The Victorian Government has decided to shut down building and construction in metropolitan Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong, the Surf Coast and Mitchell Shires for two weeks from 11.59pm, Monday 20 September.
According to the State Government, the decision was made due to continued concern about COVID-19 case numbers, transmission risk and reduced compliance.
In a recent release, the Victorian Government states:
“Recently, we have seen multiple outbreaks linked to construction. Construction workers are a mobile workforce who may work across multiple sites and travel longer distances to work than other permitted workers. Concerns have also been raised, and remain, about the sector’s compliance with public health measures and directions.
“Also concerning is the transmission risk and geographic spread of construction cases, which led to a number of important public health measures including preventing workers crossing the regional/metropolitan border – but more action is required to stop the spread.
“The immediate shut down action is being taken to reduce movement, minimise transmission and allow for the entire industry to appropriately adapt to the Chief Health Officer Directions, including increasing vaccination rates.
“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 relevant Local Government Areas 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. This means that before workers return to site, they must comply with this new requirement.
“The Victorian Government will work with stakeholders over coming days to determine the best way for the industry to show full compliance with the Directions.
“The Government will continue to work with the industry to get as many workers vaccinated as possible – with the priority blitz continuing until Sunday 26 September, including walk-up appointments (without a booking) available at key sites. For more information about priority vaccine access, visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/vaccine.
“A COVID-19 disaster payment is available to help workers unable to earn income due to public health orders, with more info available at www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/covid-19-disaster-payment.”
The shutdown follows yesterday’s protest at the CFMEU Victorian Branch office in which a number of people sustained injuries from acts of violence, including the throwing of bottles.
The CFMEU alleges that the crowd was heavily infiltrated by neo-Nazis and other right wing extremist groups and that it is clear that a minority of those who participated were actual union members.
Master Builders Victoria Chief Executive Officer, Rebecca Casson, said the shutdown was a bitter blow for the vast majority of building and construction industry businesses that have done the right thing over the past 18 months, and particularly disheartening for those workers who have been vaccinated.
“We understand the position the Victorian Government is in. However, we can also see the frustration that this decision brings, especially shutting down our industry one day after announcing a roadmap to COVID-normal,” Ms Casson said.
“Working with others, we have fought tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic to keep our industry safe and open.”
“However, our industry’s right to continue to work comes with significant responsibilities. And it’s disappointing that a minority of our sector has not taken this obligation seriously enough,” she said.
“We condemn the actions of the rioters we’ve seen in Melbourne in recent days. They do not represent our industry, nor do they speak for our workforce.”
“We support vaccination and the protection that they will provide our workforce.”
“Our industry’s continued operation has been a very significant reason why our state’s economy has not declined,” Ms Casson said.
“Our sector is Victoria’s fourth-largest, accounts for 46 per cent of our state’s tax revenue and employs more than 320,000 Victorians directly and many more indirectly.”
“Every single day that our industry is shutdown, the projected figures suggest $455 million will be lost in revenue. And $63 million lost in wages as well.”
Ms Casson said that once these two weeks are over, it is vital that the industry moves beyond shutdowns.
“The focus of Master Builders Victoria now is on the re-opening of our whole sector, and we will continue to work with the Victorian Government to develop a clear reopening plan,” she commented.
“Our industry’s workforce needs to get back to work, and our projects need to get back online, as quickly as possible. We urge all workers to continue to get vaccinated as required by the Chief Health Officer so that our industry can open up again.”