Construction safety at centre of ABCC re-establishment debate

Construction site safety is an important part of the ongoing ABCC debate.

Construction site safety is an important part of the ongoing ABCC debate.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has reaffirmed its commitment to fight against the proposed re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week called for the ABCC – which was abolished on 31 May 2011 – to be re-established in an effort to improve construction productivity and reduce the amount of power the CFMEU has over the industry.

However, CFMEU Construction National Secretary Dave Noonan has asserted his organisation will fight against the proposed changes, saying these will compromise construction safety and the wellbeing of CFMEU members.

“Tony Abbott has no mandate to take away our members’ human rights; no mandate to cut their wages and no mandate to make their jobs less safe,” said Mr Noonan, speaking at the union’s Divisional National Conference in Cairns earlier this week.

“Unlike Tony Abbott our union keeps its promises, and we promise this: We will not shirk our responsibility to stand up for our member’s rights on site. We will not compromise on defending our member’s safety.”

Prior to the election, Tony Abbott announced that he would look to re-establish the ABCC within 100 days of being in power were he to be made prime minister. The argument is that this measure would reduce the level of union militancy in the industry and help employers maximise productivity on site.

However, Mr Noonan has argued that CFMEU employers understand the Australian construction industry is already productive. He also said that the best way to improve construction productivity would be to focus on “safety, apprenticeships and training”.

Recently, the Queensland government has made moves to impose tighter rules regarding the CFMEU’s right of entry to construction sites in the state. Mr Noonan believes legislation like this is a step in the wrong direction, and will make it easier for employers to shirk construction site safety responsibilities.

“The Newman government in Queensland is attacking workers’ rights to have the union look after their safety. They simply don’t care that this will result in more death and injury to workers,” said Mr Noonan.

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