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Daily Archives: April 6th, 2009

The construction industry says it expects up to 100,000 people to be laid off over the next 12 months, despite the Federal Government’s stimulus efforts and the recent series of interest rate cuts.

The pessimistic forecast is contained in the Master Builders Association’s latest national survey of sentiment within the building and construction sector.

The association’s chief economist, Peter Jones, says the building sector has been helped by interest rate cuts and the first home owners grant.

Nevertheless he says building activity is expected to slump further, with dire consequences for jobs.

“Master Builders expects that the job losses in the industry over the next 12 to 18 months will be in the order of 50,000 to 100,000,” he said.

Mr Jones says the survey confirms there is a drought in finance for construction projects.

“Over one third of respondents to the March quarter survey said that a lack of finance was a major constraint on their business,” he said.

“Builders are certainly exceedingly pessimistic about the outlook, despite some glimmers of hope in the residential sector, and the outlook for the sector is for a reduction in both output and employment.”

Mr Jones has used the survey’s findings to call for further interest rate cuts and more stimulus measures in the May Federal Budget, including an extension of the first home owners grant beyond its June 30 cut-off.

Ben Schneiders
April 3, 2009

UNIONS have been warned they face potential financial ruin and nearly $10 million in fines and damages over an industrial dispute at the West Gate Bridge that has included allegations of violence, sabotage and breaches of the Trade Practices Act.

The industrial action has resulted in little work being done on the upgrade of the bridge in the past two months amid fears the project faces costly delays.

Contractor John Holland, in a letter obtained by The Age, has warned senior officials of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union to stop their “current unlawful conduct” or face potential ruin.

The long list of allegations of threatening behaviour contained in the letter from Stephen Sasse, John Holland’s human resources boss, included two incidents on Monday.

In one, an Australian Building and Construction Commission car, with two inspectors inside, was allegedly damaged.

In the other incident, picketers allegedly threatened staff outside John Holland’s Port Melbourne office.

Unions have blamed John Holland for causing the dispute after a labour hire firm engaged by the company agreed to a pay rate that John Holland would not accept, resulting in the loss of more than 30 jobs.

The dispute has centred on what sort of industrial agreement should cover the project: a civil construction or a more expensive “mixed metals” agreement, which pays as much as $10 an hour more.

There has also been disagreement between unions on the project.

John Holland said it was considering taking contempt proceedings, on top of the injunctions it has already received from the Federal Court. In its letter, it claimed:

■There had been about 65 breaches of the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act at the site and unions were “exposed” to penalties, so far, of $7 million; and that

■Unions had breached the Trade Practices Act over an alleged secondary boycott, with potential fines of $750,000 after claims a contractor was told not to work on the project.

Ben Schneiders
April 3, 2009

JOB losses are mounting in Australia’s mining industry with 12,500 jobs lost in the past three months, marking a stark reversal from the middle of last year.

Then employers expected to employ an extra 86,000 workers but now, due to the dramatic fall in commodity prices and the economic slowdown, mining employers are laying off staff in increasing numbers.

The reversal of fortune — contained in a Australian Mines and Metals Association’s survey — also shows that more than 55 per cent of the 134 miners and industry contractors surveyed expect to lay off staff this year.

Chief executive Steve Knott said the AMMA had recently conducted a series of meetings and the message from the industry was getting worse. “What is even more worrying is that it has become clear the position in the survey is understated and the job situation is far worse than that currently being reported,” he said.

Mr Knott said the loss of so many well-paying jobs, average salaries for the mining jobs are in excess of $100,000 a year, would have a dramatic effect on families and communities. Besides the high-profile job losses announced at BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto there has been a string of job cuts at smaller mining companies announced in recent months.

Mr Knott said the Federal Government should take the cost pressure off business through cutting taxes, red tape and deferring an emissions trading scheme. There should also be fast tracking of infrastructure projects, he said.

He said it was not enough for government simply to “allude” to global forces for the deterioration in the economy.

Ben Schneiders and Misha Schubert
April 3, 2009

AUSTRALIA needs an industry watchdog with legal powers to haul building workers into forced interrogations due to persistent “industrial unlawfulness” — especially in Victoria and Western Australia — a report for the Federal Government recommends.

The report by former Federal Court judge Murray Wilcox, to be released today, largely supports weakening the powers of the watchdog that will replace the Howard government’s controversial Australian Building and Construction Commission from next February.

But it says the power to compulsorily interrogate workers, which unions argue violates the right to silence and basic human rights, should remain, albeit with more safeguards in place.

Last night, the national construction secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Dave Noonan, said unions would “oppose any discriminatory laws that treat construction workers differently to other Australians”.

Mr Noonan said he was yet to see the report and was disappointed it was released to the media before being given to people in the industry.

Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd said unions remained committed to abolishing the Building and Construction Commission.

Workplace Minister Julia Gillard is meeting state industrial relations ministers in Adelaide today and will ask them to respond to the Wilcox report by June, before she decides on the future building watchdog. Ms Gillard last night stressed she wanted to maintain a strong industrial policing presence in the sector and a zero-tolerance attitude to law-breaking.

“It is the intention of the Rudd Labor Government to always have a tough cop on the beat in the building and construction industry,” she said.

But in concessions to unions, the report recommends that the current Building and Construction Commission should give up much of its independence and have a semi-autonomous role within the new Fair Work Ombudsman’s office. If building workers did break the law, they would risk only the same penalties as other workers — not the existing huge fines and jail terms — under the proposed overhaul.

In a well-publicised case, senior CFMEU officer Noel Washington last year faced up to six months’ jail for not answering questions from the commission. The case was eventually withdrawn.

The executive director of the Master Builders Association of Victoria, Brian Welch, welcomed the review’s validation of industry concerns about unlawfulness but was concerned how effective the watered-down powers would be. “There are elements of this which we are unhappy with; there are elements that prove and vindicate the things we have been saying,” he said.

He said it was a “shame” that the Building and Construction Commission was recommended to become part of the new Fair Work Ombudsman’s role. He said that would only harm its operations.

When it comes to compulsory interrogations, the proposed safeguards would include staff of the new specialist building division having to meet a number of tests before an interview would be allowed.

Senior staff would have to be present at the video-taped interviews, which would be approved by an independent person.

Stephanie Peatling
April 3, 2009

AT LEAST 1000 people from charities including Mission Australia, the Salvation Army and the Catholic and Uniting churches have lost their jobs due to the Federal Government’s shake-up of job placement and training programs.

The Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O’Connor, refuses to reveal the exact number of people left jobless under the new arrangements or why not-for-profit organisations had lost work.

“That is not the position of the Government to work through these staffing arrangements,” he said yesterday.

New contracts have been awarded under a $4 billion redesign of the Job Network, which will be known as Job Services Australia from July. The revamped system will merge all existing employment programs. Not-for-profit organisations that have been running job placement programs for years have lost their contracts without explanation.

Confusion reigned in employment services companies and organisations yesterday as people waited nervously for news of their jobs.

The Government promised on Wednesday it would publish a list of the successful organisations on a departmental website at 2pm yesterday. The list was still unavailable several hours later.

Frantic workers trying to get answers from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations said no one had answered their calls.

Mr O’Connor told Sky News that people who had lost their jobs should be able to find employment with companies that were awarded contracts.

This claim was dismissed by the executive director of Catholic Social Services Australia, Frank Quinlan. “It’s like suggesting Liberal Party staffers who lost their jobs after the election could have taken on new jobs with the Labor Party. It’s just madness,” he said.

Mr Quinlan said other social services provided by not for profit organisations could stop because of the loss of funding.

“This will affect the community sector at the time when the community needs us most,” Mr Quinlan said.

For the first time two overseas companies have been awarded contracts. One is the British company A4e. The other is believed to be Reed Employment, also based in Britain.

The Opposition’s employment participation spokesman, Andrew Southcott, said Mr O’Connor needed to explain why well-performing providers had been unsuccessful.

April 01, 2009
Article from: Australian Associated Press

MORE than 300 workers will finish up at Brisbane’s Fisher and Paykel refrigerator factory tomorrow, as the company prepares to shift operations to Thailand.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) says the workers aren’t highly paid and the decision is disappointing especially given the amount of support the company’s been given.

“We’ve worked hard with Fisher and Paykel in the past to help them ensure profitability out of their Queensland operation,” AMWU Secretary Andrew Dettmer said.

“Fisher and Paykel has also received considerable assistance from both state and federal governments to ensure viability, but it looks like that was all in vain.

“It makes you wonder what it takes now to encourage these companies to keep their manufacturing operations in Australia,” he said.

Despite the layoffs, Mr Dettmer said the manufacturing industry in Queensland was actually growing, with 4000 jobs created last year.

“It’s just a shame that companies like Fisher and Paykel, which have built up a reputation based on being high-quality and locally manufactured, can’t see the value in retaining their local workforces.”

Fisher and Paykel will also close factories in the US and New Zealand, where it makes ovens and dishwashers.

Its manufacturing will move to Thailand and Mexico.,25197,25276976-5006786,00.html

03 April 2009 6:39am

Always doing what’s urgent – but not necessarily important – can take hours out of your day for no result, says coach Faye Hollands.

Hollands, an experienced recruiter and director of Outshine Consulting, says effective time management can have a huge impact on the results you achieve in your professional life.

If you regularly put things off, thinking you’ll have more time tomorrow, “that delays and puts off the results you’re trying to achieve,” she says. But, if you want to get more done in less time and improve your productivity, “it’s entirely up to you to make it happen”.

Most people, Hollands says, “don’t stop long enough to think about what needs to be done. They just jump straight in and do whatever grabs their attention next, or what seems like the easiest task to get on with”.

The problem with that approach is that what gets done isn’t necessarily what’s important.

A key principle in time mastery is, “important things are not always urgent, and urgent things are not always important,” Hollands says. “Learning to distinguish between the two is essential for time management.”

In order to do what’s important, you must determine what your key goals are so you can plan your day accordingly. “What are your mission-critical tasks? I can’t emphasise enough how important this is. If you’re responsible for generating revenue, then a mission-critical task for you is business development or marketing. It’s not filing emails.”

Key result areas, she says, “are those aspects of your job that matter the most. They’re your bottom line. They are why you’re on payroll or running a business.”

Most jobs can be broken down into between five and seven key result areas, she says. These point to the most valuable use of your time, as opposed to tasks that don’t contribute to your goals. “These must be the priority in everything you do, and should be meticulously scheduled in your diary.

“Planning is absolutely key in time management, and these appointments in your diary should be given the same respect as a client meeting.”

If you ever find yourself overwhelmed by your to-do list, wondering what to tackle next, a simple way to prioritise is to ask yourself, “If I could only do one more thing today, what would leave me feeling satisfied?”

Hollands says that by asking yourself that question, “you’ll maximise your time and focus on what’s important every day. It will leave you satisfied and give you a sense of accomplishment.”

Other tasks, she says, will make you feel busy but they don’t achieve anything and don’t contribute to your goals.

Apply the 80-20 principle
Hollands recommends identifying two tasks that are mission critical each day, in line with the Pareto principle.

This principle applies across many areas, she says, for example: 20 per cent of your meeting time is spent making 80 per cent of your decisions; and 20 per cent of your activities will account for 80 per cent of your results.

To get more done in less time you must focus on doing these mission-critical activities that have the highest pay-off, she says.

“On a to-do list of 10 items, two will be more important than the other eight. Take time to redefine your to-do list. If you start with the most important tasks, you’ll accomplish more than the average person. Use the 80-20 principle and concentrate on mission-critical tasks that will help you move closer to your goals.

“These are often the ones you procrastinate over – the most complicated ones on your list, or the most time consuming. It’s much easier to find other tasks to do instead.”

Set aside time to do them at the start of the day or when you know your energy levels are highest, she advises.

“Be selective with your limited amount of time and spend it on what’s most important to you and your goals. When you start a task, you’ve automatically rejected everything else you could be doing in that time, so it’s important that you’re the one choosing the task, rather than allowing circumstances or other people to choose the task for you.”

Five steps
Hollands recommends five steps to create more time in your day:
Plan, plan, plan – “Whether you like it or not, planning is the key to running a successful day where you actually get the important stuff done!

“Spend five minutes at night writing down the key tasks that you need to do the following day and allocate time slots to complete them. This allows your subconscious mind to work on any challenges or problems you might be experiencing overnight, and also ensures maximum focus the following day because you know exactly what you need to do.”

Stop filling your time – “Filing your emails, shuffling paper, chatting on the phone and surfing the internet might make you feel busy, but I’m pretty sure they don’t help you achieve your key goals.

“Write a list now of the top five things you do to waste time or procrastinate, and then avoid them like the plague until your key tasks are done.”

Say ‘no’ – “If you’re constantly saying ‘yes’, you’re more than likely to put yourself under undue stress and pressure, with an increased workload to boot! An inability to say no can leave you over-committed and unable to achieve the best results so learn to say ‘no’ to stay in control of your day.”

Double check – “Everyone makes mistakes but with the right planning and double-checking you will catch most of them before any problems occur. Spend just a few minutes checking to save yourself hours of pain and frustration later.”

Get organised – “Working and living in general chaos does nothing other than lead to wasted time and increased stress. If you don’t know where things are you can’t be as productive and efficient as possible, so make sure you invest a few minutes every day to get organised.”

06 April 2009 6:52am

The recruitment industry is proving slow to take advantage of social media’s low-cost and free opportunities for recruiters to source candidates and brand themselves, according to Adlogic director, Craig Schuetrumpf.

He believes that while there is increasing take-up in the area, recruiters haven’t yet adopted social media, blogs and videos on a large scale because they don’t have time to understand how it works and how it can benefit their business.

“Yet innovation is going to be crucial if agencies want to differentiate their offering and increase their value proposition in this tough market.”

When you start connecting with candidates in places such as Facebook, he says, “you’re reaching a talent pool that your competitors aren’t. A good social media strategy will also help to build relationships, by creating a dialogue with clients and candidates and moving beyond the static, one-way conversation of traditional websites.”

Now the largest social network in the world, “Facebook is great for recruiters because it gives them unparalleled access to potential candidates”, says Thomas Shaw, whose company Recruitment Directory provides advice on social media recruitment strategies.

Recruiters should use the medium to build their brand – company and individual – and to interact socially with potential candidates and clients.

You can notify users of your job opportunities but this shouldn’t be your sole focus, he says. Jobs can easily be posted via multi-job-posting software, or by using the “share” function on many jobsites. “But you’re not just there to sell a product – if you want to do that pay for an ad. It’s not just about posting jobs.”

Shaw says recruiters should use Facebook primarily to build networks and engage in two-way dialogue with other users.

“Use it to engage in conversations with groups that fit your speciality, and add to your market knowledge. Get to know these people. Engaging with them is the first step. You’re there to find out what they’re looking for, and offer support and your expert advice.”

Recruitment companies should set up a business profile page, he says, but individual recruiters should consider setting up separate profiles if they plan to use Facebook for both their work and social networks.

LinkedIn has already proven its worth to many recruiters in the network, Shaw says.

It’s evolving into a digital resume database, he notes, and ATS providers overseas now allow job applicants to apply for jobs using their LinkedIn profile. This makes the process simpler for candidates, he notes, but it also ensures that recruiters’ databases contain up-to-date information instead of static CVs that date quickly.

To get value from LinkedIn, use it to update your network on your activities, he advises. “Let them know what you’re up to. Use feeds, comment and update your status. For example, ‘I have great candidates for ‘X’ roles; contact me’, or ‘I just placed a great candidate a ‘X’ company.

“Use feeds to your advantage. Join groups, add to the discussions, and be seen as an expert in your niche.”

To maximise the value of your network, he says, you should “do a spring clean” and remove unwanted contacts, instead of letting it grow bigger and bigger.

“Once you get to 500 it’s too many,” he says. “How can you maintain that network? A lot of your contacts will be obsolete.”

“Recruiters should use Twitter,” Shaw says. “You can tweet that you’re looking for people and word spreads across the world, to someone who knows someone. It cuts down the six degrees of separation.

“It’s not time-consuming,” he adds. (‘Tweeting’ involves posting a message of up to 140 characters to the ‘twitterverse’.) “It’s part of a branding exercise, not only personal but recruitment branding.”

Using Boolean search strings, recruiters can find candidates in their specialist area and join conversations. “Don’t be afraid to directly engage a professional in your niche. Demonstrate your recruitment expertise and share your wisdom, hints, tips and sites. Build your brand and refer back to your job ads or website – it will increase visits to your site along with referrals and networking. It also shows you can keep up with digital media.”

He advises setting up twitter streams to follow certain people and to invite others to receive your job opportunities via feeds.

Recruiters should also be aware of the power of Twitter as a forum for complaints and its potential use to do background checking on your agency.

But any social media site, he says, can be used to create loyalty to your business, and to have others promote your brand and build business through word-of-mouth.

Get started
Schuetrumpf offers the following advice to recruiters just starting their social media strategy:
Familiarise yourself – make the effort to understand the different media, from social networks through to Twitter. Look for examples of how business is using them effectively – or not;

Start small – begin by signing up to just one social network in the industry you recruit for;

Stay up to date – use, for example, Facebook applications that send job ads to candidates or Twitter and RSS feeds that go straight to their mobile phones or desktops;

Keep it interactive – keep people interested by giving them space to share your views or provide content;

Keep it as a business tool – listen to advice from professionals about how to make social media work as a business tool and not just a place to catch up with friends.