Melbourne construction industry shut down following violence at vaccine protest

Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas late on Monday confirmed the two-week shutdown from 11:59pm for metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire.

“We’ve been clear: if you don’t follow the rules, we won’t hesitate to take action – we have seen widespread non-compliance across the industry and that’s why we’re taking necessary steps to protect every single Victorian,” he said in a statement.

“We put the industry on notice just a week ago, we have seen appalling behaviour on-site and on our streets, and now we’re acting decisively and without hesitation.”

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The government said all sites will need to demonstrate compliance with the Chief Health Officer’s directions prior to reopening including the requirement for workers to show evidence of having had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before they return to work on 5 October.

Shadow industry minister Bridget Vallence said the Andrews government must immediately reverse its “panicked decision” to shut down construction.

“The Liberal Nationals condemn the violent protests, but the actions of a few should not be used as an excuse to shut down an entire industry, putting tens of thousands of people out of work,” she said in a statement.

Union officials say Monday’s protesters were not actually CFMEU members, instead “neo-Nazi’s and right-wing extremists” who had hijacked the event.

Rain and hail did not deter the protesters, many still rallying in the streets until dark, most displaced by police who used rubber bullets and pepper spray to control the angry mob.

The protest escalated when two union officials, including Victorian construction branch secretary John Sekta, came outside the Elizabeth Street office to speak to protesters just before midday.

CFMEU Victorian secretary John Sekta

Source: AAP

Mr Setka was met with boos and insults from the crowd, while some protesters hurled bottles.

“Please calm down. Can you at least give me the respect to talk? We’re not the enemy, I don’t know what you have heard,” he told protesters.

“I have never, ever said I support mandatory vaccination.”

Once Mr Setka went back inside, the protesters smashed a glass door to the building.

Some said they would come to the CFMEU office every day until the union bows to their demands.

Construction sites have been a place of high spread in the latest outbreak, forcing health officials to close tearooms last week.

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