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Secondary boycotts a 'brutal industrial tactic'

02 June, 2014

A peak building industry association has called for more robust measures to tackle secondary boycotts in the building and construction industry in a submission to the government's Competition Policy Review.

"Secondary boycotts are a brutal industrial tactic used by building unions to inflict financial damage on builders and suppliers who do not comply with their demands," Richard Calver, Acting CEO at Master Builders Australia asserted.

"The aim of secondary boycotts is to either make builders and suppliers hostage to union demands or to send them to wall," he said.

"It is clearly not in the community's interests for unions to assume the role of determining the commercial survival of enterprises. Secondary boycotts damage the economy and threaten livelihoods, as well as dampening proper competition," Calver said.

"To ensure a more robust enforcement of anti-secondary boycott provisions, Master Builders is calling for the jurisdiction to be shared by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), with the ABCC acting when secondary boycotts occur in the building and construction industry," he said.

"This was a recommendation of the Cole Royal Commission which found that while the ACCC has jurisdiction in relation to secondary boycotts, there have been few instances where such actions have been pursued by the ACCC.  Modification of the Bills currently before Parliament to restore the ABCC could be changed to reflect this position of increased jurisdiction."

Master Builders' submission also calls for reform to tackle other aspects of competition which are constrained by workplace laws.

In particular, commercial law should be separated from workplace law and regulation to prevent independent contractors being covered by enterprise agreements.

"Permitting the regulation of subcontracting by introducing pay and conditions parity with employees restricts their freedom of choice in how building and construction industry participants carry out the skills of their trade and does not take into account the fact that subcontractors in the building and construction industry are not a threat to employees' livelihoods," Calver said.

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