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Denita Wawn interview with Tom Connell, Sky News NewsDay


Event: Denita Wawn interview with Tom Connell, Sky News NewsDay
Date: Monday 28 November 2022, 11.15am AEDT
Speakers: Tom Connell, host Sky News NewsDay, Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: industrial relations

Tom Connell, host Sky News NewsDay: Joining me now is Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders for more on this. Thank you very much for your time. Your warning on the IR changes around negotiations seem to be basically what indirect not on the industry itself but other ramifications? What are you worried about exactly?

Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: We appreciate Senator Pocock expanding the exclusion of the building and construction industry to include civil from multi-enterprise bargaining. Nevertheless, a large component of the industry is still covered. The rest of the supply chain is still covered. And let’s face facts, multi-employer bargaining as a whole is a backwards step in terms of making sure we can get productivity improvements in this country. So, while we appreciate the exclusions, the limited exclusions that they are, it does not mean to say that there won’t be impacts on the industry and more importantly, the abolition of the ABCC as part of this package means that we will be subjected to CFMEU business model which is to harass us into pattern bargaining in the single enterprise model that still exists.

Tom: We’ll get to it in a moment on the ABCC. But just on the indirect impacts, you mentioned supply chains. There’s also an exclusion for supply chains in terms of what the Fair Work Commission would ever consider. But if supply chains were affected that people wouldn’t have the right to strike as one example. Doesn’t that show that the government is serious about supply chains and knows, you know, in those sort of instances where it’s going to affect the whole economy we are not going to see this sort of thing happen?

Denita: Well, we would argue that there are still a lot of holes and ambiguity, and complexity in this Bill.

Tom: What’s an example of something you think will happen under this Bill that doesn’t in terms of supply chains?

Denita: A really good example is transport. We would argue that there may well be some industry strikes on transport. What does that then do for our sector in terms of getting product to site?

Tom: So, are we talking trucks there?

Denita: We’re talking about trucks but also more importantly the building and construction exclusion only covers certain types of workers under one of the building and construction awards. The exclusion exempts a series of building and construction awards from multi-employer bargaining. So, a really good example is concrete work. It is excluded from the exemption and as such we can still have industry-wide strikes on concrete in a time critical industry. It is simply not good enough.

Tom: On industry-wide, it’s not industry-wide, is it? It’s multi-employer?

Denita: It’s multi-employer but the affect will be is that if you decided, a union decided, to look at a multi-employer bargaining with all concrete workers, then we will of course be adversely affected. If you’ve got a concrete pour listed for the day which happens on an awful lot of building sites around the country, and there is an industry-wide strike, that has a significant, detrimental impact on our capacity to meet the timeframes to build homes, to build offices, and to build roads.

Tom: So, okay that’s the point on concrete. When you mention transport though, if a whole trucking sector is going to shut down, wouldn’t that be exactly the point on the government’s exemption on supply chains and say this is too important sorry. Right?

Denita: It could well be but why are we here in the first place, Tom? We shouldn’t be here in the first place? Fundamentally…

Tom: But the point is that it’s an exemption for the supply chain. Even if you don’t like the overall IR changes, my point on supply chains is the reading of this is the Fair Work Commission will say no sorry you’re an important supply chain you can’t join this.

Denita: But you’ve exactly said the problem, the fundamental problem with this Bill is that we are having interventions by the Fair Work Commission that we have not seen for 30 years. That we are having interventions by unions and interventions by the Fair Work Commission into how we manage our businesses. And we know, and there’s been an awful lot of ALP ministers of the past that agrees with the proposition that the best way for our economy is to have single enterprise bargaining with limited interventions by the Fair Work Commission. Julia Gillard said it, Wayne Swan said it, Kevin Rudd said it, Paul Keating said it. It’s unacceptable.

Tom: I know you don’t like the multi-employer but is the push for intervention to be able to be easier to happen a good thing? Given so many of these EBAs seem to just be stuck. Few of them are getting actually done. So, if the Fair Work Commission can go you’re not agreeing, I’m going to make a call. Is that a good thing at least?

Denita: The reason why enterprise bargaining has not been working is because of the overly complex requirements of the BOOT. We know in our industry that large numbers of employers have wanted to implement enterprise agreements, but they have been thwarted by BOOT and interventions by unions that have no members.

Tom: So, with changes to the BOOT then, those agreements will get done then you won’t have to worry about intervention?

Denita: The BOOT changes only effectively relate to union enterprise agreements not non-union enterprise agreements. We’ve got to look at the detail of this legislation. It provides a range of opportunities for union-led Fair Work Commission intervention arrangements that have not been seen in this country for 30 years.

Tom: It should be noted that they did clarify that you wouldn’t have to join the union to join the action. The ABCC, is there an inherent problem here? Because when the Coalition comes in, it comes in, and it seems to be boots and all. And then Labor come in and they get rid of it. Do you need, as your body, to sort of go what’s the middle ground here that it won’t just be in with one, out with the other?

Denita: Well, we have put a detailed proposition to all the crossbench and the government to look at an alternative approach to the ABCC. That provided an opportunity for the Fair Work Commission, sorry the Fair Work Ombudsman to have additional powers under certain circumstances. That was recognised.

Tom: Will the Coalition be happy with that? So, if Labor is, the important is the Coalition is too so they don’t come in and be the tougher cop on the beat?

Denita: We haven’t had a discussion with the Coalition on this. Obviously, our advocacy has been around the crossbench and the ALP.

Tom: Right.

Denita: It was acknowledged by Senator Pocock in his supplementary comments to the Senate report that he believed that what is in the legislation at the moment is not effective enough for our industry. We have put an alternative to him. We’re disappointed that was not included in yesterday’s amendments.

Tom: We’ll have to leave it there. I wanted to get to delays and costs but that’s sort of delving into my personal life with our own repairs but maybe another day. Denita Wawn, thank you.

Denita: Thanks Tom.

Media contact:
Dee Zegarac
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071

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