Victorians have witnessed disturbing and violent protests by members of the construction union that have passed through town during the week. Many union representatives say unionists have been infiltrated by anti-containment and right-wing fringe groups.
The casus belli is the Victorian government’s announcement of compulsory vaccination for the construction industry. Following scenes of violence outside CFMEU offices on Sunday, the government announced a two-week shutdown of the construction industry. The cost of the closure is estimated to be around $ 400 million.
On Tuesday, between one and two thousand trade unionists dressed in high visibility, infiltrated by what union officials say are “anti-vaccine and far-right activists”, marched through Melbourne’s CBD, often clashing with Victorian police .
Ben Davis, secretary of the Victoria branch of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), called the events “shameful” when he spoke with Neos Kosmos.
“The protests have been hijacked by anti-vaccine and far-right activists, but there are several members of various unions and there are construction workers there, but I cannot condone the violence,” he said. Mr Davis said.
Mr Davis called the vaccination mandate “premature” and said it “had the opposite effect as it forces hesitant people to make the decision whether or not to get vaccinated.”
Mr Davis said he supported the public health orders, “but no notice was given for the construction mandate, we could have had a more comprehensive engagement that we could have driven around the sites and helping the workers. to understand”.
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The union official highlighted compliance issues, “particularly in the artisanal sector and small non-unionized sectors and [Department of] Health ignored it even though we sensitized them.
“The way to increase vaccination rates is to bring it to large workplaces, from construction sites, factories or shopping malls to large apartment buildings in Melbourne’s CBD.
“People need to get vaccinated more easily, the online reservation system is in shambles, my first jab took three hours, I had an appointment for the second and it still took two and half. hours, and I had to drive through Melbourne to get it, ”Davis said, adding that if the government is trying to get people vaccinated,“ that’s the worst way to go about it ”.
“Let’s be clear, the industry has followed all the rules, at the same time those who are skeptical or hesitant about the jab are being pushed to become anti-vaccines,” said the Victorian AWU secretary.
“In 2020, unions and employer groups“ all came together and spoke with one voice.
“They formed a group that made representations to the government on how best to move forward during the second wave, and the government took them as a model.”
He blamed the Department of Health bureaucrats who, Davis said, “will not engage with us directly.”
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Neos Kosmos asked for a response to comments from the Department of Health’s Davis on Wednesday morning, but the department said it would not be able to meet the printing deadline. We are going to reach out again.
A senior Greek-Australian representative of a national Tier 2 builder, who wishes to remain anonymous, said “union membership has worked well with the industry and is mostly pro vax and will do the right thing by getting vaxxed. . “
“The ripple effect of the government shutting down the industry will immediately halt cash flow, expose builders to contract risks, and result in job losses by the hundreds, as builders cannot handle this level. financial exposure, ”the automaker said.
He said that “contrary to popular belief”, manufacturers have operated in a very competitive environment with historically low margins for the past two years. “
Protesters marched on the Shrine of Remembrance on Wednesday and were eventually dispersed by Victoria police. The group included businesses and a range of extreme fringe groups.
Former Victorian-era labor minister John Pandazopoulos said protesters were “deliberately targeted by far-right activists to show they are fighting in the spirit of the Anzacs”.
“In addition to completely ignoring what this spirit is, these whiners, if they were at war, would refuse to cross the trenches or land on the beaches of Normandy.
“You can’t knock me over with bullets and shell fire. Pile of self-titled buttons. In fact, they would end up being collaborators of war.