During the course of the financial year, the agency has undergone significant change in direction and priority due to budget issues and change of leadership.
In the first half of the financial year, due to substantial budget cuts flagged in early 2013, the agency’s operational activity was focused on finalising existing cases, cutting back significantly on educational activities and ceasing proactive audit work. In the 2013-14 additional estimates process, the agency’s budget was increased by $5 million for the remainder of the financial year.
In December 2013, FWBC and the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) reinstituted a previous arrangement whereby wage and entitlement matters were referred to FWO. The purpose of this decision was to ensure that the main focus of FWBC was on the critical and complex high priority concerns of the building and construction industry, noting that FWO has the professional resources to deal with wages matters across all industries and can therefore handle such matters more efficiently and seamlessly.
At the commencement of the 2013-14 financial year, FWBC’s hotline system used an interactive voice response unit (IVR) to screen calls. The IVR functions were removed to ensure that a hotline call would be always answered in the first instance by an investigator rather than a recorded message.
During the 2013-14 financial year, FWBC made it a priority to be visible in the industry by regularly visiting worksites, either to attend to specific complaints and requests or to proactively visit and ensure industry participants were aware of their rights and responsibilities on-site. Major new infrastructure projects are kept under review and a priority has also been given to visiting regional areas to ensure industry participants in those areas are aware of the role and function of the FWBC and to provide personal contacts should any issues or concerns arise on those sites.
In response to a changing national industrial landscape, FWBC responded to a significant shift in the locations of industrial problems. Staff were deployed to areas of higher need as required throughout the year. While Victoria continues to experience widespread industrial issues, there has been a lessening of activity in Western Australia, an increase in Queensland and, towards the end of the year, a significant spike in activity in South Australia.