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Education and Employment Legislation Committee

KLUKTEWICZ, Mr Wladyslaw, Manager, Group Corporate Affairs and Industrial Relations, Brickworks Limited


CHAIR: Welcome. I invite you to make a short opening statement, and at the conclusion of your remarks I'll invite members of the committee to ask questions.

Mr Kluktewicz : Just to give you an update or a feeling of what Brickworks are and who we are, Brickworks is an ASX 200 company. We have approximately 32 manufacturing sites across Australia with 1,500 employees. Austral Bricks has been in production making bricks since 1908. Our business in Australia is broken up into a number of specific areas. We have a property development group and we're also tied into an investment arm with Soul Pattinson. But primarily the 32 manufacturing sites, where the majority of our employees are employed, cover areas like Austral Bricks, with operations in Brisbane, in Queensland, and we have a number of operations in Sydney, in Victoria, in Longford in Tasmania, in South Australia and in WA. That's our manufacturing of bricks.

Then we have operations in masonry. They're basically from Cairns all the way down the east coast, and we have a site in Perth in WA called Urbanstone, at Jolimont. We have operations in pre-cast concrete. They are located in Brisbane, Sydney and WA. Pre-cast concrete is the heavy construction area. We also have roofing operations in Victoria and Queensland, and we currently still have timber operations. We have a number of known brands, like Daniel Robertson, Nubrik and GB Masonry. That's the Australian operations.

In December last year the business bought an operation in Glengarry in Pennsylvania in the US. There are 10 sites in the US—five in Pennsylvania, and then they're scattered across Maryland, Vermont and Kansas. And just a few weeks ago we bought two sites in Sioux City, Iowa. We're now an international company and we have nearly 2,500 employees across our business.

Just to give you a picture of what's happened in the business over my short time of 15 years of being in the business: when I came into the business we had 60 per cent unionisation, and that's changed dramatically. We're down to about 28 per cent. We currently have in our operations, as I explained earlier, 32 sites. Out of those sites we have six businesses, or operations, that have unionised enterprise agreements. We have 12 operations that have non-unionised agreements, and the rest of the businesses are covered by awards.

So there's been a change in the structure of the union coverage of our operations. The unions that we predominantly have in our space are the CFMMEU, the AMWU, the ETU, the TWU and the AWU. The unions in New South Wales are the CFMMEU and the AWU, and in Victoria they are the AWU, the CFMMEU and the TWU. Generally, our relationships with the unions in negotiating enterprise agreements and having discussions have been pretty good. Yes, there's been a move at a lot of sites to non-union agreements. They don't want to deal with the unions, and that's fine. We don't have any problems if people want to be in the union or not in the union. We're noticing that there's a real push away from the union movement for people to negotiate their own enterprise agreements, and I suppose it's an aspect of the Fair Work Act and the enterprise agreement process that allows people to do that.

At times in our history with the unions, some rogue unions have taken advantage of the right-of-entry options and really pushed the envelope to the point. We had a matter a number of years ago that went to the Fair Work Commission. It was a right-of-entry situation at one of our sites in Victoria. It went to a deputy president and he had to make a decision about right of entry. We've got a current matter before the Australian Building and Construction Commission based on a right of entry. A number of officials came into the site, and that's under investigation in privilege.

So the reason Brickworks wanted to make a point here is that we generally have good relationships with unions. We deal with them. Our concerns are the ones that take advantage and push the envelope right to the limit. In doing that, they actually tie up the resources of our management, tie up the resources of us trying to go to the commission and so on. We're saying we're supporting a form of regulatory body for the unions to sort of tie in these rogue union officials. As I said, there are not that many around. Tony Sheldon is from the TWU in the New South Wales area, and I know him quite well. We have a good relationship. We can talk things through. It's when it becomes negative, it affects the people and there's intimidation and harassment. That's when it becomes an issue. So that's what we're putting on the table and will be supporting.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator SHELDON: Thank you for joining us today. You're not a registered organisation, are you?

Mr Kluktewicz : No, we're a company under the Corporations Act—an ASX 200 organisation.

Senator SHELDON: One of the businesses that Brickworks also has is a land and development business.

Mr Kluktewicz : That's separate. Yes, that's part of the Brickworks stable if you want to make that comment.

Senator SHELDON: And they're prohibited donors to political parties in the state of New South Wales and elsewhere?

Mr Kluktewicz : That's right.

Senator SHELDON: And that was largely due to the undue influence of developers from various instances. Parliament decided to single out that category of business to be unable to donate to political parties.

Mr Kluktewicz : That's the current legislation. That's correct.

Senator SHELDON: Brickworks appeared in the 2014 New South Wales ICAC regarding illegal donations.

Mr Kluktewicz : I don't know what that has to do with this situation.

Senator SHELDON: We're trying to develop an understanding of the evidence that you're giving and the validity of the evidence you're giving on behalf of Brickworks. I gather it's not on your own behalf; it's on behalf of Brickworks.

Mr Kluktewicz : Yes, there was an ICAC matter. I can say that.

Senator SHELDON: Why was Brickworks called before ICAC?

Mr Kluktewicz : I don't know the full details. I can't answer that. I'm sorry.

Senator SHELDON: We'll put that part of it on notice. Are there any donors from Brickworks to the Liberal Party?

Mr Kluktewicz : We don't donate to the Liberal Party.

Senator SHELDON: Does that include Director Lindsay Partridge?

Mr Kluktewicz : We do not donate. Under the current legislation, we don't donate. We have a policy in place that no individual person donates to the Liberal Party or to a—let me clarify that: to a political party.

Senator SHELDON: Is that now or is that post the series of breaches that were found in 2014 that resulted in a number of Liberal Party MPs in New South Wales being stood down?

Mr Kluktewicz : We have implemented, following the legislation, the appropriate policies in place to make sure that there are no political donations.

Senator SHELDON: I'm trying to be clearer about what your interest in the bill is now, because the bill doesn't affect you. You're not a registered organisation.

Mr Kluktewicz : That's correct. The impact is where we're supporting the legislation to tighten the regulatory situation for unions in dealing with our operations.

Senator SHELDON: So you're concerned about unions—I'm using your words—'pushing the envelope to the limit'.

Mr Kluktewicz : That's right.

Senator SHELDON: Can you explain that a bit more?

Mr Kluktewicz : I can go back to a matter that went before the Fair Work Commission that Deputy President Gostencnik dealt with. That was related to right of entry. The union pushed the right of entry to a point. That was at a site that was non-union—sorry; it was a predominantly non-union site with one or two union members, and they pushed to come on the site not once but a number of times, so we took the matter to the Fair Work Commission. That dealt with it at that point in time. Given other site, we deal with other unions—

Senator SHELDON: Thank you. So your concern is that unions want to talk to non-unionised workers and that that's pushing to the limit, and this bill will assist you in dealing with that pushing to the limit?

Mr Kluktewicz : I think it deals with those rogue union officials that want to come to a site—

CHAIR: Lawbreaking.

Mr Kluktewicz : No, I'm not saying lawbreaking.

Senator SHELDON: Wait a second. The evidence given was 'pushing to the limit', and he's saying he's sitting in here to tell us he wants to deal with unions who want to talk to non-unionised workers, because they're pushing to the limit. That is clearly what he's saying. It is very clear what he is saying.

CHAIR: That's not what he said.

Senator SHELDON: I'm using his words, not yours: 'pushing the envelope to the limit'. That is an area of concern. He sees that his interest is dealing with that issue. That's what this bill does.

Mr Kluktewicz : Could I clarify that issue? I think maybe you misinterpreted what I said.

Senator SHELDON: I heard what you said.

Mr Kluktewicz : What I said is that we have a good working relationship with the union officials on all sides. There are some times when the unions—some officials—take advantage of the situation and push the issue beyond the normality of just coming to a site to visit a site. They want to come to the site, they come onto the site and we don't have a problem with coming to visit non-union people. There are no issues. But, if non-union people don't want to be in that meeting, they shouldn't be intimidated by those people.

Senator SHELDON: That is not evidence that you've given. You need to give detailed evidence—

CHAIR: Sorry, Senator; we're going to go to Senator Davey now.

Senator SHELDON: All right.

Senator DAVEY: I would say that that is evidence that I've heard this morning. I've heard you say, Wally, that, as a general rule, you get on well with most unions. I heard you say earlier that the biggest issue is when bullying and harassment tactics are used. That is your concern. As an employer whose interest in this bill is clearly in your ability to do business, can you be a bit more clear in the examples of some of these tactics that unions have used which have tied up your resources?

Mr Kluktewicz : I go back to the matter that went before the Fair Work Commission, which is on the public record, so I can make that comment. The union not once but a number of times sought access to the site. We said, 'No, you can't come, because there are non-union people in the lunch room and the people in the lunch room didn't want to have the union there.' That became the lunch room issue, which in the Fair Work Act says is the default room. We took that to Deputy President Gostencnik, and he gave a decision in our favour. The issue with that, obviously, is that regulations have changed and the lunch room became a see to talk room anyway. So what happens is that people sometimes don't want to sit down with a union official to talk about union rights, membership and so on. They want to have the ability to have their lunch in peace. What we're saying is that, generally, I have had situations with a number of unions, and there have been no issues. We sit down, talk about it and say, 'Do you want to go to this room?' and they sit in a room. So our problem there is that some unions take advantage of the situation and push the talk process, and other unions work with us and say: 'Okay. We're going to talk to the people. We'll sit in a room. We'll talk through it.' That's the point I was trying to make.

Senator DAVEY: In those instances, how does it impact on your ability as an employer and a business to conduct your business?

Mr Kluktewicz : Say a union official comes to your site and says: 'We need to have a meeting. We've got non-union people. We don't know who you are or what they are.' We say: 'We think you have the right covered by your rules. We'll make a room available for you.' They sit down in a room. They sit there for a couple hours while the people who want to talk to them come in. That's fine. It's where they come into the site and say, 'We want to sit down with non-union people.' What happens is tensions occur, and it takes management time. Management will generally let a union that has a good working relationship sit there and talk with their people. They don't worry about it. But, when there is tension and other people have tension in the workplace, people put in complaints about the union being there. It's not something they should be dealing with every day in their workplace, and that's the problem we have.

Senator DAVEY: You've mentioned the particular case that went before the Fair Work Commission. Do you think the existing penalties that apply against unions are enough to prevent that sort of, in your words, rogue behaviour?

Mr Kluktewicz : We had a situation just recently. The matter is before the Australian Building and Construction Commission. I can't comment on it, because it's covered by privilege and confidentiality. But it doesn't detract. We need to have something not to control but so there are some consequences for some of the actions that they take. As I've said, generally, we have no issues with 99 per cent of the union officials we deal with, and we worked quite well with them. There are just one or two who do some silly things.

Senator DAVEY: Finally—my last question of the morning, I think—we've heard a lot from the unions about their fears that this bill will just lead to employers lodging applications for disqualification of a union official for what the unions see as trivial matters.

Senator SHELDON: Yes, when unions push the envelope, it's a—

CHAIR: Senator, please.

Mr Kluktewicz : The thing is we probably would not do that. We had a situation last year with an enterprise agreement where we went really close to industrial action, people taking strike action, in a place that normally didn't have it. We finally sorted it out and we sat down and talked it through. I think, generally, if you can talk it through and work it through with the union officials and other people, you can resolve the issue. It's when it becomes hard-nosed and you can't get across the line, and that's the problem that we're faced with sometimes.

CHAIR: Okay. I might just—

Senator URQUHART: Chair, can I just—


Senator URQUHART: I've just got one very quick—

CHAIR: No, it's 20 past, sorry. We've got to be strict here with timing.

Senator URQUHART: It was just in relation to the ABCC and whether that issue was resolved.


Mr Kluktewicz : No, it's not.

CHAIR: The committee will now suspend and recommence at 10.30. Thank you for coming along today.

Mr Kluktewicz : Thank you, senators, for your time.

Proceedings suspended from 10 : 21 to 10 : 30