Thousands strong construction rally demands safety at Grocon

Ten thousand construction workers and supporters marched to demand improvements to workplace safety on Grocon sites in Melbourne on 30 April.

Grocon workers are fighting the company’s refusal to allow the union to appoint health and safety representatives and delegates—the accepted practice across the rest of the industry—along with Grocon’s general attitude towards safety. Last September thousands of construction workers blockaded the Grocon Myer Emporium site in central Melbourne over the issue, but backed down after the threat of large fines.

Four workers have already died on Grocon sites this year along with three members of the public. Several more workers have been injured and a number of other safety concerns have seen CFMEU safety officers called out to Grocon sites over 30 times in the past six months.

Victorian Liberal Premier Denis Napthine denounced the rally, labelling it, “beneath contempt” and “an insult to the people who lost their lives” as did Melbourne’s Liberal Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. They claimed the protest had used the deaths of three members of the public, Bridget and Alexander Jones and Marie Faith-Fiawoo, in the collapse of a wall on Grocon’s CUB site in Swanston St, as a political stunt.

But there is nothing disrespectful about insisting that this tragedy is not repeated. It has emerged that Grocon had not obtained a permit for the Swanston St wall and building site hoarding it was attached to, which was higher than the maximum height allowed by the law.

The march was quiet and respectful, commencing from Victorian Trades Hall and heading for the Worksafe Office in the city. One minute of silence was observed at the Swanston Street wall to demonstrate condolences for Bridget and Alexander Jones and Marie Faith-Fiawoo, the three people killed when the wall collapsed in April. The demonstration continued slowly and quietly through to the Grocon development site for the Myer Emporium on Lonsdale Street. The march stopped again to observe another minute of silence for crane operator Bill Ramsay who died on the site in February.

The march finished outside the Worksafe office where the union raised concerns about official investigations into the Swanston Street wall collapse and who was responsible for investigating the site.

Deaths and serious injuries are all too common in the construction industry. If Grocon is able to get away with weakening union control on building sites, it will mean the loss of safety and lives as they drive to increase profits.

By Katie George


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