Bizarrely, the Fair Work Building Commission (FWBC) is now playing an astonishing role on construction sites in NSW. The ETU has been made aware from concerned parents regarding apprentices who have been targeted by the FWBC.
Following a number of visits by ETU organisers, apprentices have chosen to join the ETU. These apprentices have raised a number of concerns including:
Intimidation and bullying by employers
Lack (sometimes none) of supervision
Underpayment of wages
Forced to work in unsafe areas
Apprentices being employed by companies but not registered as apprentices
Apprentices being summarily dismissed by employers
Apprentices not being paid to attend TAFE
Apprentices receiving electric shocks while working LIVE!
Failure to notify Safework of serious and dangerous incidents (electric shocks)
In fact, the list goes on. The recent campaign by the ETU has found significant failings in NSW in regards to employer’s attitude and treatment of apprentice electricians. Unbelievably, the FWBC is not interested in pursuing any agenda to protect apprentice electricians. It would also appear that the National Electrical Contractors (NECA) who represent many of the dodgy bosses has called the FWBC to pursue ETU officials while ignoring the actions of their members who are engaged in illegal activity and putting young apprentices lives at risk.
The ETU has learned over the last few weeks that the FWBC has decided to visit sites where ETU construction officials have attended. The FWBC inspectors have then accessed the personal information of these apprentices (and other Electricians) without their knowledge or consent and using their phone numbers contacted them. Apprentices and their parents have informed the ETU that apprentices have been interrogated over the phone and in some cases approached on site.
The FWBC hasn't asked any questions about the wellbeing of the apprentices or advised of their rights to join the ETU. Unsurprisingly the FWBC has set out on a fishing expedition, accessing personal phone numbers to see if they have been forced to join the ETU. The fact is electrical apprentices have rushed to join the ETU to raise concerns, and find out about their rights.
Remarkably, the FWBC inspectors have also sought to encourage workers and apprentices to leave site (while they are still working) to meet in cafes, to have a "friendly chat".
"This is an outrageous abuse of power from the Fair Work Building Commission.” Said ETU organiser Stewart Edward.
“How can it be that, if union officials were to behave in this way that both the worker and the official would be found guilty of taking illegal industrial action and fined for such action." Stewart said.
Many Australians are still unaware of who the FWBC are, and alarmingly, have no idea that the last federal election was actually called by the Turnbull Government to give the FWBC even more power.
"The new powers, if passed by the Senate, will mean the Fair Work Building Commission will be replaced by the discredited Australian Building Construction Commission and all workers in construction including, electricians and apprentices, will not have any right to silence, and in fact, if they refuse to appear before the Australian Building Construction Commission they can be sent to jail for 6 months" Stewart Edward said.
Stewart's advice to electrical apprentices is join the ETU, find out your rights, get organised and remember, you do not have to speak to the Fair Work Building Commission. If you are contacted in any way seek advice from your Union, the ETU, prior to responding to the FWBC.
The FWBC should stop harassing apprentices and focus on the dodgy bosses and NECA who would have more credibility if they stopped defending the outreagous behaviour of their members.