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Rudd Govt must guarantee jobs for mature aged workers

20 October, 2009

The Rudd Government must take urgent steps to protect the jobs and skills of mature age Australian workers in the interest of the long-term future of the nation’s construction industry, according to the CFMEU, which has a bold new plan for the building and construction sector.

The CFMEU Construction and General division said the construction industry was not immune to the impacts of a rapidly ageing Australian workforce, pointing out that for every person now over 65 there are five Australians of working age but in 40 years time that will drop to 2.7 Australians.
Speaking ahead of the construction union’s annual conference in Tweed Heads recently, CFMEU Construction and General Division National Secretary Dave Noonan said his union would campaign for quotas of mature age workers on all major Government building projects.
“Tackling Australia’s demographic time bomb will not and should not be solved by increasing the access age for the pension or a higher preservation age for superannuation. Our union has opposed Government measures to do so and will continue to fight these moves,” Noonan said.
“What’s needed is a new approach, one that recognises that construction workers may have a limit on the physical strain they can place on their bodies, but there is no limit to their capacity to build excellence through sharing their experience, knowledge and skills.
“The days of mature age workers being thrown out like broken toys must end as part of the resolution to tackle the demographic time bomb, but also as a matter of social justice,” Noonan said.
“Many of the jobs once reserved for mature age workers – gatemen, traffic control, hoist driver, nipper or peggie are now going to labour-hire – and often to backpackers,
“Our union will make the plight of our mature age workers an industrial issue in our industry – many mature age workers could be involved in job planning, training younger workers, ensuring sites are safe, recycling and sustainability.
“Just as we require enforceable targets on apprentices, so too do we need to start arguing for quotas of mature age workers on all major projects,
“Governments – federal and state, through their purchasing policies, must ensure better treatment of workers who have committed decades to the industry. What we need is to ensure that a job in construction is a career for life and not one that is terminated as soon as a worker turns 50”
Also in the CFMEU plan for the building and construction industry:
- a new approach to working with the Australian Contractors Association, which represents Australia’s major developers, in a bid to establish a more cooperative response to the challenges the sector must face.
- a call for the Federal Government to demonstrate that its building program is creating jobs for Australian apprentices, calling on the Rudd Government to conduct an audit of all commonwealth funded projects to ensure apprentices are being employed and trained.
- a proposal for the Federal Government to use its purchasing power and building programs to create more job opportunities for Indigenous Australians and encourage more women into the construction industry.

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