On 1 June 2012 the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner concluded its reign as building industry regulator, and has been replaced by Fair Work Building & Construction (FWBC). This has caused consternation amongst employer groups now predicting a flood of industrial action.
The Fair Work (Building Industry) Act 2012 (the Act) effects significant reform to previous legislation relating to industrial action through the deletion of Chapters 5 and 6. These Chapters provided rules of engagement for industrial action and coercion specific to the building industry, as well as heavy penalties for contravention. With the implementation of the Act, however, building industry participants will now be subject to the industrial action provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009. Under these provisions it will remain unlawful for a person to coerce another in relation to employment, industrial activity or workplace rights. An employer will also be prohibited from exerting undue influence on an employee in relation to employment terms and standards.
Has anything changed?
The result is that fewer instances of breach of industrial law will attract penalties, and these penalties will be lower than under previous legislation - reduced from $22,000 to $6,600 for individuals and from $110,000 to $33,000 for bodies corporate. Moreover, the intrusive investigatory power wielded by the ABCC has been limited by changes to authority to compulsorily obtain information. This power is now subject to approval on the basis for investigation by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
For some, this is a welcome change to the severity of the Construction Code Guidelines. For instance, it is well-known the ABCC was largely unpopular with unions and employee groups for allegedly biased prosecutions of industrial action, and these parties may expect less rigorous prosecutions and penalties. Nevertheless, in its 3 week reign, the FWBC has enthusiastically launched proceedings against the CFMEU, BLFQ, unions and officials for coercion and unlawful industrial action. TressCox will follow these proceedings and provide further updates.
Should you have any queries or wish to discuss these changes further, please contact one of the members of the Employee Relations team at TressCox.
Fair Work Building & Construction
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