Labor supports militant unions over safety and productivity


Queensland worksites are becoming the safest and most productive in Australia with legislation that toughens penalties for electrical safety breaches and prevents union bullying passed in Parliament.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie said the work health and safety (WHS) reforms restored balance to the system.

“We are protecting workers from unsafe practices and protecting employers from militant industrial activity,” Mr Bleijie said.

“Our reforms foster safety, fairness and productivity by providing legitimate avenues for safety issues to be raised and dealt with appropriately and, unfortunately, the only Members of Parliament who voted against them were from the Labor Party

“Queensland’s electricians perform important but potentially hazardous jobs and we want to ensure that safety is always at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

“To set a strong deterrent for any corner cutting or unsafe practices, the maximum fine is being increased for breaches of electrical safety regulations from $4,400 to $33,000.

“Under these reforms, construction unions will also no longer be able to use loopholes in the system to force their way onto worksites and lock workers out.

“Under the old system, unions were entering worksites without prior notice and then shutting them down using trumped up or suspected safety contraventions.”

Mr Bleijie said the Government was delivering on its election promise to grow construction as one the four pillars of Queensland’s economy, after union bullying had been holding it back.

“Last year a major contractor and its employees lost 42 days of work due to illegal strike activity in the first year of their enterprise agreement,” he said.

“WHS inspectors have responded to 57 right of entry disputes since July 2011 and found the majority of the safety issues raised were not immediate or imminent risks to workers.

“While a Royal Commission into union governance and corruption recently announced by the Federal Government will shine a light on similar problems, our reforms put Queensland ahead of the game in tackling them.”

Reforms also include:

  • Bringing right of entry rules into line with Commonwealth law by requiring at least 24 hours’ notice by WHS entry permit holders before entering a workplace to inquire into suspected contraventions.
  • New and increased penalties for non-compliance of WHS entry regulations

“As part of our commitment to making Queensland workplaces the safest in the nation, the safety regulator will become the first port of call for any suspected problems or contraventions,” Mr Bleijie said.

“Recent figures show Queensland’s non-fatal injury and disease claim rate for the construction industry has decreased by 25 per cent, compared to the Australian average decrease of just 17 per cent.”

Mr Bleijie said the new laws would complement the Building Construction and Compliance Branch (BCCB) that the Government established to crackdown on militant union activity and ensure safety compliance on construction sites.

“These reforms are the first tranche of findings from the Queensland Government’s review of work health and safety law, which involved extensive consultation with employer associations, legal representatives and unions,” he said.