Media Release

23 November 2018

Clark: Restoring the rule of law in industrial relations

Friday 23 November 2018

Restoring the rule of law in industrial relations

Construction is one of Victoria’s most important industries and one of its largest employers.

Yet it is one that is regularly beset by industrial disputation, restrictive practices and cost structures at odds with other industries.

Labor abolished the previous Liberal National Government’s Victorian Code of Practice for the Building and Construction Industry and the Construction Code Compliance Unit as soon as it came to office.  This gave free rein for the return of thuggery and lawlessness on Victorian building sites.

Victoria Police highlighted in their submission to the Trade Unions Royal Commission the need for strong industrial relations laws and other support for them to be able to fight the culture of lawlessness in the building industry and successfully bring prosecutions.

This is why a Liberal Nationals Government will reinstate the Victorian Construction Industry Code and an accompanying Compliance Unit.

The Construction Industry Code will be consistent with the Commonwealth’s code and will apply to all building firms that seek to undertake Victorian public sector construction work. It will require firms to comply with Commonwealth and State laws, as well as industrial agreements and other requirements, and will contain specific measures to protect against and report breaches of the law by unions and other parties.

Compliance with the Code will be overseen by a new Compliance Unit which will also have powers of inspection and entry onto all building sites, the ability to require drug and alcohol tests on construction sites and the ability to require firms to pay subcontractors on time.

We will also bring back the move-on laws that Labor repealed, so that police have the power to order blockading unionists or other law-breaking protesters to move on, and can also order protesters to move on where police reasonably believe that violence could occur.

As well, a Liberal Nationals government will move to repeal Labor’s draconian, anti-business, anti-worker labour hire laws that will cost Victorian workers their jobs.  No worker should be ripped off by any employer, but this legislation isn’t about stopping rip-offs, it’s about shutting down employers who provide jobs for Victorian workers in key industries including horticulture, IT and mining in an attempt to force workers to work for large, unionised firms.

The legislation gives sweeping and arbitrary powers to a one-person Licensing Authority, imposing onerous information provision and reporting requirements and applying large civil penalties to any licence holder who fails to comply with the often impossible requirements of the Act.  A decision of the Authority to refuse a licence renewal or cancel a licence cannot be appealed until after it has taken effect, during which time the business will have been forced to cease operating and its employees put out of work.

This new law will have a particularly devastating effect on Victoria’s horticultural sector across the state from Mildura to Shepparton to the Yarra Valley to Werribee and beyond.  These growers are reliant on seasonal pickers and other workers, as it would be impossible for them to keep potentially hundreds of casual workers on their books and then phone around amongst those workers on a daily or weekly basis in order to obtain the twenty or fifty workers they might need for a particular operation.

The legislation will also cost jobs in many other sectors, including IT, mining, manufacturing and logistics, in which there is currently extensive use of labour hire to fill short term, highly skilled, job requirements.