Australia Wondering what Victoria's construction shutdown really means? Here's what we know
Mandatory jabs being considered for Victorian construction workers
The state government has put the building industry on notice to comply with public-health orders after construction sites emerged as coronavirus hotspots. Victorian Treasurer and Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas issued a stern warning to the sector on Monday, saying its permitted worker status was not guaranteed, following reports of people working maskless or dropping their guard on meal or drink breaks."We'll do everything that we can to ensure that the construction industry can continue in a COVID-safe way, but I have to say this … employers, unions are on notice.
A week after the Victorian governmentbecause of concerns compliance issues were leading to spread, most of the industry has been put under a two-week shutdown.
The shutdown affects the sector in metropolitan Melbourne and other local government areas that are subject to lockdown restrictions, which are the City of Ballarat, City of Geelong, Mitchell Shire and the Surf Coast Shire.
Victorian government leaders said it was necessary because of the high number of cases connected to the construction industry and low rates of compliance with COVID restrictions across the sector.
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Treasurer Tim Pallas said a recent blitz of safety inspections across construction worksites showed widespread failures of workers to follow COVID safety rules.
"Close to 50 per cent of the sites inspected have failed to meet the safety requirements," he said.
"So there has been a spread of transmission from site to site and transmission into households from there."
The Victorian government said this had led to 154 worksites across the state recording COVID cases.
"Ultimately the government was left with no alternative but to shut the industry down," Mr Pallas said.
Who is included in the shutdown?
The simple answer is all construction workers in metro Melbourne and in Victorian areas subject to lockdown restrictions.
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Mr Pallas on Tuesday clarified this did include roadworks projects and government construction building sites.
He said landscaping would not be allowed at construction sites but would be allowed at private homes.
Do tradies have to down tools immediately?
Again, the short answer is yes. The shutdown has already started. But Mr Pallas said the industry would be given time to make sure worksites were left in a safe condition.
"There will have to be a demobilisation process," Mr Pallas said.
"But they have to move immediately, expeditiously to make those sites safe and to get off those sites."
He said he didn't expect that work to take more than two days.
How will the industry restart?
Mr Pallas made it clear that the construction sector could not simply restart in a fortnight's time, with ongoing COVID compliance issues.
He said worksites would need to show they were following the Chief Health Officer's directions.
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"All sites will be required to demonstrate compliance with the CHO's directions prior to re-opening, including the requirement for workers to show evidence that they have in fact been vaccinated, that they have in fact had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before they return to site on the 5th of October," he said.
He said workplace inspections would continue when the industry restarts to make sure health directions are being followed.
Will mandatory vaccinations stay?
The decision to make vaccines mandatory for construction workers has sparked days of protest.
On Monday about 500 people protested against mandatory vaccines outside the CFMEU office in Melbourne, with protesters throwing bottles and crates at union leaders.
But Victoria's Health Minister Martin Foley the vaccination rule would stay, with workers having two weeks to get their first dose.
He said there was evidence the vaccine mandate was already making a difference.
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"I think from the reports we have had just from our vaccination centres and GPs and others, that we are seeing quite a large number of construction workers coming forward to get vaccinated since the call went out," he said.
"But at the same time, clearly not enough yet, and given the poor levels of compliance and the continued numbers of transmission sites back into the households and into the regions, the public health team really had no choice."
Will there be any financial support for those affected?
Mr Pallas said the Victorian Government was discussing assistance.
"Particularly for the smaller operators in this industry and of course, the disaster relief payments that are available from the Commonwealth will be available for employees in the industry," he said.
He said the government hoped to have more to say about assistance to the industry in the coming days.
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