Victorian construction industry warned to ‘smarten up’ or risk being shut down

Angie RaphaelNCA NewsWire
The construction industry has been given a firm warning from Victorian authorities. Wayne Taylor
Camera IconThe construction industry has been given a firm warning from Victorian authorities. Wayne Taylor Credit: News Corp Australia

The construction industry in Victoria has been warned it could be shut down if strict Covid-19 measures are not followed.

Construction workers moved tables and chairs onto roads across the CBD on Friday morning after the state government closed tea rooms on worksites.

Tradies must also have their first dose of a vaccine by next Thursday to be allowed to work.

When asked about the protest action on Saturday, Health Minister Martin Foley said the industry needed to “smarten up”, adding he would not rule out taking further action if people did not comply.

“The construction industry has had a privileged position for the past 20 months,” Mr Foley told reporters.

“It has been one of the few sectors that has continued operating ... you can’t say the same for any number of other sectors — childcare, retail, hospitality, the creative sector.”

Mr Foley said the “position of privilege” that the construction sector had came with obligations.

Camera IconVictorian health minister Martin Foley says the construction sector is in a privileged position compared to some other industries. NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw Credit: News Corp Australia

“To hear the very disturbing reports from the compliance blitz that basic things like no QR codes, no Covid safe plans, no density limits being applied — the basic things that keep people safe aren’t being followed,” he said.

“Then to overlay that with the fact that so many of the cases of permitted workers in the construction industry that have seeded from construction sites out especially to our regions, such as Ballarat, that doubles our concern.

“We can’t rule out taking further action against the construction sector to keep them safe, their families safe and the Victorian community safe.”

Mr Foley said authorities were working on the blitz, particularly with the small, independent and other parts of the sector below the majors.

“Frankly, the whole sector needs to smarten up,” he said.

“We’re working with that sector and we want to make sure that the important contribution they make to the Victorian wider economy is protected whilst ensuring that they do it safely.

“There are clearly challenges there.”

traddie blockade
Camera IconConstruction workers set up an outdoor break room on the intersection of A'Beckett and Elizabeth St in central Melbourne on Friday. NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw Credit: News Corp Australia

Some construction workers are indicating they will keep going with their protests on Monday, but Mr Foley warned the sector could not “write its own rules”.

He said there had been “very good engagement” with some employers and unions.

Mr Foley further added that people should not link anti-lockdown protests with the actions of construction workers who protested during their tea break on Friday.

“There is a bit of difference between a smoko and a tea break effort — as unhelpful as it was — versus pre-organised, deliberately confronting Victorian police and the Victorian community to willingly break the chief health officer’s orders,” he said.

“(They) put at risk the police who are in the city today, their families and to delay the very thing that they are supposedly protesting against.

“There’s a world of difference ... there is nothing safe about premeditated, violent scenes that those who have organised today’s efforts have in mind.”

Construction employees are now unable cross the metropolitan-regional boundary for work and will need to have their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination by 11.59pm on September 23 to be able to continue working during the lockdown.

Originally published as Victorian construction industry warned to ‘smarten up’ or risk being shut down

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