Threats made at the 20 June Melbourne Union Rally by CFMEU Victorian Secretary John Setka to employees of the construction industry’s industrial regulator, the ABCC, have provided a very public showcase for the necessity of both the ABCC and Building Code.
In issuing his “dire warning” to ABCC inspectors (whose role is to industrial law what WorkSafe inspectors are to occupational health and safety law), Mr Setka threatened to:
“… lob in their neighbourhoods, we will tell them who lives in their house and what he does for a living, or she … We will go to their local footy club. We will go to the local shopping centre. They will not be able to show their faces anywhere. Their kids will be ashamed of who their parents are when we expose all these ABCC inspectors”
These public threats are reflective of the bullying, thuggery and intimidation regularly used by CFMEU officials against building industry participants. It is indicative of a continued pattern of behavior which puts the personal safety of others at risk; highlighting both the CFMEU’s hypocrisy when it comes to safety and its continued willingness to (ab)use safety for industrial purposes. It is why we have an industry-specific regulator in the ABCC and why we have a Building Code with a core focus on promoting the rule of law – a need further underscored by the additional union threats made to target community infrastructure projects funded by the taxpayer, with unlawful industrial action.
While Mr Setka’s comments have rightfully drawn widespread condemnation, including from the Australian Labor Party, one can only imagine what would have occurred had the CEO of a major employer come out and attacked WorkSafe inspectors in a similar way – or had tried to justify such behaviour on the grounds that they were enforcing ‘bad laws’ that didn’t need to be followed. For many in the industry the only surprise was not what was said, but that it was said so publicly.
While receiving less publicity, the increasingly blatant misinformation being distributed about the Building Code (e.g. ‘take away your RDOs’ and ‘strip wages and entitlements’) at the same union rally also serve to highlight the growing disregard the current CFMEU leadership appears to have for its membership. As previously noted by Master Builders, the Building Code does not take away RDOs, strip away wages or employee entitlements, or negatively impact safety. This is clearly highlighted by the minor changes required to make the CFMEU Pattern EBA 2016-2018 code compliant, as previously circulated by Master Builders.
Mr Setka’s comments therefore serve to illustrate the continued willingness of the current CFMEU leadership to hold itself above the law and to put its own ideology ahead of the best interests of its members – including most relevantly, their ability to do future federally funded work from 1 September. The real question is for how much longer their rank and file membership, as well as the broader labour movement and the community, are prepared to put up with it.
Master Builders continues to make itself available to engage with the CFMEU to expedite a Building Code 2016-compliant solution for the industry – and in the interim, will continue to advise members on the range of alternatives available to employers and employees.