The Victorian government has threatened to shut down the construction industry altogether following an ‘unacceptable’ protest held by workers across Melbourne.
Further restrictions could be enforced upon those in the sector after the demonstrations stopped traffic around the city’s streets on Friday.
Tradies were protesting against the state’s hefty new Covid-19 mandates for the industry, which will require them to show proof they’ve had their first vaccine shot.
Tea rooms will also be forced to shut and travel between Melbourne and the regions for work will be banned.
Dozens of workers dressed in hi-vis set up plastic chairs and tables while they took a smoke break along Lonsdale Street on Friday.
The flash protest forced the cancellation of trams on nearby Spencer Street sparking commuter chaos.
Similar demonstrations also occurred in Brunswick, Coburg, Kew, Parkville and Richmond.
In the wake of the rallies, the government has urged tradies to reconsider their behaviour if they want to keep working.
The Victorian government has threatened to shut down the construction industry altogether following an ‘unacceptable’ protest held by workers across Melbourne
Construction workers have blocked streets across Melbourne to protest the state government’s new coronavirus restrictions for the industry
‘The sort of behaviour we saw from some construction workers today is completely unacceptable,’ a government spokesperson told the Herald Sun.
‘Due to ongoing transmission at construction sites, this industry could very well face further restrictions – or even closure.
‘We’ll continue to work with the industry – but the best way for them to stay open is to get vaccinated and work within the rules.’
Government and WorkSafe authorities have been conducting compliance checks on construction sites around the state.
More than 70 per cent of sites were found to not be complying with health orders on Thursday alone, including for inadequate CovidSafe plans, no mask signage and a lack of QR codes.
Tradies were protesting against the state’s hefty new Covid-19 mandates for the industry which will require them to show proof they’ve had their first vaccine shot
The protest stopped traffic around the streets on Melbourne on Friday
Dozens of workers blocked Lonsdale Street with plastic chairs and tables while they took a smoke break, forcing the cancellation of trams on nearby Spencer Street on Friday morning
Victorian state construction union secretary John Setka said the decision to close tea rooms was ‘appalling’, given it was made without consulting the CFMEU.
‘It’s not really a protest,’ he told 3AW radio on Friday.
‘What they decided was if we can’t sit in the smoko shed, where do we have our break? So they’ve taken all the tables and chairs out into the fresh air.
‘They’ve got nowhere else to have their smoko.’
Premier Daniel Andrews said the decision was backed by health advice and designed to keep the construction industry open at its 25 per cent workforce cap.
‘If they want to work and be part of that 25 per cent, they need to be vaccinated with one dose by midnight next Thursday night,’ he told reporters on Thursday.
‘If they’re not, they won’t be able to come on site. That’s keeping them open. The other thing would be to close them down to zero.’
The industry was earlier this week warned it risked losing its authorised worker status amid the launch of an enforcement and vaccination blitz.
Similar protests have also occurred in Brunswick, Coburg, Kew, Parkville and Richmond. The roads have now been cleared
It comes after the Victorian government imposed tough restrictions on the industry, given 13 per cent of the state’s active COVID-19 cases have been linked to transmission at construction sites
At the time, the state’s COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar described tea rooms as the ‘most dangerous place’ to contract the virus.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Dr Weimar stood by the decision to introduce the new restrictions.
‘We’ve seen a number of examples, and I appreciate people think it’s amusing, but when you have people across the industry in the construction industry and they’re in a small cabin or hut enjoying food and drink together, that’s a significant risk of transmission,’ he said.
‘The CHO has talked about it many times. It’s a self-evident risk we need to manage. The weather is getting better and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to partake in those activities outside, preferably not on tram tracks.’
Dr Weimar urged construction workers to follow the new restrictions pointing out they were lucky to be in an industry that was still operating during the pandemic – unlike hospitality and retail businesses that had been forced to close.
‘I’d appeal to the industry and to the employees, so many sectors, so many employees would love to be at work,’ he said.
The protests were held as the state recorded 510 new cases and one death – a woman in her 50s
‘So many of us would love to be working almost normally and actually, people are bending over backwards to keep the construction industry going and keep important sites going for important reasons.
‘I think we all need to be humble on this and recognise the privilege that those of us who are still able to work can get.
‘If you can’t sit next to your mates having a sandwich, that doesn’t seem a huge burden to bear.’
The protests were held as the state recorded 510 new cases and one death – a woman in her 50s.
Of the new cases, only 124 have been linked to known outbreaks with the source still unknown for 386 new infections.
The majority of cases have been recorded in Melbourne’s northern suburbs with 276 infections recorded across Craigieburn, Roxburgh Park and Broadmeadows.
At the time, the state’s COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar described tea rooms as the ‘most dangerous place’ to contract the virus