CFMEU takes Abbott to task over MCG funding
by Janice Hamilton Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott's bid to require States to bow to federal industrial relations rules on federally funded construction projects is facing its own legal challenge. The Building and Construction Union (CFMEU) is applying to the Federal Court for orders declaring the Government's National Construction Industry Code of Practice and associated guidelines in breach of the Workplace Relations Act. These are the same "rules" Abbott attempted to impose on Commonwealth Games construction projects in Melbourne, leading to his withdrawal of funding for Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) renovations. The CFMEU is arguing that the code and guidelines amount to: unlawful coercion by threatening to ban builders from government jobs, and is a breach of Freedom of Association laws by discriminating against union members and delegates over their union activities. The union also argues that: the Employment Advocate's role in policing the code and guidelines is beyond his powers under the Workplace Relations Act. Tony Abbott's threat is to make all federal construction funding conditional on State Governments implementing the Federal Government's rules is an attempt to pressgang the States into joining his ideological crusade against the CFMEU and its members. Meanwhile in NSW, the Royal Commission into the building industry is still sitting. Under considerable public pressure, the Commissioner asked the union to nominate sites that he should inspect. The union did. When the builder at 38 Marlborough St, Flemington, declined to co-operate, Cole opted for a guided tour around Grocon's Manning House development in inner city Pitt St. Workcover have issued fines, prohibition and improvement notices against the Flemington site which Building Industry Royal Commissioner Terence Cole refused to visit. If he had paid a visit, he would have found a handful of workers keeping union membership under wraps for fear of repercussions. Between them, the builder and sub-contractors, received three prohibition notices, two improvement notices and two fines for occupational health and safety breaches. It is also a shame that he declined to visit the adjoining site as suggested by the CFMEU, which state government safety officers have shut down It was worse next door. Inspectors closed the job, giving notice of their intention to issue six improvement notices, four prohibition notices and level thousands of dollars in fines. It seems that Commissioner Cole does not want to see the issues that effect workers every day. The CFMEU has asked the Royal Commission to subpoena all relevant documentation relating to payments to contractors on these site i.e. contract payments, wage and time records, taxation and superannuation payments. "In terms of safety, the CFMEU seeks that you subpoena footage from Channel Ten (not screened on TV) taken on Sunday June 16, 2002. This footage will verify to the Royal Commission the appalling safety standards on this site."