Workers on the Sunshne Coast University Hospital construction site are on strike.
Workers on the Sunshne Coast University Hospital construction site are on strike. Che Chapman

New hospital construction stalls as 600 tradies strike

WHAT WE KNOW

  • 600 Tradies at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital construction site have stopped work "indefinitely".
  • The action by the Electrical Trade Union is in response to the government's Australian Building Construction Commission.
  • The ETU is in a dispute with electrical contractor on the site Nilsen over labour hire employees.
  • Lendlease says the dispute is affecting the work of other staff and contractors on the hospital site.

FOR THE LATEST UPDATE ON THE SITUATION CLICK HERE


DOWNING TOOLS


TRADIES have downed tools "indefinitely" and are protesting at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital development site in Birtinya.

600 of the 1000 workers at the Lendlease building site began the strike on Thursday.

Electrical Trade Union state organiser Wendel Molony said the strike action followed "about six and half months of negotiations which were going nowhere".

Mr Molony said while the 170 electrical employees had downed tools, it was understood all other tradies at the site had joined in the action.

The drastic action wasn't "about money" but about the "Liberal Government's ideological drive on the Australian Building Construction Commission".

"It's not about money, it's about taking away workers' rights on job sites," he said.


READ: WHAT'S BEHIND THE ACTION


Malcolm Turnbull has called for the commission, which was removed by Labor in 2012, to be returned, sparking nationwide protests and his call for a double dissolution election on the controversial issue.

Mr Molony said the union had been pursuing an enterprise bargaining agreement, which had included "different forms of action".

"We have had a full day of industrial action, a half day as well as some work bans," he said.

"But after our last negotiations were unsuccessful we have decided to indefinitely stop work.

"The other trades are not working either, but that is between them and their unions."

He said electro-technical company Nilsen, which had been contracted to do the work on the hospital site, had "let go of about 100 labour hire employees".

"The reality is Nilsen had 170 odd employees up here.

"About 70 were permanent and 100 were labour hire. Out of spite Nilsen let go of the labour hire, leaving 100 families out of work.

"We understand it is a transient industry, but instead of getting onboard and meeting our claims they have done this.

"Work on the hospital has ground to a halt.

"People are ready to work, but this must be sorted out."

The Daily has contacted developer Lendlease and the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service for comment.

The opening of the much-anticipated hospital was delayed last month from November to April.

Workers on the Sunshne Coast University Hospital construction site are on strike.
Workers on the Sunshne Coast University Hospital construction site are on strike. Che Chapman

 

WHAT'S BEHIND THE ACTION

TENSIONS between workers and employees at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital site are mounting with developer Lendlease seeking orders from the Fair Work Commission.

A spokeswoman for the developer said Lendlease was "aware of an industrial dispute between the Electrical Trades Union and a subcontractor at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital site".

But the consequence of the action was having far-reaching effects.

"This dispute is impacting the performance of work by other subcontractors and Lendlease's employees on the site," the spokeswoman said.

"Lendlease intends to seek orders from the Fair Work Commission to ensure resumption of work on the site.

"As this matter relates to the Enterprise Agreement negotiations between the ETU and a subcontractor, Lendlease is unable to comment further."

The Electrical Trade's Union has also issued a press statement slamming the Federal Government for sparking the need for action.

"The Turnbull Federal Government has has gone against the will of the Australian people by blackmailing the construction industry into applying a Building Code to EBAs which hasn't passed through Parliament," a spokeswoman said.

"As many as 170 Nilsen employees at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital project took protected action by walking off the job indefinitely on Thursday in pursuit of an EBA with the contractor.

"One hundred labour hire workers were let go by Nilsen on Wednesday following two weeks of escalating industrial action.

"The action follows Nilsen's refusal to negotiate any further with workers around clauses they believe were non-compliant with the Liberal Government's proposed Building Code.

"The Turnbull Government failed to pass the Building Code through Parliament last month. But due to the proposed Code applying retrospectively to July 2014, if a contractor's agreement isn't Code compliant going back to that date, they cannot tender for government work.

"Clauses deemed non-compliant by the Code include Health and Safety standards, as well as protecting wages and conditions."

ETU Queensland and NT Assistant Secretary Peter Ong said the government was blackmailing everyone in the construction industry into applying a Code which had not passed through Parliament.

"No one can do an agreement at the moment under this legislation," he said.

"We have a clause that says if the Code is implemented in the future we agree to take out anything non-Compliant, but at this stage we're not going to take out clauses that protect our Members' hard fought wages and conditions over something that hasn't even passed through Parliament into law.

"If this Government doesn't get elected it isn't going to apply we'd have stripped out 70 per cent of the clauses in our agreement for nothing!"

He said Masters Builders, NECA, and everyone in the construction industry should be lobbying Michaelia Cash and the Turnbull Government to have the Code apply from the date it becomes law.

"We would have reached an agreement with Nilsen by now if not for the Turnbull Government's forcing a Code that hasn't be registered on these contractors," he said.

"How can it be constitutional to have a code that affects the way we did business going back to July 2014 when it isn't even legislated yet?"



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