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Training review builds tensions

SECTORS of the building industry are concerned that a proposed restructure of the Building and Construction Industry Fund will give unions such as the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union too much power.

A WA Government report on the fund and the Levy Collection Act 1990 was released earlier this month for public comment. That comment period closes on August 5.

One of the report’s main re-commendations included the creation of an industry-based body, to be called Construction Training WA, to manage the allocation of $8 million of levy funds and provide industry training advice.

This seven-person board is to have an independent chairman and six members – three from the union movement and three from building industry employers.

It is understood the three industry employers will be chosen from the housing, civil and commercial construction areas.

Unions WA will choose the three union representatives, probably from the CFMEU, the Australian Workers Union, the plumbing division of the CEPU and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

Master Builders Association industrial relations manager Kim Richardson said the Government had left the scheme open to union abuse by limiting industry board membership to employers.

“Our fear is the company builders on the board could be pressured by industrial relations action against them from the unions,” he said.

“We wanted the MBA to be put on the board because we are immune to such pressure.

“The test will be whether the CFMEU can resist using its industrial pressure irresponsibly.”

The CFMEU’s appointment would be controversial because the union runs one of the Construction Skills Training Centre facility.

More than half of the nearly $1 million revealed to be paid to the CFMEU by big builders during the royal commission into the building and construction industry’s March and April hearings in Perth was for ‘casual tickets’ and allegedly bogus training.

However, the appointment of the MBA to the board could also be considered controversial because it too runs a skills training course.

Mr Richardson said the CFMEU would receive a double-dip on training funds.

“They already get money from the industry training fund plus their casual tickets are often channelled through their training centre,” he said.

Housing Industry Association executive director John Dastlik said he too feared the industry representatives on the board would be pressured through industrial action.

“The review says industry representatives have to be employers but unions are allowed,” he said “I’m also concerned that employers aren’t too aware of what training is available.”

However, Australian Workers Union WA secretary Tim Daly believes industry group concerns about the new board are misplaced.

“The other unions on the board would not necessarily side with the CFMEU when it came to making funding allocations,” he said.

“Training is going to become increasingly important with the developments due to kick off on the North West Shelf. If two projects start there at the same time it will create a skills shortage.”

AMWU official Colin Saunders, who was also on the review committee, said the review found the existing BICTF board had moved too far away from industry.

“Industry should decide what its training money should be spent on,” Mr Saunders said.

The review also recommended the responsibility for collecting the levy be handed to the Construction Industry Long Service Leave Payments Board. It would contract Construction Training WA to manage the levy funds.

Queensland’s construction industry training fund is run along similar lines.

Mr Dastlik said this was not the best model to be adopting.

“The Queensland system has much higher costs per person trained,” he said.

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