The following statement was issued by the Property Council of Australia following the Victorian Government's decision to close the construction industry in Melbourne and other locked down LGAs for two weeks.
A two-week shutdown of the construction industry has been announced by the Victorian Government, to start from 11.59pm tonight.
The Government has attributed its decision to increased COVID outbreaks linked to construction sites and remaining “concerns” about non-compliance with COVIDSafe policies.
The shutdown applies to metropolitan Melbourne and areas of regional Victoria currently subject to lockdown orders: Ballarat, Greater Geelong, Surf Coast and Mitchell Shire. Government construction projects in these areas will also close.
The only exemptions will be for workers to attend sites for responding to an emergency or to protect public health and safety. An amnesty will be in place for work that is needed to safely close and secure sites.
The Chief Health Officer will issue formal directions for the closure of the industry by 11.59pm tonight. These directions have not been published at the time of distributing this update to members, and we will provide another update tomorrow with the official detail.
Workers in the construction industry will be eligible for the Commonwealth Government’s COVID-19 disaster payment and eligible businesses can also access financial support from the Victorian Government’s Business Costs Assistance Program. Additional industry support is being contemplated and the Property Council will be closely engaged in this process.
At the end of the two-week shutdown, all sites will be required to demonstrate compliance with the Chief Health Officer directions before re-opening, including ensuring all workers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The current priority period for construction workers to be vaccinated remains in place.
The Property Council will be focusing our attention on working with the Government on a clear plan for re-opening after this two-week shutdown, including the development of a safe re-opening framework which demonstrates compliance with COVID-safe compliance and vaccinated workforces.
The Property Council of Australia is disappointed by the Victorian Government’s decision to close the construction industry for two weeks at a cost of over $1 billion each week to the Victorian economy and at immense personal cost to many thousands of Victorian workers and property and construction businesses.
Victorian Executive Director Danni Hunter said: “The property and construction industry employs over 300,000 Victorians. It is the largest single employer in the state and has worked productively throughout the pandemic, keeping Victorians employed and essential projects progressing.
“With so many Victorians employed in the sector, its essential status has been recognised through the pandemic and we’ve been fortunate to be able to keep working even at a reduced capacity.
“It is critical that the Government and the Public Health team work extremely closely with the industry to immediately lay out a plan for reopening as soon as possible and get Victorians back to work on site and projects back up and running.
“We condemn the actions of rogue protesters we’ve seen in Melbourne in recent days, and they do not represent the industry or its workforce. The majority of construction sites and construction workers are doing everything required of them to meet the highest standards of COVID safety and have done so since the pandemic started.
“Construction industry workers are stepping up and getting vaccinated. Closing the industry will prevent them going to work and getting paid and it will stall projects causing immensely costly delays, putting projects and Victorian jobs at risk.
“We will continue to work with the Government to improve compliance on construction sites and the industry takes very seriously its responsibility to its people and to the broader Victorian community to do everything it can to prevent any COVID outbreaks.
“The property and construction industry is resilient. The industry will work to enforce the highest standards of compliance and ensure vaccination rates continue to increase so it can eventually reopen at full capacity.
“We will work extremely hard over the next two weeks to lock in a clear reopening plan with the Chief Health Officer’s team and the industry.
“We want to get our workforce back to work and our projects back online. We urge all workers to get vaccinated and all projects to get their COVID-safe compliance in order so that the industry can open again.”