January - February 2016 Industry Update

Building Code 2013 - Make it your priority

FWBC takes a strict enforcement approach to the Building Code 2013 (the Building Code).  As such, it is more important than ever that all contractors are aware of the expected standards required under the Building Code.

The Building Code applies to the public and private projects of all building and construction contractors or participants who have tendered for Commonwealth-funded projects.  All contractors affected need to be aware of their obligations because what happens on their projects is their responsibility. 

FWBC Investigators proactively ensure compliance with the Building Code by visiting sites, undertaking both inspections and audits. Investigators visit Commonwealth funded, State/Territory funded and privately funded sites. Some important issues requiring rectification include:

  • Shop steward or employee representatives being allowed to conduct inductions unsupervised or otherwise having unsupervised access to inductees before they commence work

Some sites have allowed shop stewards or union delegates to run unsupervised inductions. In other cases, contractors have failed to supervise shop stewards or employee representatives with inductees. As inductees may be particularly vulnerable to pressure to join a union, head contractors must ensure inductions are run by site management. Any involvement of a shop steward or employee representative in or after an induction must always be supervised.

  • Failure to provide freedom of association information in induction content

In some case, contactors have failed to promote freedom of association. A contractor must adopt policies that promote freedom of association. FWBC expects contractors to tell new employees that they are not required to be or not be a member of a union in order to work on site. An induction is an ideal forum to promote freedom of association.  FWBC has developed a helpful induction template that provides a best practice guide for the type of information to include in induction material.

  • Head contractors failing to comply with their obligation to proactively ensure compliance with the Building Code by subcontractors

In some cases, head contractors have failed to make compliance a contractual obligation. In other cases, head contractors have failed to confirm compliance with subcontractors during the project (e.g. at site or project meetings). It is important that contractors are putting mechanisms in place to proactively ensure compliance with the Building Code. Conduct on the site is the responsibility of the head contractor.

  • Head contractors requiring subcontractors to have particular workplace arrangements 

There have been instances of head contractors engaging in activities that attempted to influence or pressure subcontractors to have a particular enterprise agreement or to pay particular rates or allowances.  Head contractors must not require or unduly influence subcontractors to have particular workplace arrangements in place to work on the site e.g. a union enterprise agreement. Head contractors must also ensure subcontractors are not coerced or unduly influenced or pressured to make over-award payments or to contribute to particular redundancy or superannuation funds.

  • Failure to report actual or threatened industrial action to the FWBC Director as soon as practicable after the action or threat occurs

There have been instances of head contractors making reports as late as 3-4 weeks after the threat of or occurrence of industrial action. It is important that contractors always provide notification in a timely fashion. Reports can be made to codereporting[at]fwbc.gov.au or via the hotline on 1800 003 338.

FWBC’s vision is to create a productive and harmonious industry where all sites operate in compliance with the Building Code and the law. To ensure this occurs, the FWBC will continue to work with the industry in identifying breaches. Where serious breaches are identified which are not or cannot be satisfactorily rectified, it will recommend that a company be sanctioned. Sanctions range from a formal warning to exclusion from tendering for Australian Government-funded projects.

It is important that contractors understand that they must comply with the Building Code 2013 to be eligible to undertake building and construction work on Australian Government funded projects.

Further information on the Building Code 2013 can be found at www.fwbc.gov.au/building-code.

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