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MBA expresses right-of-entry concerns

THE Master Builders Association of WA has hit back at construction union claims that they are free to enter any work site following a decision by the full bench of the WA Supreme Court.

The court upheld an appeal by Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union organiser Vincent Molina against his conviction for unlawfully entering a work site in 1999.

It found that, while Mr Molina entered a work site where the principal contractor – in this case BGC – had no union workers, one of the subcontractors on the site did have CFMEU members working there and he was visiting “the premises of those sub-contractors”.

The CFMEU believes the decision has given it carte blanche to enter any work site that holds members that are “eligible” to join its union.

The decision was considered a win by construction sector unions, which are coming under pressure from the Federal Government’s Royal Commission into building industry corruption.

Unions also are waiting for the WA Government’s rewrite of the State’s industrial relations laws, which are expected to change union right-of-entry provisions.

That legislation is likely to be introduced into Parliament in February.

Consumer and Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke told employers earlier this year that the right-of-entry

provisions would be modelled on the Federal Workplace Relations Act’s require-ments.

MBA director Michael McLean said the implications of the decision only applied to subcontractors covered by the WA Building Trades (Construction) Award. It does not apply to those building sites operating under Awards governed by the Federal Work-place Relations Act.

“In the main, unions have right of entry to building sites – that’s always been the case,” Mr McLean said.

“But this decision has created some uncertainties, such as what is meant by unduly interfering with work.

“There is a risk this could spill over into the housing industry.”

Housing Industry Association executive director John Dastlik said the home building sector did not have much union involvement.

“It would be a concern to us if the unions did make a push for right of entry to our members’ sites,” Mr Dastlik said.

The MBA has put out a flyer to its commercial builder members explaining their rights regarding union entry to their building sites.

Some of the advice includes:

p while on site a union official may only speak to union members of those subcontractors respondent to a WA Building Trades (Construction) Award;

p a union official is required to present him or herself to site management and produce a current authorisation card before going about union business;

p a union official is limited to dealing with an “industrial matter”. Safety is not an industrial matter;

p union officials may seek to inspect the time and wages records of current union members but must give the employer 24 hours’ notice to do so; and

p a union official must not unduly interfere with work while on the site.

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