The discussion around productivity at building sites has been given a boost, after the Senate passed a bill to speed up the implementation of the 2016 national construction code from 2 years to the end of August this year.

The re-establishment of the ABCC triggered the start of the new code, which prohibits enterprise agreements from including a shopping list of content for any builders who wants to win Commonwealth-funded projects.

Bringing forward the implementation date to August 2017 will upset a significant number of current enterprise agreements, and likely disrupt discussions for any new enterprise agreement that are already underway.

The code (the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Amendment Act 2017) prohibits restrictive clauses in enterprise agreements that limit the ability of a contractor to manage its business or improve productivity, as well as clauses that give unions disproportionate power on building sites. Builders will now have a productivity mandate to bring to the bargaining table to negotiate the accelerated implementation of the code.

While the legislation is intended to level the playing field on a number of fronts, the road to productivity will undoubtedly be a bumpy ride. Predictably, the CFMEU is furious and has flagged it will be organising national protests and work stoppages in the coming weeks against the August deadline.

In addition to the enterprise agreement rules, the code mandates an extensive compliance regime for any builder interested in tendering for Federal government building work – sham contracting, security of payments, prioritising jobs for Australians over visa workers holders, freedom of association as well as drug and alcohol management programs are all on the list.

The need for builders’ enterprise agreements to be code-compliant by the shortened deadline, and to ensure code compliance across the board will most likely have a significant impact on bargaining dynamics and activity within the construction industry between now and September 2017.