Australian government shuts down Melbourne construction sites amid protests over vaccination warrants
Construction sites in and around Melbourne, Australia were closed for two weeks after hundreds of construction workers and other protesters gathered at the site of a union building on Monday, throwing bottles and damaging equipment.
They were protesting against the Victorian government COVID-19 vaccination mandate for construction workers which begins Thursday.
Riot police used rubber bullets and pepper spray to disperse the crowds, the BBC reported, and the headquarters building of the Construction, Forestry, Navy, Mining and Energy Union was damaged. Several people were arrested.
The union issued a statement saying he condemned the protests and “senseless acts of violence” carried out by members of the mob. The statement said many of the protesters were not construction workers but members of neo-Nazi and other far-right groups.
“It is clear that a minority of those who participated were genuine union members,” he said.
Protests continued in Melbourne on Tuesday, with crowds numbering in the thousands, including anti-vaccine activists and other types of workers.
As many as 2,000 protesters took to the city’s central business district, according to the New York Times, which also reported that protesters threw bottles at police and set off flares, while officers in uniform riot guns fired rubber bullets and used pepper spray.
Workers’ protests began last week when “tea rooms” where traders gather during breaks were closed amid the delta’s surge and the government banned workers from consuming food or drinks. drinks inside. This prompted construction workers to take their lunch breaks outside in protest.
They have set up plastic tables and chairs at several intersections in central Melbourne, blocking roads and delaying traffic, according to NPR.
Public health measures
Following the protests, construction and state officials announced that yards in Melbourne and other parts of the region will be closed for at least two weeks from Tuesday. He cited Monday’s unrest and the increase in COVID-19 cases in the building and construction industry as the reasons.
Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said multiple outbreaks – up to 13% of all cases, according to local media reports – were linked to construction sites.
Construction was among the few industries that remained widely open throughout the pandemic in Victoria.
“Construction workers are a mobile workforce who can work across multiple sites and travel longer distances to get to work than other licensed workers,” Andrews said. in a report. “Concerns have also been raised, and remain, about the sector’s compliance with public health measures and guidelines. “
Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas was even more forceful, saying his office found widespread non-compliance in the industry.
“We have been clear: if you do not play by the rules, we will not hesitate to act,” he said in the statement.
Workers will need to show proof of at least one dose of vaccine when sites reopen on October 5, he added.