After 10 weeks on strike, workers win pay rise for hazard removal work

CFMEU workers protesting for better pay and conditions. Photo: CFMEU NSW/Facebook

After 10 weeks of protected strike action, Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) members and hazardous waste removal company Gbar reached an agreement for a better enterprise agreement (EBA) on October 2.

The workers, who are specially trained to remove hazardous materials such as asbestos, were receiving just $22 an hour.

The work is extremely high risk, and conditions are often uncomfortable, to put it mildly: crawling around removing asbestos from boiler rooms in 57oC heat is not everyone's idea of a good job.

As one worker put it, you not only have to have the training and skills, you also have to be “mentally tough”.

CFMEU Construction and General Division state secretary Rita Mallia told Green Left Weekly the 10-week campaign was a “mammoth effort”.

“It takes a lot of courage to stand your ground for this long — and win.

"These workers are an inspiration and testimony as to why it pays to be a member of a strong union.

“We are very proud of our members and in awe of their courage.

“The EBA they have won will deliver them and their families decent wages and conditions.”

While asbestos has been banned for use in the construction industry, there is still a lot of it around that needs to be safely removed.

The danger is not always immediately obvious because even though a fibre may lodge in a lung, its deadly presence may only show up many years later.

This is why it is only fair for those doing this dangerous and skilled work to be paid for the skill and danger they undertake.

Gbar boasts that is has “specialist operatives”. At least now, it has now been forced to pay them a wage more in line with their skills.

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