Workers rally for safety

Photo: Pip Hinman

Construction workers marched through the Sydney CBD on November 3 to call on the state government to protect pay entitlements and safety standards on the $6 billion Barangaroo development on Sydney’s former wharves.

Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) state secretary Mal Tulloch told the rally that the development could play a critical role in turning around the NSW building industry’s race to the bottom in safety standards and decent working conditions.

He said the industry was sliding backwards and the Keneally Labor government had a responsibility to stamp out sham contracting and the non-payment of superannuation and long service leave benefits.

Tulloch urged the premier to reject the federal government’s push to force NSW to accept weaker occupational health and safety (OH&S) standards.

He said: “NSW safety laws are the toughest in the country and as a result we have fewer deaths in the construction industry than other states.” He said it was unfortunate that the Gillard government wants to use Victoria’s weaker system as the national standard for OH&S laws.

The CFMEU called for an end to the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers, which includes non-payment and underpayment. It also wants all workers on the Barangaroo site to be properly covered by insurance.

Other speakers at the rally included Tim Ayers, state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Steve McCarney, a representative of the Plumbing Trades Employees Union and Greens MLC David Shoebridge.

Shoebridge used the opportunity to say the Australian Building and Construction Commission should be abolished. It has a track record of pursuing workers, but not once has it prosecuted an employer, he said.