Construction collapse in Canberra

Issue 

On October 26, part of the roof of a multi-story Canberra building collapsed. The building is under construction in the city centre.

Construction workers had left the area minutes before, and it was a fluke none were killed or injured. Work was immediately halted.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) national health and safety officer, Martin Kingham, arrived on October 30 to inspect the site, but was denied access by the management of Leighton Contractors.

Kingham said in a statement later that day: "The CFMEU's first priority is to look after workers' safety and I am disgusted that on a site where over 100 people could have lost their lives on Monday, Leighton are today refusing to let me on site to make sure that further lives are not put at risk."

Leighton claimed that, under the Workplace Relations Act, Kingham was not a valid representative of the union because he was not from the ACT, and that ACT union officials had already done an inspection.

The CFMEU ACT branch has called for a national audit of all formwork on construction sites.

There are also reports that workers have not been paid since work stopped after the collapse. CFMEU ACT secretary, Sarah Schoonwater, said in the October 30 statement: "There are workers who are not being paid on the job. Leighton's have denied this but we've had plenty of workers complain to us that they're not being paid."

According to the October 30 Canberra Times, Kingham said in response to not being allowed on site: "It's a lot more instructive if we can say that on this job, there was a failure of this particular type of component, of this particular type of equipment, and pay some special attention to that.

"That's what [the union does] in this industry. If there's a near miss, or someone is injured or killed, we try to find out why, as quickly as possible, to share that information with the whole construction family to ensure that other people don't suffer the same risk."

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