BUILDING sites in Perth are to grind to a halt as unionists strike over safety. Unionists at sites, including the Perth Convention Centre, Whitford City shopping centre and the Woodside Tower, voted yesterday to strike on Monday.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union assistant State secretary Joe McDonald said he would call more meetings today to organise further strike votes. McDonald said workers were fed up with deaths in the industry and wanted to send a powerful message to Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke.
There have been 23 workplace deaths in WA in the past 14 months. The latest was a demolition worker killed at Robe River Iron Associates Cape Lambert site last Thursday. McDonald said unionists were also upset with delays to a hearing involving a fatal tilt-up panel building accident and Transfield Construction’s decision to appeal against a conviction over the workplace death of Joseph Guagliardo in 2000. The appeal has stalled a compensation claim by Mr Guagliardo’s widow, Trina.
McDonald said up to 4000 workers would strike on Monday. “The Government, Kobelke and WorkSafe have been sitting on their hands over safety, Kobelke has been asleep at the wheel.”
“Monday’s strike is a protest action designed to wake him up.”
Master Builders Association industrial relations manager Kim Richardson said there was no question that the strikes would be illegal. Richardson said the strikes contravened dispute resolution procedures outlined in enterprise bargaining agreements signed by the CFMEU. Meanwhile, Kobelke defended the Government’s handling of workplace safety.
He said workplace deaths had been reduced significantly this year and lost-time injuries had declined in the construction industry. “A substantial review of occupational health and safety has taken place, conducted by former industrial relations commissioner Robert Laing.” Kobelke said.
“Regulatory changes have been made in the building and construction industry, on demolitions and falls from heights and new regulations will be introduced shortly on cranes and tilt-up construction.”
By Jerry Pratley, WA construction worker