Federal Government Proposed Legislation Creates Uncertainty
Posted on Nov 28, 2017
In mid-October, legislation was tabled in Federal Parliament entitled ‘Proper Use of Worker Benefits Bill’ which, if passed in its current form, has the potential to significantly reduce the benefits that all worker redundancy funds, including Incolink, can provide to workers and employers. At this stage it has the potential to lead to increased costs and significantly reduce Occupational Health and Safety expertise in the Victorian construction industry.
The construction industry presents unique safety risks to workers and often offers periods of casual and short term work. Construction workers face the highest risk of injury and death, have the highest level of suicide of any worker group, experience high levels of labour mobility and long periods of unemployment.
Incolink provides a safety net which protects construction workers by investing in workers’ training, health, wellbeing and safety to tackle these issues. It is a unique fund bringing workers and employers together to solve industry problems. This Bill may have significant impacts on Incolink’s 40,000+ worker members. In particular, it may prevent us investing in key Occupational Health and Safety initiatives and providing workers’ insurances, such as funeral, dental and ambulance cover that Incolink funds directly.
Occupational Health and Safety Incolink worked alongside industry associations to establish a program of industry Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) grants when WorkSafe removed funding for these roles in 2002. Funding these OH&S roles helps ensure good OH&S practice across the commercial building and construction industry. We invested $4.8 million in 2016-17 to fund 12 organisations (Employer Associations and Trade Unions) to deliver OH&S services to Victoria’s Building and Construction Industry.
This Bill, as currently drafted, may prevent Incolink from investing in this critical work and put worker safety at significant risk on Victorian construction sites.
Insurances Incolink invests back into the industry to generate a range of benefits beyond simply being a safety net of redundancy funds for members at the end of a job.
In addition to working with the employer to fund income protection, accident and illness and portable sick leave insurance, Incolink provides a number of insurances directly.
This includes insurances such as ambulance, funeral and accidental dental.
This Bill may prevent Incolink from providing this cover to our members. If we were unable to provide these insurances, it would impact members and could generate additional costs for employers. This Bill also creates significant uncertainty by providing the Minister greater power to make rules which could potentially prevent Incolink funding wellbeing services and safety training in the future.
Summary This Bill has the potential to affect the co-operative model that has worked effectively since 1988.
Incolink supports proper governance, audited reporting and transparency to ensure members know how the money being held on their behalf is being spent and why. Our Fund has operated as a fund for the industry for 28 years on the basis of being a direct member based organisation.
However, the Bill as currently drafted goes beyond this objective. Occupational health and safety and the higher rate of injury and death in construction are two key areas in which Incolink invests on behalf of its members. It simply makes no sense to stop workers investing in their own OH&S or preventing funds from providing their members funeral and other insurances.
The risk that a current or future Minister could unilaterally create new rules to prevent us providing key health and wellbeing services is equally unnecessary and dangerous. We are working with all political parties to ensure that they understand what the fund does for the Building and Construction industry and those that work in it.
If you have any questions, please call the Incolink Customer Service team on 03 9639 3000.
Radley de Silva CEO Master Builders Association of Victoria (Incolink Director)
Ralph Edwards President CFMEU Construction & General Division Victoria/Tasmania Branch (Incolink Director)
Ken Gardner CEO Master Plumbers & Mechanical Services Association Australia (Incolink Director)
Earl Setches Victorian & Federal Secretary PPTEU (Incolink Director)