Inspectors too scared to visit union worksites

THE Palaszczuk Government's own building safety inspectors are so fearful of "occupation violence" from unions and workers they are refusing to attend 17 construction sites across Queensland.

The Together Union has listed building sites across Queensland deemed too dangerous to attend - and on all the projects the CFMMEU is the predominant union.

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It comes as the Together Union has launched protected action against the State Government for failing to take action "to ensure that our inspectors are kept safe at work".

Federal Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O'Dwyer has seized upon the irony saying unions like the CFMMEU were more powerful than the State Government in Queensland, and warned of dire consequences for workers and businesses if Opposition Leader Bill Shorten made good on his threat to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

"If work health and safety inspectors don't feel safe on these sites, what hope is there for the average worker, subbie or small business contractor?'' Ms O'Dwyer said.

"It demonstrates just how important it is to have a strong construction cop on the beat (and) scrapping the ABCC would see workers' safety, small businesses and investment worse off, and critical congestion busting infrastructure delayed. Queenslanders deserve better.

"The CFMMEU is putting at risk critical national building infrastructure projects right across the country."

“Inspectors ... deal regularly with highly-emotive situations concerning worker safety and these situations can escalate with stakeholders, including employers, workers and their representatives.”
“Inspectors ... deal regularly with highly-emotive situations concerning worker safety and these situations can escalate with stakeholders, including employers, workers and their representatives.”

Of the 17 sites, which is delivering billions of dollars of investment to Queensland, it includes Federal Government investment for projects like upgrading the Bruce Highway.

In a scathing assessment of the State Government, the Together Union has told members, "We have not seen from the department any action to ensure that our inspectors are kept safe at work."

"What we have seen in negotiations is that the department has tried to avoid accountability and responsibility when it comes to the concerns of members around the very serious matter of occupational violence."

Together Members will not attend work at locations which are deemed unsafe by the State Secretary due to the likely presence of individuals or organisations whose behaviour is deemed a risk to members' workplace health and safety."

But when asked to publicly respond, the Together Union downplayed concerns of the more militant union, the CFMMEU, and in a statement said, "the sites have been selected based on the history of incidents at the site and are not selected based on the number of members of the CFMMEU at the site.

"We are seeking that the employer (the State Government) provide our members with a safe system of work so we are addressing through these processes. We have not made complaints to the ABCC. The appropriate avenue to raise it is with the employer."

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace failed to comment on the CFMMEU on the sites but said the Palaszczuk Government had "a zero tolerance approach to any form of intimidating or aggressive behaviour in the workplace".

 

Alex Scott, Head of Together Union, which will not attend work at locations which are deemed unsafe by the State Secretary. Picture: Adam Armstrong
Alex Scott, Head of Together Union, which will not attend work at locations which are deemed unsafe by the State Secretary. Picture: Adam Armstrong

"The Government also respects the rights of employees to take protected industrial action,'' Ms Grace said.

"The Together Queensland Union has notified of protected industrial action to be taken against the Office of Industrial Relations as part of its negotiations for a new certified agreement.

"This involves an indefinite ban by Together Queensland members attending any work at nominated sites, other than where there is a real or imminent risk to the safety of others or to investigate serious or significant workplace accidents."

A spokesman for the Office of Industrial Relations said the protected action by staff would not prevent it from responding to matters "where there is a real, imminent or serious safety risk to any person within a workplace".

He said safety officers had attended the sites during the action.

"Inspectors ... deal regularly with highly-emotive situations concerning worker safety and these situations can escalate with stakeholders, including employers, workers and their representatives."



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