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The Review Panel investigating the operation of the Fair Work Act has sidestepped many, real on-ground issues in its assessment.
Master Builders CEO, Mr Wilhelm Harnisch, today criticised the Panel’s report as an exercise in denying the reality of on-ground problems: “Apart from the recognition that the Fair Work Act is stopping the timely introduction of Greenfields agreements, the report fails to address a number of stark realities faced by builders every day,” he said.
“The Report’s findings are at odds with day-to-day reality of builders. The Report says that the regulation of contractors under enterprise agreements was a matter that has been before the courts for many decades. The Panel had an opportunity to recommend change so that the illegitimate regulation of contractors via enterprise agreements could be curtailed. Unions are using “sign up or else” tactics to push contractor clauses that would, in the commercial world, constitute a breach of trade practices legislation.
“Instead of offering a solution, the Panel has pointed out that history should be repeated and that more litigation will sort out the problem. Master Builders rejects the proposition that further litigation on this subject is the best and most workable solution to a problem caused by unions seeking to act as gatekeepers of who may operate on building sites and under what terms. The regulation of contractors via enterprise agreements is an immediate and productivity damaging practice that should be addressed, not sidestepped.
“In addition, the Panel has recommended that a defence now available to employers who might wrongly misclassify employees as contractors be taken away because it ‘does not fit within a scheme designed to be fair for working Australians.’ This finding is made despite the fact that the Panel acknowledged ongoing research into the nature and extent of alleged sham contracting is underway.”
Mr Harnisch said: “There are many elements of the report that would assist with the clarity of the legislation, such as the changes which would make it clear that employees do not accrue annual leave whilst away from work and in receipt of workers’ compensation payments. But these reforms are minor when compared with the reality of dealing with militant unions in the everyday conduct of workplace relations, a matter that has not been properly dealt with.
“It’s time for the Government to make some bold decisions. Are they serious about maintaining a strong economy and building sector, or will they bow to the pressure of the unions?” Mr Harnisch concluded.
The full report may be viewed here
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