Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Construction Workers Demand Safety Before Profits

Around 100 construction workers walked off several city sites yesterday site to protest about the lack of safety standards of a key Adelaide builder Theo Samaras and to draw attention to the effect of the ABCC and no right of entry for unions on construction sites in South Australia.

This follows two dramatic accidents that put at risk the lives of workers and the public. The first was close to the Central Market when a crane lift fell 8 stories onto the street below, crashing just outside the office of a law firm. Then on a site on Gilles Street (below) last Friday another serious incident occurred when a sling broke resulting in a steel beam falling two stories on the Samaras site.

Both incidents were avoidable and both sites were known to the union as problems in relation to safety. In both cases the CFMEU had notified SafeworkSA, the company and the Adelaide City Council with concerns about on-going safety issues.

“A major problem with dealing with safety in the construction industry at the moment is that union officials are severely restricted in their access to assist with inspections and protect the lives and safety of our members” said Martin O’Malley, State Secretary of the CFMEU

“This particular builder is using the Federal Australian Building Construction Commission (ABCC) to keep unions off the site even though we have a large number of members. He uses it as his private security force so he can cut corners on safety. The ABCC must be abolished if we are to prevent accidents, injuries and deaths in our industry.”

“We are sick and tired of waiting for the State Government to introduce state laws which allow union right of entry for safety reasons. Most other states have these laws.”

“Right of entry will ensure that we can better protect the safety of our members and the public- a job we take seriously as one of our core responsibilities. We have been waiting two years for the law to be changed by the state government. Get on with it before someone dies!”


The ABCC was created by the former Howard Liberal government to intimidate building workers. It has draconian powers, including the capacity to gaol workers who refuse to be questioned by it about any matter it deems appropriate.

Victorian CFMEU Vice-President Noel Washington faces a mandatory six months gaol term for refusing to provide the ABCC with information about a lunchtime meeting of his members held off-site at a Melbourne construction job.

The incoming Federal Labor government promised employers to keep the ABCC intact until 2010 and has strongly backed its powers and its intimidatory tactics despite calls from 40 members of the Labor backbencher caucus to close the organisation now.

Opposition to the ABCC is growing. Popular Adelaide radio and TV personality Keith Conlon said last Thursday on radio station 5AA “…the Building Commission unrest and caucus is really serious…the fact is if you’re a building worker you have fewer legal rights facing the Building Commission than a terrorist does under Australia’s tough anti-terrorist laws…they’re builders, they’re not terrorists…”

Media from all TV stations turned up to the rally, showing there is interest in an issue normally denied media coverage.

Safety standards on construction sites have declined as bosses push for cutting corners knowing that any union opposition will be threatened by the ABCC.

Workers in attendance were encouraged to take on the role of safety rep in their sites as the safety at worksites is steadily deteriorating (being hampered by ABCC and no right of entry for unions).

CFMEU Assistant Secretary Aaron Cartledge told yesterday’s rally, “I’ve been in this game for twenty years and I reckon it’s (safety) almost as bad as I’ve ever seen”.

CFMEU State Secretary Martin O’Malley was joined by SA Unions Secretary Janet Giles, both of them highlighting the two recent incidents on Samaras jobs.

Samaras – Car parks and kid parks

Samaras has something of a reputation for steel fabrication construction, with construction sequenced so as to minimise construction time and cost. He has over-relied on prefabricated screens and balustrades in order to save costs on temporary handrails and screens, essential to worker safety during the construction process. The big push on the Gilles Street project, a multipurpose 11-story office and carpark, is to get it “completed just in time for the Christmas rush”, according to a statement by his steel supplier Bluescope.

In an odd twist to the story of the Gilles Street site, Samaras intends to incorporate a $1 million child care facility in the facility. However, it will not be a community-run facility, but a private business established together with Stepping Stone (SA) Childcare and Early Development Centres with spaces for 150 children.

Critics of the scheme cite the crisis-ridden ABC Learning Centre model of millionaire Eddie Groves. A sample of comments on the AdelaideNow website of Murdoch’s rag the Advertiser include:

“…is this going to be an ABC type centre profit before learning…fake grass no play equipment and underpaid overworked staff?????.....community-run child care centres at least put the children first!!” (Craig of Hindmarsh)

“A child care centre in a high rise – surely that is a JOKE….Kids NEED real grass, trees, sand etc. Its bad enough that 95% of Child Care Centres use latex turf because they see it as ‘too difficult’ to maintain the real stuff….” (CCC of Adelaide)

“Tell it like it is CCC, this isn’t child CARE, it’s child parking…” (Robert of Murray Bridge)

“Even the Adelaide Zoo makes sure that there are outdoor pens for their animals - it makes you wonder…” (Sue of Adelaide)

Disband the ABCC Now!

Safety Before Profits!

Stop the further privatisation of child care!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just so you know, "Craig of Hindmarsh", whom you quote, is an oft outed young liberal and notoriously biased commentor. Google him and you'll see.