The ABCC literally went as far as restricting what stickers a construction worker could wear on their hardhat, or what union material could be posted on noticeboards on site.”

The revised construction code removes the restrictions selectively applied to construction workers, including prohibited enterprise agreement content requirements that are not imposed on other workers under the Fair Work Act.

Building and construction workers will now be able to freely bargain in the same way as other workers, including for agreements that include clauses promoting job security, job safety, and jobs for apprentices.

“The construction industry is going through a massive labour shortage, but the ABCC code did not even allow unions to bargain for minimum apprentice levels or provisions that ensured that workers’ jobs wouldn’t be contracted out to the lowest bidder,” Mr Walton said.

“The industry needs more apprentices working. Even business groups, which almost always advocate for increased migration when it comes to labour shortages, admit migration isn’t the solution here. That is very telling.

“The AWU now looks forward to being able to advocate for more apprentices on our major construction sites.”

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