Weekly News Highlights - 3rd April 2020

Written by
Dean Oliver

Weekly News Highlights - 3rd April 2020

Written by
Dean Oliver

Weekly News Highlights - 3rd April 2020

Written by
Dean Oliver

5. Interstate Travel Restrictions for FIFO Workers

New Queensland border closures won’t allow entry to many FIFO workers who fly in from other states. Under the new rules only critical interstate miners will be allowed into Queensland in order to protect regional communities and mine workforces. 

Queensland Health has published a list, which is surprisingly short, of who they consider to be critical workers, some of which include underground mine managers, fire officers, and mechanical and electrical engineering managers. 

But the Chief Health Officer can also approve additional roles on a case-by-case basis, so don’t resign yourself to Netflix just yet.

The border closure will take effect from midnight this Saturday.

4. New Payments to Keep Workers Employed and for Lost Jobs

ScoMo this week announced a $130b JobKeeper scheme to help shorten the Centrelink queues. Both employers and employees must be eligible and, if so, will be paid $1,500 per fortnight for each worker - which is about 70% of the national median wage.

If you’re a member of construction industry insurance, Incolink, they are offering a one-off $2,000 payment to workers who either can’t work because of a site shutdown or have to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19. 

The catch is that these payments are taxed at 47% by your mates at the ATO.

More information on Incolink’s COVID-19 payment can be obtained here.

3. NSW Approve Weekend & Public Holiday Work, CFMEU Pushes for 24-hour Sites

NSW has just implemented laws to allow sites to operate 7 days a week including public holidays. This is in an attempt to reduce workers on site at any given time.

Earlier in the week, CFMEU Victoria was pushing for 24-hour sites with rotating 8-hour shifts. The push has been backed by Master Builders Victoria despite increasing calls from workers to shut sites down. 

Several union members told The Age that the sneaky CFMEU are deleting posts on their Facebook page which question the decision to keep sites open. We noticed replies on controversial union boss John Setka’s tweets are also being hidden.

In regards to the virus he tweeted: “And again, remember we will never compromise on safety, our members and all construction workers safety has and will ALWAYS be our priority”.

See Setka is a caring guy by nature, demonstrating this through his actions: from punching the windshield of a Grocon manager and telling him “I hope you die of your cancer", calling Kevin Rudd a “f---ing dog”, threatening ABCC inspectors and getting convicted for harassing his own wife.

2. Four Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 on Construction Sites

This week saw four confirmed cases of COVID-19 on construction sites, two on separate sites in Melbourne and two on Sydney’s WestConnex.

The first case was identified on a Kane Constructions site for Melbourne University’s New Student Precinct (NSP). The subcontractor recently returned from England and worked on site for 2 days before being tested. According to CFMEU this was before the self-isolation rules were brought in for return travellers.

Kane Constructions said the site was thoroughly cleaned before the next working day and was approved by the unions to reopen.

Multiplex’s $2.8b Melbourne Square worksite also caught the virus, shutting down on Monday night after a worker tested positive. 20 other site workers who were in contact with the man are now in self-isolation.

It’s not a good look for construction as industry associations persist that it’s safe for workers. But as Nine News points out, one look at a work site reveals social distancing rules are non-existent and as Brandon Ream (@Reamkore) points out, hand sanitiser dispensers are often empty.

1. Australia’s Largest Private Builder Lays off 200 Staff

Hutchinson Builders is getting on the front foot in the face of an anticipated downturn by making 200 staff redundant, cutting wages by 15% and only paying employees for 4 days work. 

According to chief executive, Greg Quinn, six of its upcoming projects have either fallen over or been put on hold, costing around $500m in future work.

The private company, which last year recorded $2.8b in turnover, does not meet the eligibility requirements for JobKeeper payments because the scheme only applies to businesses with over $1b in turnover if they see a 50% drop in revenue. 

Hutchies still have almost 200 projects underway so this seems to be preparing them for the worst rather than in response to a current slowdown. This is the first real sign we have seen of the virus directly impacting jobs in the construction industry. A trend that may continue if more clients put projects on hold.