construction site
Only emergency work can be undertaken on Melbourne sites over the next fortnight. Image – Canva
  • Comes as a month long Covid safety check blitz began
  • Protests have occured, including at the CFMEU's Melbourne office
  • Property Council estimates the fortnight lockdown will cost over $2B

Just a week after putting the industry on notice, the Victorian government has shut down virtually all construction in areas currently in lockdown.

The shutdown is expected to last for two weeks.

After announcing a blitz of construction site Covid safety checks, the government found that non-compliance and transmission of the virus still continued among construction sites.

Yesterday, events took a turn when violent anti lockdown protests broke out outside the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU)’s offices in Melbourne CBD.

Both the CFMEU and ACTU have condemned the violence, claiming it was orchestrated by violent right-wing extremists and anti-vaccination activists, and not reflective of the union’s membership.

“This crowd was heavily infiltrated by neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremist groups and it is clear that a minority of those who participated were actual union members,” said the CFMEU in a statement released late yesterday.

“We thank the officials, delegates and rank-and-file members of the union who came to protect their office and their officials, and note that a number of people received minor injuries from acts of violence including the throwing of bottles.”

CFMEU statement

john setka
CMFEU Secretary John Setka was attacked at yesterday’s protests. Image – Corey Oakley.

The ACTU added that spreading misinformation about the vaccination program are putting lives and the industry at risk.

“Where public health experts deem it necessary to mandate a vaccine, everything that can be done to assist those workers to get vaccinated must be done. Every worker who can get vaccinated should get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Sally McManus, ACTU President.

“Australian unions will never be intimidated by violence or threats from extremists who refuse to put the good of the community first.”

An amnesty is in place so a limited number of workers can attend sites to shut down safely. Aside from this, only emergency construction can be undertaken during the next fortnight.

Before the shutdown ends, all workers must provide evidence of receiving at least one dose.

“We’ve been clear: if you don’t follow the rules, we won’t hesitate to take action – we have seen widespread non-compliance across the industry and that’s why we’re taking necessary steps to protect every single Victorian,” said Tim Pallas, Victorian Treasurer and Minister for Industrial Relations.

“The health and safety of every Victorian is our number one priority. That goes for construction workers, too – who can get priority access for a vaccine appointment,” added Martin Foley, the Minister for Health.

The Property Council (PCA) said it is disappointed with the decision, noting it is likely the lockdown will cost over $1 billion per week, given the sector employees over 300,000 Victorians.

“It is critical that the government and the public health team work extremely closely with the industry to immediately lay out a plan for reopening as soon as possible and get Victorians back to work on-site and projects back up and running,” said Victorian executive director Danni Hunter.

“We condemn the actions of rogue protestors we’ve seen in Melbourne in recent days, and they do not represent the industry or its workforce.”

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