ETU Media Releases

ETU Media Releases

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Unpaid workers robbed of more than $40,000 by dodgy NBN subcontractor

Paul Lister - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Electrical Trades Union is seeking urgent meetings with principal NBN contractor Broadspectrum in order to recover wages totalling $18,000 and payments for tools worth $25,000.

Broadspectrum, a Spanish-owned multinational conglomerate, subcontracted Superb Cabling, which in turn forced its workers to obtain ABN numbers to roll out NBN infrastructure in Western Sydney.

ETU secretary Dave McKinley said Superb Cabling had failed to pay its workers for tools and wages totalling more than $40,000.

In addition, the dodgy subcontractor has left NBN job sites in Georges Hall, south-west Sydney, in a dangerous state, leaving behind exposed asbestos believed to be from telecommunications pits.

“This is a classic example of workers being exploited on a major taxpayer-funded infrastructure project that is failing at every opportunity,” Mr McKinley said.

“Broadspectrum tried to wipe its hands of these issues by setting up complicated and convoluted subcontracting arrangements leaving workers exploited and the public exposed to deadly asbestos.

“This is a pyramid contracting arrangement where those at the bottom are ripped off through unfair contracts and dodgy business arrangements, something Broadspectrum should be ashamed of,” said Mr McKinley.

“The NBN is turning out to be a monumental disaster exploiting workers and failing to deliver promised outcomes for customers.

“The ETU calls on NBN Co to undertake a full audit of Broadspectrum and its subcontractors to ensure workers receive their full pay and entitlements.”

Safety Inspectors shut down $200m Opera House Works

Paul Lister - Wednesday, October 11, 2017

In a very rare move, SafeWork NSW has issued a Prohibition Order, shutting down the $200 million renovation of the Sydney Opera House after electrical workers raised the alarm over deadly asbestos on site.

Scientific testing last Friday confirmed samples taken from work areas at the iconic site contained friable
asbestos, posing a serious health risk and leaving workers with no other option but to walk off the job immediately.

On Monday, the safety regulator issued builder Laing O’Rourke with the order, requiring all work to cease in the ceiling space of the Joan Sutherland Theatre - the Opera House’s second biggest theatre and performance space.

The Electrical Trades Union said 35 electricians employed by electrical contractor Downer have been exposed to loose, cancer-causing asbestos fibres while installing cabling.

“Opera House workers, performers and patrons have been put at serious risk because builder Laing O’Rourke has continually failed to find a solution to this critical safety issue,” ETU secretary Dave McKinley said.

 “This is the second time in two months asbestos concerns have shut down renovations at the Opera House and the ETU is demanding to be involved in approving any asbestos removal or remediation plans.

“The NSW Government owns this building and must step up to ensure the asbestos removal is done properly as part of this major upgrade, particularly given the builder is receiving $200 million taxpayer dollars to carry out the renovations.

 “The ETU is calling for the full removal of asbestos from the Opera House as part of the renovation works to also protect future generations of workers, performers and patrons.”

Asbestos contamination at the Opera House was first identified two months ago, with SafeWork NSW issuing improvement notices to builder Laing O’Rourke, giving the company seven days to eliminate the threat to workers.

Instead of clearing up the dangers, Laing O’Rourke has threatened to take workers to the Fair Work Commission, accusing them of taking unlawful industrial action after they chose to put their safety first and stop work on the site.

 “These workers were faced with putting their jobs and even their lives on the line, knowing they were working on a potentially deadly site,” Mr McKinley said.

 “The ETU will always fight for the safety of workers at the Opera House to ensure their workplace is free of hazardous and deadly asbestos.

“The NSW has an obligation to future generations that sites like the Opera House are cleared of asbestos so that this scourge doesn’t continue for years to come.”

Electricians again walk off $200m Opera House renovation over safety fears followings asbestos tests

Paul Lister - Friday, October 06, 2017

Electrical workers this morning stopped work on the $200 million renovation of the Sydney Opera House, refusing to continue with the installation of cabling through the iconic building after receiving confirmation that potentially-deadly friable asbestos had again been located in work areas.

Scientific testing of samples collected yesterday were this morning confirmed to contain friable asbestos, sparking a meeting of electrical workers where they decided to walk off the job immediately until the serious safety issue was resolved.

The incident is the second time in two months that asbestos concerns have halted renovation works on the iconic building, with the Electrical Trades Union demanding the safety regulator and NSW Government intervene to ensure the issue is resolved.

“This issue was first identified two months ago, with SafeWork NSW giving builder Laing O'Rourke a weak slap on the wrist. The company had seven days to remove the asbestos or eliminate the threat to workers through appropriate safety measures and have clearly failed to do so,” ETU secretary Dave McKinley said.

“Electricians yesterday raised the alarm that they were again being exposed to loose asbestos fibres, which has now been confirmed by scientific testing.

“Two months after this major safety issue was uncovered, and the builder was ordered to rectify it by the safety regulator, we have again seen workers exposed to these carcinogenic fibres.”

Mr McKinley said the union was demanding the NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Matt Keen, immediately launch an investigation as to why SafeWork NSW refuses to impose a prohibition notice on Laing O'Rourke, which would prevent any construction work from taking place in the contaminated areas until the asbestos was isolated and removed by specialist contractors.

“It is completely unacceptable that workers, performers and the general public continue to be exposed to a toxic substance at this iconic building, particularly as the builder is receiving $200 million from taxpayers to carry out the renovations,” he said.

“Electricians have made a decision to put their safety first, despite the fact that Laing O'Rourke previously threatened to have them prosecuted in the Fair Work Commission after accusing them of taking unlawful industrial action when they last stopped work over asbestos concerns.

“It’s pretty clear the system is broken when workers are threatened with legal action for refusing to expose themselves to a deadly substance like asbestos, yet the safety regulator seems unwilling to ensure the builder is abiding by workplace health and safety laws.

“The NSW Government need to get off their backsides, take responsibility for this serious issue, and ensure that all asbestos is removed from the Opera House.”