ACT News


Union says it will shut down sites unless safety put first

The inquiry into work safety is the ACT's ''last chance'' to reform the industry before the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union takes matters into its own hands and shuts down unsafe workplaces, the union has warned.

The union's ACT secretary, Dean Hall, said the union wholeheartedly endorsed the 28 recommendations in the ACT government's inquiry report Getting Home Safely.

''But I do give a warning … If we do not see meaningful change, then the CFMEU will be taking action into our own hands and what we mean by that is we will be going in and stopping building sites that are unsafe - this is the last chance - too many people are being killed and injured,'' he said.

Mr Hall said the move to beef up ACT Work Safety inspectors by a recommended 12 - including a dedicated legal professional to pursue the most serious cases - would be vital in helping police safety on worksites across the city.

The union also welcomed new on-the-spot fines, acknowledging that while some construction workers would be fined rather than their bosses in a ''dual-edged sword'', there was little doubt that ''hitting the back pocket has a tremendous effect''.

The union has called for industry bosses including the Master Builders Association and Housing Industry Association to sit down for a ''war cabinet'' in order to make progress on implementing the report's recommendations before the end of the year.


''Now is the time for action,'' Mr Hall said. ''Change will come down to one thing - refocusing people away from building things cheaply and quickly to building things safely.

''Workers need to be treated like people, not like a unit of labour which is used up and thrown away.''

Master Builders Association executive director John Miller said the statistics outlined in the report ''clearly need to be addressed'' and the industry body was prepared to ''work with ACT government, WorkSafe and all stakeholders, including employee groups, to arrive at some sensible outcomes we can all agree on''.

The association welcomed the government's commitment to boost WorkSafe inspectors on the basis ''that the people they get in are well-qualified to deal with industry issues''.

It would consider the recommendations further.

''I wouldn't suggest, at this stage, there is anything contained in the report that we won't be ready to look at and attempt to deal with,'' Mr Miller said. ''Project time frames are something we have considered and we agree everyone needs to step back and make sure that, before a project hits the start button, everything is properly in place.''

The Master Builders Association also welcomed recommendations suggesting onerous paperwork attached to safety was not working.

ACT Opposition Leader Zed Seselja, who has been a vocal supporter of increasing the number of WorkSafe inspectors on the ground for years, said it would be a massive task to turn the statistics around.

He questioned whether the government could reduce by 35 per cent the number of serious accidents across the territory by 2016.

''After 11 years, we've seen it go backwards with all sorts [of] legislative changes during that time and we were assured those legislative changes would actually fix the problem - clearly they haven't, so more needs to be done,'' he said.

''The government's going to have to demonstrate how it's going to deliver on that target, which, after 11 years, they've shown no sign of doing.''