Lend Lease ban could go to court
THE decision to ban Lend Lease from Victorian government work could end up in the courts, with senior lawyers saying the builder would have a serious legal claim, while unions have also flagged a challenge.
It comes after Fairfax Media revealed on Tuesday that the Baillieu government would ban Lend Lease for a union-friendly deal with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. The ban could last the length of its four-year agreement or earlier if it was revamped.
CFMEU national construction secretary Dave Noonan attacked the decision and said it would reduce competition and was an attempt to appease right-wing forces in the Liberal Party. ''This is a burnt offering to the WorkChoices Taliban,'' he said.
Mr Noonan said the union was yet to see a decision from the Victorian government but would look at it ''with a view to ensuring the rights of our members are properly protected''.
Building unions believe the government's code is vulnerable to legal challenge. The state code allows the government to ban builders from bidding for government-funded work if they sign deals with unions that do not comply. The rules, which took effect from July, apply to deals signed in the private and public sectors.
The Lend Lease deal includes a number of likely breaches, including the flying of union flags, restrictions on outside labour and dictating the minimum pay rates of sub-contractors. Lend Lease subsidiaries such as Abigroup and Baulderstone could also be banned from July 1 next year.
Health Minister David Davis would not be drawn on possible legal issues or consequences for the industry. Lend Lease is the building partner for one of the two groups short-listed to build the $630 million Bendigo Hospital.
''The process is the important thing here,'' he said. ''Each of the bids will be assessed against the merits and the compliance with each of the aspects of the bid criteria, the tender documents. It will be assessed fairly and evenly.''
Opposition spokesman for industrial relations, Tim Pallas, labelled the policy full of ''dross and irrelevance''. ''You don't get productivity when you don't have work, and this government has failed to provide employment opportunity by getting on with the job and providing the construction industry with the capacity to go about its business and build things,'' he said.
He warned taxpayers would ultimately have to pay more if half of the construction industry was locked out of tenders.
Corrs workplace relations group head Val Gostencnik said Lend Lease would have a ''seriously arguable'' case as it had signed a deal that is allowed under federal law. By the state refusing to engage it, that could be a breach of the Fair Work Act's general protections provisions.
Mr Gostencnik said either Lend Lease or the Fair Work Ombudsman could bring action, but said it was much less likely unions could make a case.
University of Adelaide law expert Andrew Stewart has previously said the code could be vulnerable to challenge under the Fair Work Act.