Master Builders Australia (MBA) has urged Safe Work Australia to initiate urgent reforms to stop the abuse of the union’s right of entry laws within the construction industry.

Master Builders’ submission to Safe Work Australia ahead of the national safety regulator’s review of model workplace health and safety (WHS) laws spells out the proposed reforms and its concerns.

CEO Wilhelm Harnisch explains that Master Builders is concerned about building unions undermining the improving safety culture of the construction industry by abusing right of entry on spurious safety grounds.

Evidence emerging from Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) investigations and testimony before the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption indicates that building union officials are using contrived safety concerns to gain access to construction sites in pursuit of industrial agendas unrelated to safety.

Describing the behaviour as ‘industrial thuggery’, Wilhelm Harnisch said that it disqualifies building union officials from gaining right of entry permits from the Fair Work Commission (FWC) because they will fail even the current fit and proper person test.

He expressed Master Builders’ concerns that union officials without valid right of entry permits issued by the FWC are hijacking the WHS right of entry to overcome federal workplace laws to campaign on issues that in reality are far removed from safety.

Master Builders has made fourteen recommendations for changes to the WHS laws to ensure right of entry operates fairly.

Some of the suggestions include the need for union officials exercising right of entry powers for WHS reasons to also hold approved nationally recognised WHS qualifications under the Australian Qualifications Framework System such as Certificate IV in Workplace Health and Safety. Master Builders also recommends that model WHS laws should be amended in all jurisdictions to require all WHS right of entry permit holders to give at least 24 hours’ notice before entering a worksite to inquire into a suspected safety breach.

Wilhelm Harnisch cites the example of Queensland where this reform was introduced earlier this year and which has helped to curb abuse of WHS right of entry by unions.

He adds that Safe Work Australia’s Work-Related Traumatic Fatalities, Australia 2014 Report shows significant safety improvements have been achieved in the construction industry; these important gains and the safety of workers and contractors should not be compromised by union officials using safety as an industrial weapon to pursue their own agendas.