As of the start of July, construction firms wishing to tender for Victorian government construction projects in which the government pays more than $10 million (or $5 million if it represents half or more of the project total) will need to submit a workplace relations management plan outlining their approach to dispute resolution, industrial action, right of entry and a range of other matters.
Furthermore, contractors will be required to take all reasonable steps – including legal action – to prevent instances of unlawful industrial action, and to adopt practices that are consistent with freedom of association, giving workers the choice to join a union or otherwise. Sham contracting arrangements will be outlawed, as will coercion or pressure to make over-award payments.
These requirements were laid out under a new set of guidelines announced on Tuesday by the Baillieu government.
The set of rules, which will apply to projects which are open for expressions of interest or tender applications after 1 July this year, represents efforts on the part of the Baillieu government to improve compliance with workplace laws, promote productivity and enhance the government’s ability to deliver large infrastructure projects within budget.
The new rules follow a number of cost blowouts on recent public infrastructure projects within the state. The guidelines also follow the abolition at the federal level of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), a move many in the industry fear will encourage unlawful industrial relations practices throughout the country.
Business groups have welcomed the new moves, which the Australian Industry Group says will play an important role in ensuring construction industry reforms are preserved.
“Experience has shown that employers will not concede damaging enterprise agreement clauses or implement unproductive site practices if they are locked out of Government construction work as a consequence,” Ai Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout says.
The new Guidelines will be monitored by a new Construction Code Compliance Unit in the Department of Treasury and Finance.
By Andrew Heaton
Published on 04 April 2012