Builders fear new order on sites

VIOLENCE breaking out on site and misuse of safety procedures are among the key concerns of the building industry for the coming year.

While the industrial relations environment has been relatively quiet in the building industry over the past few months, an outbreak of activism is expected now the WA Government’s IR Bill has passed through parliament.

Southdown Construction’s David Barton said violence on building sites was always possible because the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union pitted man against man.

“They put the union guys against the non-union guys,” he said.

“The CFMEU works on keeping the men in fear.”

Doric director Charles Neophytou said he feared there would be violence on building sites soon.

He said his company was subject to CFMEU-enforced stoppages on its Burswood Resort Casino site.

“The guys have been terrified on our sites,” Dr Neophytou said.

“There is a real tension in the air. I believe there will be real violence soon.”

It has already been alleged that CFMEU assistant secretary Joe McDonald assaulted site manager Chris Patten on a Universal Constructions site in Fremantle last week.

While the matter is being investigated by the police, Mr Patten has taken an interim restraining order out against Mr McDonald.

Mr McDonald was also involved in a confrontation on a Pindan construction site in East Perth earlier this year.

He said he “never touched” Mr Patten.

“Nobody’s been to see me about it,” Mr McDonald said.

He also denied any knowledge of an alleged threat made on the CCI job.

WA’s new industrial relations laws give unions the right to police safety on site.

This was a role denied them when the previous WA Government excised that function from industrial laws.

Builders fear this will create a flood of industrial stoppages if the CFMEU uses safety as a means of forcing industrial disputes

Mr Barton said the unions were already using safety as an issue.

“What concerns me is that the workers will get paid for stoppages for safety issues. If it’s a stoppage for an industrial matter then the workers don’t get paid,” he said.

“It will open the floodgates of stoppages like we had in the late 1980s. If that happens again it will cripple the industry.”

Former Building Industry Task Force inspector Jim Zacknich said

he had witnessed union officials using safety as a way to ensure employers signed on to CFMEU enterprise bargaining agreements.

“With that sort of power there needs to be a converse responsibility,” he said.

“There need to be penalties for the malicious use of safety and it will become a tool rather than an end.”

Master Builders Association director Michael McLean said he had a fair degree of pessimism about the future of WA’s building industry.

“We’ve monitored the deterioration in industrial relations on both unionised and non-unionised building sites over the past 12 months,” he said.

The Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry has already exposed the CFMEU’s approach to safety.

In one case both Mr McDonald and Mr Pallot climbed a tower crane on a Universal Construction site in East Perth to protest about perceived problems with the two-way radios crane drivers were using to communicate with workers on the ground.

Mr Pallot is renowned for his fear of heights.

In another instance, roofers on a building site were trapped six metres above the ground on a scissor lift that CFMEU members has disabled during an industrial dispute.

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