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Victoria’s peak construction union – the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) - and Slater and Gordon Lawyers have secured a landmark victory against the Victorian Government’s new construction industry code in the Federal Court this week.
Last year the Victorian Government introduced new guidelines for builders seeking to work on publicly funded projects. The CFMEU went to the Federal Court last week, claiming that building contractor McCorkell Constructions was being pressured by the state government not to engage subcontractor Eco Recyclers, unless Eco varied its enterprise bargaining agreement.
Senior industrial lawyer Marcus Clayton said the union’s victory in the Federal Court yesterday was significant.
“The judgment handed down yesterday was a comprehensive victory for the CFMEU,” Mr Clayton said.
“In response to the court's decision, the state government gave an undertaking not to discriminate against the subcontractor.
"The court found the CFMEU has a strong case that the Victorian Government construction code breaches federal industrial law
“The court result means that the Victorian Government must refrain from requiring or inducing McCorkell to not engage or use the services of Eco on this or any project,” he said.
This decision comes on the back of another application made by the CFMEU late last year, to stop the state government from discriminating against Lend Lease in the Bendigo Hospital project. The state government in that case gave an undertaking that it would not preclude Lend Lease from tendering for the project.
Victorian CFMEU Secretary John Setka said:
"The Victorian Government is attempting to misuse its tender processes to improperly pressure building companies and their employees, who have valid and legally binding enterprise agreements, into submitting to WorkChoices-type rules under the government’s building code,” Mr Setka said.
“The government's aim is to force companies and their employees to give up conditions that have been approved by Fair Work Australia.
“The union has always believed the government's conduct was unlawful and this decision vindicates our concerns”.
As a result of the judgement Eco's application to vary its enterprise agreement to bring it into line with the construction code has been put on hold until at least March.