ABCC fine protects dodgy developers who withhold payments

Published: 20 Aug 2020

The ABCC fining a Perth subcontractor for unlawful picketing while ignoring the behaviour of the head contractor who withheld progress payments demonstrates how out of touch the regulator is with the realities of the construction industry and the need to reform security of payment laws.

“You know the ABCC’s priorities are out of step with reality when a contractor who is being bled dry cops a massive fine for doing what they can to get workers paid while the developer who withheld payment gets a free pass,” said Dave Noonan, CFMEU National Construction Secretary.

“Yet again we have the ABCC ignoring the unlawful behaviour of a head contractor and instead going after a small business and workers. Even worse, it gives a signal to the worst operators in the industry that they can withhold payments with impunity as the regulator has their back.”

“Subcontractors and workers are owed millions in late payments from greedy and unscrupulous developers who thumb their noses at the law and delay payment by months, sometimes years. It is a practice rife in the industry but the ABCC seems blind to it.”

“The subcontractors who do the bulk of the work and employ the majority of workers are being forced to underwrite the profits of big developers who shirk the bill when it comes to paying fairly and on time.”

“ABCC Commissioner McBurney says the Perth subcontractor should have gone to court to get paid rather than protest at the site. This ignores the fact the courts take years, are incredibly expensive for small businesses, and too often result in unequal outcomes.”

“It also ignores the findings of the Murray Review into security of payments which made 86 recommendations on reforms that would protect workers and smaller operators in the industry from the bullying behaviour of developers that threatens their viability.”

“The Federal Government has been sitting on the Murray Review since May 2018 and the need has only become more urgent as the industry tries to weather the shock of the pandemic crisis.”

“The Morrison Government seems more interested in looking after their big developer and property industry donors than protecting small businesses and workers.”