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Building industry might use pilots' dispute precedents

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"Commercial builders might wish to take advantage of some of the industrial relations precedents established by the Hawke Government's handling of the pilots' d i s p u t e " , the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Senator Fred Chaney, said t o d a y .

"The next time builders in the commercial sector are subject to the sort of industrial banditry that for so long has disrupted their industry they could consider the following steps", he said.

"For instance, they could ask the Government to allow the entry of skilled building workers from overseas to break any strike or side-step any of the absurd bans and restrictive work practices which are regularly applied to major building sites.

"As m y colleague, Senator John Stone, pointed out last week we assume the Government, consistent with its approach to the pilots' dispute, would approve the entry of foreign workers to break industrial action on the Australian w a t e r f r o n t .

"Commercial builders might reasonably expect they, too, would have speedy access to overseas labour s o u r c e s .

"They would also, naturally, expect the Prime Minister and his relevant Ministers to totally support the use of common law or Trade Practices remedies against any union which holds their industry to ransom.

"These are the doors which have been opened by the Government's handling of the pilots' dispute.

"I guarantee they will be slammed shut on any other employer who might try to go down the same path when facing a campaign by a

major ACTU affiliate such as the Building Workers' Industrial U n i o n ."

Senator Chaney was speaking at the annual Congress of the Building Industry Specialist Contractors Organisation of Australia (BISCOA) in Melbourne.

"Leaving aside what might be learnt from the current pilots' dispute, the fact that an industrial relations revolution is possible in the building industry is demonstrated by a recent Federal Court decision", he said.

"This industry suffers from some of the worst elements of Australian industrial relations.

But it is an industry of contrasts. COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH


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"The commercial building sector is plagued by disputes and restrictive work practices.

"On the other hand, the home building sector, where most people work as sub-contractors without destructive union intervention, is probably the most efficient in the world.

"The fact is that the industrial relations structure in the commercial building industry prevents the efficient operation of sub-contractors working in that sector.

"While most workers in the construction industry are employed by specialist sub contractors, negotiations over pay and conditions are dominated by the representatives of a handful of large building companies - who themselves employ very few workers.

"Stoppages over alleged health and safety issues and other restrictive work practices abound.

"A recent Federal Court decision offers the prospect of turning this approach on its head by extending the principles of the contracting system right through to the ordinary worker, thus potentially extending the efficiency of the housing sector to the rest of the industry.

"The decision by Justice Woodward upholds the right of tradesmen and labourers to work as independent contractors, while obtaining work through a labour agency - Troubleshooters in this case.

"This system provides both workers and companies with maximum flexibility.

"It gives workers a real opportunity to control their own lives. As contractors they can choose their jobs and set their own patterns of work.

"Builders k now that they will be getting committed workers who are keen to do a good job.

"The result is higher productivity for the builder and better pay for the worker.

"The unions are not keen on this sort of arrangement because their real strength lies in doing deals with a handful of large building companies.

"But for ordinary workers and subcontractors in the building industry it provides terrific opportunities. And for the community as a whole it offers the prospect of lower building co s t s .

"Building industry subcontractors can be assured that the next Coalition government will do all in its power to protect and extend the independent contracting system."

MELBOURNE 19 September 1989 Contact: Keith Kessell (03) 614 2826