The Workplace Manslaughter Taskforce met again on Thursday, 23 May, and Master Builders Victoria was once again present at the meeting to represent members’ interests and argue our concerns about this intended legislation and its potential consequences.
We are pleased to report that there does seem to be some willingness to listen to our concerns. However, we are less pleased that some of the key areas of concern that we have highlighted have not currently been embraced by the Andrews Government.
One of these is the apparent determination not to include employees and their responsibilities in the legislation, which we believe is illogical and unfair, given workplace safety should be a primary concern for everyone on a work site.
Put simply, the current direction of the legislation would see arguably innocent business owners and office holders potentially sent to prison for up to 20 years, because of the rogue actions of employees.
This approach is inconsistent with the Government’s stated aim of creating a deterrent from engaging in criminally negligent conduct that could cause death. It is unclear why the Government would not seek to deter employees – along with everyone else – from engaging in such conduct.
I mentioned it in my first update, and it warrants repeating here.
People who are culpable and cause a death should be held to account – whether they are the boss, manager, contractor, employee or other duty holder.
Master Builders Victoria agrees that if anyone knowingly fails to meet proper safety standards and causes a death, then they should be held accountable.
Our view on this has not – and will not – change.
During our latest meeting we were also presented with the UK legislation as a potential framework to base the new Victorian legislation upon.
Our second major concern about the direction of the current discussion is the inclusion of ‘organisational liability’ – as per the UK legislation. This means businesses can be held accountable, even when employees are solely responsible for the alleged negligence.
Our research has shown that in the UK model, small businesses are disproportionately targeted by this legislation.
And while, in the UK model, companies may be subject to hefty fines, the proposed Victorian legislation seeks to go significantly further and include prison sentences of up to 20 years for company officers.
Also of significant concern to Master Builders Victoria is that under the UK laws, a substantial element of the breach must result from the way in which the activities are managed or organised by senior management. This safeguard does not exist within the legislation which is currently proposed for Victoria.
Clearly, we are extremely concerned by the apparent determination to include certain elements in this legislation, which we would argue are, frankly, neither fair nor rational.
We are committed to retaining our seat at the taskforce table, as we continue to argue the illogicality of what is being proposed.
Master Builders Victoria - Call to Action
But now we need your feedback – and your support – to articulate to the Government as forcefully as we can, what your concerns are.
You can find a copy of the consultation paper HERE.
We are urging you to send your comments on the consultation paper BY RETURN to this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Government maintains that it has a mandate - and is demonstrating an intractable determination - to introduce this new legislation.
While we acknowledge that change appears inevitable, we do not agree that the Government has a mandate to introduce certain elements in the legislation which are simply unfair.
Exempting employees was not an explicit pre-election commitment; it was not included in the Government’s list of non-negotiable items.
We will continue to argue the case for legislation that is fair, rational and workable in delivering improved safety outcomes - specifically in the building and construction industry.
Business owners are not the enemy of workplace safety. Office holders are not the enemy of workplace safety.
We are determined to fight to see all parties potentially affected by this proposed legislation treated equally and fairly.
Master Builders Victoria fears that the legislation, which is currently evolving, is in danger of establishing an unnecessarily volatile and confrontational approach to workplace safety.
As the leading voice in the building and construction industry, Master Builders Victoria is calling for fairness as the Government works through an appropriate solution to their resolute commitment for change.
We want to assure you that the interests of our members remain paramount to our continued involvement in the taskforce, and we will continue to update you as regularly as possible.