Earthmoving News, Features, Opinion

CCF QLD: best practice needs to support productivity

When setting best practice standards for the industry, government needs to ensure that productivity isn’t being impacted in the pursuit of other goals

There has been a lot of recent media interest in the Queensland government’s Best Practice Industry Conditions (BPICs).

Myself and others have been raising this issue for nearly four years since it was first unveiled as part of the Best Practice Principles (BPPs) in the State Procurement Policy (SPP). It is a bad policy. But let’s sort the wheat from the chaff.

BPICs are part of the BPPs, which sit under the SPP. The BPPs are:

  •  best practice workplace health and safety systems and standards
  •  best practice commitment to apprentices and trainees
  •  best practice industrial relations.

The industry is not arguing against the first two requirements, just the third.

Arguments that suggest that without BPICs, work health and safety would be compromised or there would not be a commitment to apprentices and trainees are false. Although BPICs do address these points, they are still addressed by the BPPs, which the industry fully supports.

In addition, the Queensland government’s SPP has a strong ‘buy local’ requirement that doesn’t need to be reflected in the BPICs. Repeating these requirements into enterprise agreements clouds the policing between industry and appropriate regulators.

The problem with the BPICs is that the government is getting in the middle of the Fair Work Act requirements for agreement making. It is also giving the most militant union, the CFMEU, an opportunity to use elements of BPICs as industrial leverage across our industry. It is important to note that it is the AWU that has the coverage across our industry.

Everyone I speak to in the industry supports their workforce being paid well, but what the BPICs do is create an environment devoid of flexibility and productivity that crawls across the whole industry and not just the major projects they are specified on.

All segments of the industry are competing for the same pool of labour, but all segments of the industry are not the same. Nor are the companies that work in these segments.

We as taxpayers and consumers must be aware that to get the best bang for our buck we need to be delivering more for less.

What we are seeing is the reverse and this unintended consequence is creating a range of inflexible terms and conditions, coupled with inflated wages working their way into the housing market.

Not one dollar can be spent on a house before a dollar is spent on civil infrastructure. Civil infrastructure is the foundation of dwellings regardless of whether they are attached or detached. This housing-enabling infrastructure is getting more and more difficult and expensive to deliver.

This is not blaming the workforce – rather it is blaming poor government policy that, unless fixed, will continue to add to the cost of housing at a time where there is a housing shortage and a cost-of-living crisis. The reality is these issues affect every person in this state and country and the majority do not work in the construction industry.

Whilst it is accepted that inflation over the past few years has added enormous cost to projects, two things need to happen to deliver the infrastructure that is required for housing and capital works:

  •  capital budgets need increase in line with inflation
  •  initiatives that improve productivity need to be embraced. This will include initiatives that improve labour productivity.

I suspect there is little room to increase budgets, and therefore a major focus on productivity will be required.

If the status quo remains, there will be increasingly less infrastructure delivered at ever-increasing costs.

It is pleasing to see that the prime minister has ruled out a federal, Queensland-style BPIC. At least the prime minister has demonstrated the Commonwealth’s commitment to fostering a competitive and sustainable construction industry.

Let’s hope the Queensland government will follow suit.

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