Soft soil work continues on the upgrade of the Pacific Highway near the Harwood Bridge.
Soft soil work continues on the upgrade of the Pacific Highway near the Harwood Bridge. Adam Hourigan

No holiday pay for 80% of workers on Pacific Highway upgrade

THERE is no such thing as holidays for the majority of workers on Australia's largest regional infrastructure project, the Pacific Highway upgrade between Woolgoolga to Ballina.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union says at least 80 per cent of the workforce on the government project are casual workers and have no access to holiday pay.

CFMEU northern NSW organiser Dean Rielly said the failure of contractor Pacific Complete to hire permanent staff was having major ramifications on workers and the local community.

"When the Federal Government announced this multi-billion-dollar project, local workers had a right to feel elated at the possibility of the creation of jobs in regional NSW,” Mr Rielly said.

"Instead the local workforce has been locked out with the vast majority of workers on the highway job working away from home, or relocated from other parts of the state.”

Mr Rielly said local workers were only being offered sub-standard casual work that was often paid at the wrong rate and denied workers important conditions such as holiday pay and sick leave.

"These workers have bills to pay and the reliance by Pacific Complete on a casual workforce means they cannot take time off because they will not be paid and may lose the work altogether. "Casual workers are also unable to get home or car loans and are not able to improve their financial situation.”

Mr Rielly said local government MPs had been "missing in action” when asked to stand up for local jobs.

"They are all falling over each other to be at ribbon-cutting events but when it comes to standing up for the rights of the workers actually building the highway they are missing in action,” he said.

An RMS spokesman said local businesses continued to have opportunities to work on or supply the Pacific Highway upgrade.

"Currently, more than 40 per cent of the businesses which are working on the upgrade of the Woolgoolga to Ballina section are located within 100 kilometres of the upgrade,” he said.

"Workers should be paid in accordance with their award roles, including entitlements for annual leave. If the CFMEU has concerns about payments to workers they should be provided to the Fair Work Commission.”



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