Vic construction industry shut down

© James Ross/AAP PHOTOS Building sites in Victoria have been closed for two weeks following violent protests in Melbourne.

Melbourne’s construction industry will be shut down for two weeks following a violent anti-vaccination protest outside the CFMEU’s Melbourne headquarters.

The closure was announced on Monday night after the building was damaged and riot police deployed in chaotic scenes.

Only critical infrastructure, including hospitals and ongoing level crossing removal works, will continue during the shutdown – giving time for the workforce to get vaccinated.

Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas late on Monday confirmed the two-week shutdown from 11.59pm for metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire.

“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,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

It comes as Victoria on Monday recorded the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in the current outbreak, with 567 new locally acquired cases and one death – a Moreland woman in her 70s.

The protesters, not all of whom were union members, want the union to defy new regulations requiring workers to have proof of their first vaccination.

The government said all sites will need to demonstrate compliance with the chief health officer’s directions prior to reopening including the requirement for workers to show evidence of having had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before they return to work on October 5.


Video: Regional Victoria shut down (9News.com.au)

Opposition industry spokeswoman Bridget Vallence said the Andrews government must immediately reverse its “panicked decision” to shut down construction.

“The Liberal Nationals condemn the violent protests, but the actions of a few should not be used as an excuse to shut down an entire industry, putting tens of thousands of people out of work,” she said in a statement.

Union officials say Monday’s protesters were not all CFMEU members and blamed “neo-Nazi’s and right-wing extremists” for hijacking the event.

Rain and hail did not deter the protesters, many still rallying in the streets until dark, most displaced by police who used rubber bullets and pepper spray to control the angry mob.

The protest escalated when two union officials, including Victorian construction branch secretary John Sekta, came outside the Elizabeth Street office to speak to protesters just before midday.

Mr Setka was met with boos and insults from the crowd, while some protesters hurled bottles.

“Please calm down. Can you at least give me the respect to talk? We’re not the enemy, I don’t know what you have heard,” he told protesters.

“I have never, ever said I support mandatory vaccination.”

Once Mr Setka went back inside, the protesters smashed a glass door to the building.

Some said they would come to the CFMEU office every day until the union bows to their demands.

Construction sites have been a place of high spread in the latest outbreak, forcing health officials to close tearooms last week.

The state’s roadmap out of lockdown was released on Sunday, detailing small changes to restrictions when 80 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have received a single vaccine dose.

Melbourne’s lockdown will remain in place until 70 per cent of Victorians are double-vaccinated, which is forecast for October 26.

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