March 2014 Industry Update

What does coercion look like?

A series of allegations of coercion on building sites around Australia is cause for concern. Head contractors, site managers and workers should know their rights and know what coercion looks like.

Coercion is taking action or threatening to take action against another person in order to cause them to do something they do not want to do.

Industry participants may recognise coercion as action or threats of action in order to:

·         pressure an employer to engage or not engage a particular independent contractor;

·         cause a worker to support or not support an enterprise agreement;

·         allocate or not allocate certain duties to a particular employee or independent contractor; or

·         force an employer to employ or not employ a particular person.

In a recent matter FWBC launched in the Federal Court, a union official allegedly made threats of continued and disruptive action in an attempt to coerce a Darwin builder into paying union fees for workers.

Coercion can have harmful effects on workers, businesses and projects by:

·         a reduction in fair competition;

·         project delays;

·         workers not being able to work for pay; and

·         Businesses losing money.

If the courts find a person has engaged in coercion, they can be penalised up to $10,200. A union or business or can be penalised $51,000.

CASE STUDY:

James is not happy that Bob’s Building Company has been employing some overseas workers at the Mega Barn construction site. James believes Bob’s Building Company should be employing ‘local’ workers who have lived and worked in Australia for a long time. To try and get Bob’s Building Company to employ the local workers, James gathers some people he knows and blocks access to the Mega Barn construction site so workers cannot get on site. James and his friends hold up signs saying “Employ locals only”. Bob, the manager of Bob’s Building Company, tries to enter the site. James blocks him from entering and says “no one goes on site until you only employ the locals”. This is an example of coercion.

A coercion fact sheet is available on the FWBC website.

For information or confidential advice, contact the FWBC Hotline on 1800 003 338. Callers can choose to remain anonymous.

We value your feedback on our Industry Update. Provide feedback or tell us what you would like in your update by contacting Sarah Mennie on 03 8509 3097 or Sarah.Mennie [at] fwbc.gov.au

 

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