Construction Safety: Workers Return To Work Site

Construction workers will recommence work at one of two work sites at Canberra Hospital, following safety disputes.

Numerous workers walked off the job amid concerns about a significant lack of safety representatives on-site.

The construction union, CFMEU, says workers were concerned about a lack of properly elected on-site safety representatives.

CFMEU ACT branch secretary Dean Hall says work has recommenced at the old maternity building site, and more talks are planned between the union and the Leightons company on Wednesday.

But Mr Hall says the issues with GE Shaw at the emergency department site are more complex.

“GE Shaw has raised concerns with us about the [ACT] Government procurement process and the fact that they believe that they have been forced into a situation that they have to engage sham contractors on the site because the actual contract doesn’t allow them to engage direct labour to perform construction,” he said.

“We want them to come with us to the Government to explain to them how they have been forced into this situation where they’ve had to use sham contractors.

“If they persist with using sham contractors then we were going to go out and take further industrial action because we’re not allowing workers to be ripped off in the workplace on the entitlements.”

Mr Hall says the union recommended the workers return to work on a temporary basis until further safety talks and discussions about the use of sham contracting can take place.

“The issue is under all employment law and workers compensation law and superannuation and the long service leave act, when you only supply your labour then you can only be an employee you can’t be a propriety limited company,” he said.

“That’s what’s commonly known as sham contracting.

“Employers engage workers that way to avoid paying them things like superannuation, long service leave, holiday pay and on the side of the worker the appropriate tax rates as well.

“It’s basically a sham or a contract to avoid paying a worker their lawful entitlements.”

Mr Hall says the GE Shaw emergency department site also had major fall protection issues including missing handrails and scaffolding.

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