Rising COVID-19 case numbers in Victoria's construction sector has led to a shutdown of the entire industry for two weeks in metropolitan Melbourne and other local government areas (LGAs) currently in lockdown.
The change, announced overnight, comes after violent protests erupted at the industry’s main trade union office in Melbourne yesterday where multiple people were arrested.
In a statement issued by Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, the industry shutdown is aimed at the movement of the highly mobile workforce.
In addition, the Government is concerned about the sector’s compliance with public health measures and directions.
"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,” Pallas said.
“We put the industry on notice just a week ago, we have seen appalling behaviour on site and on our streets, and now we're acting decisively and without hesitation.”
The total shutdown came into effect at midnight last night and is expected to last until 4 October.
All construction projects in metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire will be closed, with a strictly limited exemption for workers to attend the sites to respond to an emergency or perform urgent and essential work to protect health and safety.
An amnesty will be put in place so that a limited number of workers can attend construction sites in order to shut them down safely.
All government construction projects in metropolitan Melbourne and the relevant LGAs will be closed, with no new work to be completed other than work required to make the site safe and secure.
All sites will be required to demonstrate compliance with Chief Health Officer directions prior to reopening, including the requirement for workers to show evidence to their employer of having had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before they return to site on 5 October.
From 11.59pm 23 September, all construction workers require at least their first dose of the vaccine.
CFMEU reacts to protests
The complete shutdown of the construction industry follows a violent protest at the sector’s main trade union office in Melbourne, with demonstrators clashing over the government’s decision to make vaccines mandatory for the construction workers.
In response to the violence, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) condemned the protests, saying the crowd was inflamed by far-right extremists.
“The CFMMEU condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack on the CFMEU Victorian Branch office and the mindless acts of violence perpetrated by members of the mob,” the CFMEU said.
“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.
“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.”
The union said it would continue to defend its members’ rights to work safely across Australia and would not be intimidated by far-right extremism.
“These are not actions of people who care about their workmates and the construction industry,” the CFMEU said.
“They are the actions of extremists or people manipulated by extremists.”
Updated at 9.24am AEST on 21 September 2021.
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