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Building industry at a flashpoint

Rhonda Dredge

Everyone complains about construction sites, the way workers act as if they own the roads and the noise they make putting up towers to overshadow back yards.

But when it comes to the crunch, they were at least a visible reminder of the economy at work.

The closure of the industry in September is an awful reminder of the power of the coronavirus to disrupt.

Even small projects in the inner city have been put on hold with building contractors busy going off for jabs and applying for government relief.

The CBD has been most affected, with CFMEU workers protesting and others leading the police on a merry dance.

Helicopters were visible in the sky from East Melbourne in the days following the announcement that the industry would be closed.

Live TV coverage of the protests in the city was preoccupying some who were sympathetic to their cause.

One woman told Inner City News that she had joined the guys in the march through the streets. She said the issue for her was about vaccination.

But in East Melbourne, building workers were following correct procedures.

“I’ve got an appointment now,” a carpenter told Inner City News the day after sites were closed.

He said he was making a Hotham St renovation site safe, then driving off for a jab.

“I’ve got until September 23 to get vaccinated,” he said, but he’d already made the appointment before the government ultimatum.

While many construction workers are smarting at being laid off work for the first time in their careers, he was confident about getting government support of $1500 for the fortnight.

Even important medical projects have been put on hold, such as the $306 million tower at the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Victoria St. The nearby ICON Victoria Place office tower complex was also closed.

A spokeswoman for the Hotham Street Milk Bar said that building workers made up most of their lunch trade.

“They came to say goodbye on Monday,” she said.

No-one really wanted to buy into the issue by the time Inner City News went to press and the date for mandatory vaccination had passed.

“I’m fully vaxxed,” one site manager said. “All our guys have had our jab. We’ll just have to wait. It’s a bit of a flashpoint.” •

Caption: Site closed at the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

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