Victorian construction industry shutdown following CFMEU protest

Construction sites across metropolitan Melbourne will come to a standstill for two weeks following a fiery protest from workers.

The Victorian government met with Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), following the clash outside of Union headquarters in the CBD.

Workers were protesting the new industry restrictions that will mandate a COVID-19 vaccine dose by September 23 for all industry members.

Image: David Crosling

Similar to the scrutiny that followed NSW construction industry restrictions, Victorian building industry groups are unhappy with the government’s heavy-handed approach.

Tim Pallas, Minister for Industrial Relations warned, “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,”.

Earlier this year, the NSW government implemented similar mandates for vaccination and weekly testing for members of the construction industry in an effort to curb transmission and exposure risk to COVID-19.

However, some believe that the CFMEU protest was a guise used by other lockdown objectors in order to further push their agenda.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary, Sally McManus stated:

“We know from social media networks that the same people who were at the rallies on the weekend were asking people to come to these ones and to dress up in high vis,” she said.

“That’s not to say that there weren’t people there who were also construction workers, there were.

“But the people organising and orchestrating it were people with other motives.”

Union boss John Setka blamed “extremists” for “hijacking” the CFMEU members.

“There are some of our members out there … it’s not all construction workers. It’s a bit disappointing that sometimes you get extremists that sort of hijack events.”

Unlike cases in NSW which seem to be finally plateauing, Victoria has seen a steady increase of Delta cases in recent weeks.

Despite starting their lockdown with higher vaccination rates and tougher restrictions than NSW, epidemiologists fear that Victoria’s outbreak is accelerating.

Today, a second protest began outside the union headquarters, where rubber bullets were fired at the protestors.

Speculations are continuing to grow regarding the legitimacy of some of the protestors.