The ABCC: Too much power over working people


The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is a Government body intended to bully building, transport and maritime workers. It is trying to silence workers by intimidating them. Some basic rights have been stripped away and workers are threatened with criminal offences. Wages and conditions are being taken away by administrative action. The ABCC is an all-out attack on workers and their unions. 

There are over one million people who work in the construction industry in Australia. The ABCC has extraordinary powers to deny workers the right to silence. If workers refuse to comply, they could be sent to jail.

The issues

The ABCC also denies workers the right to a safe workplace. It stops claims for:

• A safe number of staff on worksites.
• Enough people with the right skills and training to undertake dangerous types of work.
• Ensuring labour hire workers are paid the same as other workers.

It also stops:

• Managers and union representatives easily meeting on worksites.
• Caps on the amount of safe overtime worked per day.
• Going to the FWC to determine many disputes (such as disputes about rostering or leave).

Fines under the ABCC Act are triple the usual fines. Workers could face fines of $36,000 if they stand up for their rights. Unions could face fines of $180,000. Workers can be compelled to attend private interrogations, where they have no right to silence. If they refuse to comply, they could even be sent to jail.

When the ABCC operated previously, as a forerunner to WorkChoices, workplace fatalities increased and workers were pursued aggressively. The Government wants to use the ABCC as a model for other industries.

The building and construction industry is a dangerous industry that sees too many workers lose their lives. Sham contracting, phoenixing and underpayment of workers is rife. But construction companies and property developers donate a lot of money to the Liberal Party, so the odds are always stacked against workers.

The best way to stand up against the ABCC is to join your union and change the rules.