During the election, Labor promised to gut the anti-worker anti-union Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and its discriminatory Building Code.
Since winning the election, the Albanese Government has made it one of their first actions, by defunding the agency. Legislation will be introduced to get rid of the commission later in the year.
The gutting of the ABCC’s Building Code brings fresh opportunities for apprentices and restores basic rights to construction workers.
The ABCC and its Building Code was responsible for rules such as making it illegal to pay labor hire workers the same as permanent employees. It could impose fines on workers for wearing a union sticker on their hat, outlawed minimum quotas of apprentices or female workers on major government projects and forbade union organisers from speaking to workers on the job outside of a twenty-minute smoko break.
The Building Code increased casualisation, fined unions millions of dollars for standing up for workers and did nothing to stamp out wage theft and safety issues on site. It reduced job opportunities for apprentices for over a decade. It effectively gave construction workers less rights than other workers in Australia.
Getting rid of the Building Code is a major deal for the ETU and other unions in the construction industry.
“Changes to the code mean workers can now bargain for the basic principle of same job, same pay in enterprise negotiations,” said ETU Acting National Secretary Michael Wright.
“Now employers and unions can work together to tackle key areas like promoting apprenticeships, ensuring more gender diversity on work sites and supporting First Nations workers.
“Because of this reform, unions like the ETU will be able to strike deals with employers that lead to safer jobs and stronger workforces that better represent Australia,” he said.
We’ll be watching closely to see that the ABCC is abolished once and for all later in the year, and we’re looking forward to improving agreements in the construction space for ETU members.