The Guardian 14 December, 2005

Master Builders fiddle the figures

The Australian newspaper made spurious claims last week, says the Construction Division of the CFMEU, about NSW building workers' productivity, citing comments from Master Builders Association acting CEO Richard Calver. Calver claimed that the average building worker is "productive" for just 163 days each year, when annual leave, inclement weather and the 36-hour week were taken into account.

CFMEU NSW Secretary Andrew Ferguson sent the following letter to the Editor of The Australian correcting Calver's faulty maths:

Your article "End of union picnic lamented" exposed mathematical incompetence and hypocrisy from Richard Calver of the Master Builders Association.

While he claims building workers only work 163 days per year, the reality is that the industry is physically arduous with excessive hours of work commonplace.

He fails to include the 46 Saturdays worked each year, or the occasional Sundays.

He claimed there were 12 sick/personal leave days when the industry average is five days per year.

To add to the outrageous exaggeration, the MBA claimed there are 41 inclement weather days when the average in recent years has been more like four days, with few people able to remember the last time we saw deluges of rain stopping production on NSW building sites.

The reality is that an average building worker has almost 20 more productive work days each year than office workers and managers who only work a five day week.

The long lunches and corporate golf days Richard Calver and his mates enjoy are the real embarrassment to the building industry, not the hard work of construction workers.

A number of recent studies rank Australian construction among the top performers world wide: productivity here is on a par with the US and generally performs better than Japan, Singapore, Germany and France.

It just goes to show that no matter how much harder or longer you work, employers will always demand more. Lying and denigrating workers in the public eye is part of that process. The Australian and the rest of Murdoch's anti-worker media play an important role in backing employers in their endless drive for higher profits.

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