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Policing of disputes a weak point for industry

THE return of the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry to Perth has highlighted a problem facing the industry in WA – the policing of industrial problems.

Builders frequently bemoan the lack of assistance they receive from the WA Police Service whenever they face undue industrial pressure.

The Court Government found a way around the police service’s reticence to become involved in building site disputes – it formed a building industry task force and used criminal law to stamp out industrial unrest.

However, that remedy has been lost to the industry since the Labor Government came to power. It replaced the task force with the Building Industry Special Projects Inspectorate (BISPI).

The lack of police involvement appears to have been rectified in recent times, however.

An example of this is the ongoing investigation of an incident at a Universal Constructions site in North Fremantle. Sources within the building industry have told WA Business News the police would normally move to drop such proceedings as soon as possible. In this case, however, an allegation of assault has been lodged against Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union assistant secretary Joe McDonald.

Counsel assisting the com-mission John Agius has indicated this policing problem as one of the “snapshots” he wishes to use to highlight the problems facing construction in WA.

Assistant commissioner John Standing told the royal com-mission that the bulk of policing problems on building sites stem-med from a lack of action by the BISPI.

He said the old task force had been able to assist the police in the collection of evidence pertaining to any offences alleged to have been committed.

“We haven’t seen that under the BISPI as of this date,” Mr Standing said.

So far the BISPI has received three formal complaints and has become aware of concerns about compulsory unionism and alleged threats in 17 other cases.

However, while those cases were investigated, the complain-ants were unwilling to provide statements.

Complaining to the BISPI is also considered reasonable cause for industrial action.

One such complaint caused a 24-hour strike on the BGC Construction job at the Motorola site in Nedlands.

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