Master Builders Australia (MBA) are encouraging entities in the building and construction industry to ensure their enterprise agreements comply with new government standards if they wish to tender for federal government building work. 

The government’s new Building and Construction Industry Code is effective from 24 April 2014 and will see a change in the code for enterprise agreements. 

According to the MBA, all those looking to work on government projects, including head contractors, subcontractors and suppliers, must comply with the changes or “they will not be eligible to tender for Federal Government funded building work.” 

MBA also says that new provisions in the code for enterprise agreements means there will be no inclusion of restrictive work practices or discriminatory provisions: 

“Master Builders strongly supports the new Code because it will eliminate restrictive work practices that drive up the costs of construction and will strengthen the capacity of all entities in the building industry to ‘say no’ to union stand over tactics.” 

Similarly, Minister for Employment Eric Abetz believes the new code will inhibit Unions from intimidating subcontractors into entering enterprise agreements against their will and eliminate what he calls the “closed shop” between the nation’s head contractors and unions.   

"Head contractors do sweetheart deals with trade unions which then requires any subcontractor on major projects to sign up to trade union enterprise bargaining agreements," he said in an interview with the ABC. 

"There's no logical reason why a head contractor would demand that of the subcontractor other than the pressure that has been brought to bear, and threats and intimidation made, by elements of the trade union movement." 

Above:  Minister for Employment Eric Abetz believes the new enterprise agreement laws will stop covert dealings between unions and big building contractors.  Photo: Andrew Meares
Below: Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) national secretary Dave Noonan says the new code looks a lot like Work Choices. Photo: cfmeu

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) national secretary Dave Noonan disagrees and says the new code looks like an imminent return to Work Choices. 

Noonan told the ABC that the proposed changes are designed to enact radical workplace reform, which prime minister Toby Abbott has said he would not do before the election. 

"The comments about closed shop are simply rhetoric from Mr Abetz," he said. 

"What the Government is saying is that they wish to use their procurement power as a client. 

"They wish to coerce other clients in the building industry into demanding that there are key clauses in workplace agreements which replicate important parts of the Work Choices legislation. 

“The other parts of this plan are of course their Royal Commission into unions, and the Productivity Commission inquiry into the industrial relations system," he said. 

However, Abetz believes the code will indicate to employers that want government work that they "have to abide by certain rules and conditions" which he described as "not onerous". 

"Most ethical employers would say there's no difficulty complying with this code," Abetz said. 

MBA says that although the code will not be given effect until the passing of the government’s bills to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, enterprise agreements must, in the meantime, comply with the Code on the basis that the bills are expected to be passed by the Senate after 1 July 2014. 

Entities can seek advice if they have any doubt about their enterprise agreements complying with the Code from