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2019: A Year in Review for the Civil Construction Industry

December 21, 2019

Silica dust campaign

We will be kicking off a national Silica campaign in 2020 highlighting the unacceptable dangers  posed by Silica dust.

It’s rightly been called the next asbestos and can cause silicosis of the lungs. It’s already killing workers because the mandatory exposure level for silica dust is too high.

In November, the AWU National Executive supported our national campaign to reduce the level of allowable silica dust from current levels. The National Office will convene its first campaign planning day on Tuesday 21 January 2020 at the National Office in Sydney.

We will of course keep you updated about what’s planned and how you can get involved and support this much needed campaign. You can also sign our campaign petition here.

Silica is also a driving issue at two key sites – at Maldon Boral in NSW and Ardern Street in VIC.

Masks were introduced at Maldon Boral four months ago, but with no indication on how long people should work in them. They’re also being hampered by the lack of testing facilities for silica dust and the lengthy waiting times for test results.

With one worker already impacted by silicosis – fortunately it’s non-fatal and they’re still working – our AWU delegates have set up a Silica Committee to ensure standards are being met and implemented correctly.

It’s a similar story at Ardern Street, part of the extensive Melbourne tunnelling project, with AWU delegates pushing management for more stringent exposure levels, and also working with staff to raise awareness about the risks of silica exposure.

Mega-projects underway

It’s clear from the huge number of projects taking place across the country that we are in the middle of a construction boom.

Whist residential construction is still experiencing a downturn, federal and state spending on projects including VicMetro, Westgate, WestConnex and NorthConnex and the new Sydney Metro, means our civil construction industry is busier than ever.

In fact, the latest figures from RLB Crane Index show there are now 757 cranes assisting construction work across the nation.

Big projects coming up

Whilst commercial and residential construction has slowed this year, there’s no sign of any slowdown in civil construction. A series of projects across the country and expected to start soon, including Snowy Hydro 2.0, Western Sydney Airport, Cross-River Rail and the Pluto Gas Expansion. With over 15,000 jobs on these projects alone the tight labour market will continue. Your Union will ensure we negotiate the very best outcomes on pay and conditions and keep safety at the forefront.

Big wins for Cross River Rail and NorthConnex

Work has yet to begin on Brisbane’s massive Cross River Rail Project, but we have already secured an agreement that which deliver $220,000+ annual wages for construction and tunnel workers working on this site. This is one of the best civil construction agreements in Australia, on a project that will employ 4300 workers for over four years.

A huge congratulations and well done to the delegates, organisers and officials who worked to provide these great wages and strong conditions for hardworking Queenslanders.

Members in the NorthConnex project have also negotiated an increase in wages and significant improvements to delegate involvement on-site in their latest EBA.

NorthConnex under construction

Westgate Tunnel arbitration knocked back – a giant win

The greenfield agreement at the Westgate Tunnel is complex, but also demonstrates what the AWU can achieve on one of Melbourne’s flagship projects.

Negotiations between Westgate and the AWU commenced in 2018. Whilst negotiations were taking place, we arranged an agreement with the subcontractor GroundHog, so the project could begin.

When Westgate’s offer came through in November 2018, it attempted to force an agreement through the Fair Work Commission to be arbitrated. Together we managed to resist this attempt – a first for the industry and a huge win for our collective stregth.

Members are currently in dispute with GroundHog. The dispute will be heard at the FWC on January 23rd and we hope result in significant back pay.

In happier news, the team raised $15,000 for mental health charity Beyond Blue in November! Well done to Johnny and the rest of the delegates for your dedication and support.

Johnny and the team presenting to Beyond Blue

Boral 2020

Boral is a huge construction company with thousands of workers across Australia, and almost every department is covered by the AWU.

Currently we have to negotiate EBAs across multiple Boral business groups. This is time-consuming and leads to different pay rates for workers doing the same jobs.

The AWU National Executive has approved a Boral 2020 campaign to lift conditions across the business group whilst streamlining the bargaining process. The campaign will focus on growing our membership in Boral across all states and achieving excellent outcomes for members.

The campaign will kick off next year. Boral is a huge employer and we want to make sure everyone is a member of our union. We need all the help we can get, so if you would like to get involved, please speak to your local delegate or email us at [email protected] to get in touch.

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