The Australian Industrial Relations Commission
(AIRC) has been tasked by the ALP Government to
create "modern awards" in a tight timeframe. The
Commission has been given the impossible task of seeking to both
ensure employees are no worse off and employers incur no greater
cost by the imposition of a new modern award.
The construction industry modern award was examined in Stage 2
of the process. The AIRC rejected the Master Builders of Australia
submission that "the building and construction industry would
be best served by having three Awards that cover on-site
construction, the civil sector and an off-site award".
The result is that on-site and civil construction are proposed
to be covered by the same award!
Building, metal and civil construction group
The AIRC's award modernisation statement of progress was
handed down on 23 January along with its "Stage 2" draft
exposure awards, including:
Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting
Industry Award 2010
Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Contracting Industry and
Occupational Award 2010
Joinery and Building Trades Award 2010
The AIRC has pointed out that during the consultation stage, the
industry participants did not argue out the content of the exposure
draft, preferring to await an indication as to the number and
proposed scope of operation of exposure drafts for the
As a consequence, the exposure drafts published are stated to be
at a preliminary stage and will benefit from a more detailed input
from industry participants. Input is currently being provided by
employer associations, unions and other stakeholders but it is not
too late for submissions from industry participants.
Scope of coverage
The Building and Construction Modern Award will replace the
National Building and Construction Industry Award 2000
(NBCI Award), the Australian Workers' Union Construction
and Maintenance Award 2002 (AWU Award), and the National
Metal and Engineering On-site Construction Industry Award
2002. The exposure draft also covers other activities
currently subject to separate award regulation – for
example, landscaping, joinery work, mobile crane work and
geomembrane and geotextile installation where undertaken in the
building and construction industry.
The AIRC has not included the asphalt, bitumen and pre-mixed
concrete industries subject to further consideration in respect of
possible separate awards or integration into the building and
construction industry, cement and concrete products or quarrying
The AIRC was conscious of the need to avoid an
"off-site" construction award crossing over with the
manufacturing activity, which it decided would be more properly
regulated by the Manufacturing Modern Award. The exposure draft of
that award incorporates elements of the draft off-site award
proposed by the CFMEU, specifically clay articles, glazing and
gypsum and plasterboard manufacturing. The cement and concrete
products industry will be considered in Stage 3.
The AIRC also published an exposure draft of a Quarrying
Industry Award 2010. The minimum wages are those found in the
Quarry Industry-Victoria-Award 2000 and are not dissimilar
to rates in awards and NAPSAs applying generally in the industry
although they are significantly lower than the New South Wales
The redundancy provision in the exposure drafts also requires
input in light of current award provisions. Most, but not all,
construction awards contain the provision peculiar to the
construction industry, which defines redundancy more broadly than
the "genuine redundancy" definition arising from
Commission test cases and reflected in the NES, and apply the
Lower, pre-2004 scale to all businesses (including with less than
15 employees) and to employees even with less than a year's
service. The building industry awards also permit an employer to
offset its obligations under the redundancy provision by making
contributions to a redundancy pay scheme. This is reflected in the
draft Construction Modern Award but with a partial sunset clause in
Will this result in requests/demands by employees and their
representatives for redundancy fund contribution in the civil
Your opportunity to have a say
Written comments and other material in relation to the exposure
drafts are required to be lodged with the Commission and the
Commission will sit for final consultations.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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