The construction industry in Melbourne and other parts of Victoria will be shut down for two weeks following a violent protest outside CFMEU headquarters.
The closure across metropolitan Melbourne, Geelong, the Surf Coast, Ballarat and Mitchell Shire was decided on Monday evening after the CFMEU building was damaged and riot police were deployed to chaotic scenes in the CBD.
Late Monday evening, Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas confirmed the two-week closure from 11.59pm for the Melbourne metropolis, the city of Ballarat, the 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’ve seen widespread non-compliance in the industry and that’s why we’re taking action to protect every Victorian. , “he said in a statement.
“We warned the industry just over a week ago, we have seen appalling behavior on the spot and on our streets, and now we are acting decisively and without hesitation.”
The government said all sites will need to demonstrate compliance with the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s instructions before reopening, including requiring workers to prove they have received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before returning. at work on October 5th.
Shadow Industry Minister Bridget Vallence said the Andrews government must immediately reverse its “panicked decision” to halt construction.
“Liberal nationals condemn 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.
On Monday, riot police used rubber bullets and pepper spray to disperse an angry crowd protesting against mandatory vaccines for construction workers outside CFMEU headquarters in Melbourne.
But the union says the protest was overtaken by “neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists”, rather than CFMEU members.
Victoria Police said several people were arrested as the crowd “grew increasingly hostile” during the protest which began before 9 a.m.
Hundreds of construction workers wearing high-visibility glasses and their supporters stormed the building to protest against new mandatory vaccination rules for the construction industry.
The protest escalated when two union officials, including Victorian Construction Branch Secretary John Sekta, walked out of the Elizabeth Street office to speak to protesters just before noon.
Mr Setka was greeted with boos and insults from the crowd, while some protesters threw bottles.
“Please calm down. Can you at least give me the respect to speak up? We are not the enemy, I don’t know what you heard,” he told protesters .
“I never, ever said I supported compulsory vaccination.”
After Mr. Setka got inside, protesters smashed a glass door to the building.
The Victorian branch of the union released a statement just after 4 p.m. saying it has always supported freedom of choice when it comes to vaccinations.
“We are not going to be intimidated by outside extremists who try to intimidate the union by spreading disinformation and lies about the union’s position,” the statement said.
The CFMEU’s national construction secretary issued a statement Monday evening accusing the crowd of being “infiltrated by neo-Nazis and other far-right groups.”
“It is clear that a minority of those who participated were genuine union members,” said Dave Noonan.
There had been a 25% cap on the industry’s workforce in Victoria, with traders having to receive their first dose of a vaccine by Thursday to be able to return to work.
It is not clear if all of those protesting are construction workers, after a post on the Melbourne Freedom Rally Telegram group encouraged anti-lockdown protesters to join them.
Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said the protests were “not smart, they are not safe”.
“Protests don’t work. Getting the shot works, following the rules works. This is how you stay open, this is how you open,” Mr Andrews said.
Associated Australian Press