Victorian government expected to shut down construction industry after clashes at CFMEU office

© Provided by ABC Business Many protesters at today’s rally were not wearing facemasks. (ABC News)

The Victorian government is expected to forcibly shutdown all construction sites across the state in response to violent protests outside the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union’s Melbourne office today.

The Andrews government engaged in crisis talks this evening with the CFMEU to discuss the future of the industry, with a two week pause on all construction work in the city expected to be implemented.

Violent brawls broke out at the protests in Elizabeth Street in Melbourne’s CBD, with police deploying crowd control equipment and arresting several in attendance.

The Victorian government is requiring all construction workers to have at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by September.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus condemned the violent protest that occurred outside the CFMEU office.

She blamed the protest on “extremists and conspiracy theorists” who she said were “endangering the lives of their fellow citizens.”

Ms McManus said she believed the protests were organised by people outside of the construction sector.

“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,” she said.

Ms McManus said people at the CFMEU protest were not wearing a mask and she worried it could become a super spreader COVID event.

She blamed the industry’s shutdown on groups which she said had “undermined” health advice.

“We don’t want any industry shut down but it is a pandemic and you can’t make an industry safe, well this is what medical experts are doing,” she said.

“This is very unfortunate, unions have worked very hard to try and keep construction safe.”

Building industry group slams government approach

The Victorian Building Industry Group of Unions released a statement criticising the government’s “unrealistic and blunt approach” to COVID regulations, saying it has undermined the vaccination rollout.

“The Building Industry Group of Unions maintains the view that the construction industry would have voluntarily reached high levels of vaccination without a heavy-handed approach,” a BIGU spokesperson said.

“This heavy-handed mandate by the Chief Health Officer, which was implemented with no notice, has only served to drive many people towards the Anti-Vax Movement.”

The group pleaded with the state government to reconsider the measures and facilitate a way to get workers back onto work sites.

“We call on the Andrews Government, Chief Health Officer, and the Department of Health to come to a sensible return to work scenario that accommodates the reality of our industry and respects the workers who have built this city.”

More to come. 

Video: Victoria on ‘path to freedom’ as re-opening plan unveiled (Sky News Australia)

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