Victoria has put the state’s construction sector on notice that its ability to remain open is in a precarious position and has launched a four-week blitz on construction sites throughout the state along with a massive vaccination drive for the sector’s workforce.

As a cluster on a major construction site in the suburb of Box Hill in Melbourne’s east has been linked to 120 infections, the Government has warned that the sector’s ability to retain its authorised worker status and to remain open hangs on a knife-edge.

“We’re seeing increasing case numbers coming out of that industry linked to this workforce,” Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas told reporters.

“What’s become clear to us is that the construction industry remains a major source of transmission.

“We’ll do everything we can to ensure the construction industry can continue in a COVID-safe way.

“But the entire industry – employers, unions – are on notice. We’ve had significant transmission on building sites, and we simply cannot afford not to act if that continues to grow.”

Pallas’ warning comes as the sector has become a significant source of COVID transmission.

Of the 3507 active cases in the state, 13 per cent are directly linked to construction sites.

This includes one site in Box Hill which is linked to 120 infections.

To address this, the government has announced a four-week blitz on COVID compliance on construction sites along with a ramp up in efforts to increase vaccination rates throughout the sector.

Under the blitz, 50 teams will visit sites, and will apply fines and prohibition notices to rectify any instances of serious non-compliance.

The action will be carried out by the government’s Industry Enforcement and Engagement Operation in partnership with WorkSafe and the Victorian Building Authority.

On vaccinations, the government will open the doors of four major vaccination centres to walk-ups where people will be able to attend without a booking each day between now and September 26.

The Ford Campbellfield site, the Heidelberg Repat, Eagle Stadium in Wyndham, and the former Bunnings in Melton will open for walk-ups for construction workers from 8am until 11am over the next fortnight.

The Ford and Repat sites will open again for walk-ups daily between 5pm and 8pm, with the Wyndham and Melton sites open for walk-ups between 5pm and 6pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Pfizer will be offered to attendees under the age of 60.

In addition, the Government will also release thousands of further priority Pfizer appointments for the sector and provide unlimited access to Astra Zeneca.

All up, 20,000 further priority Pfizer appointments will made available to construction workers at all sites across Victoria (excluding drive-through sites).

To ensure they receive priority access, workers should book these appointments via the Coronavirus hotline only between Monday and Friday this week.

These priority appointments will be available through to Sunday this week.

AstraZeneca walk-ups will be available for construction workers at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre each afternoon from 3pm, for a fortnight.

An unlimited supply of Astra Zeneca doses will also be provided to Incolink, an industry fund which is dedicated to supporting construction workers.

Eligibility is open to anyone who works at any site where civil works, building or construction work takes place.

This includes contractors, architects and others who work onsite.

The government also stressed that construction workers can receive vaccinations through their local GP or pharmacist.

In a joint statement, the Property Council of Australia and the Master Builders Association of Victoria welcomed the compliance program and additional COVID measures.

Master Builders Victoria CEO Rebecca Casson said the measures had long been requested by industry.

“The building and construction industry is critical to jobs and the economy but it’s just as critical that our industry continues to enforce COVIDSafe measures,” Casson said.

“While the Treasurer acknowledged that our industry has gone above and beyond to stay COVIDSafe and remain open, it was made clear that the risks in managing the Delta variant are now much higher.

“We acknowledge that our industry’s obligation to continue to work comes with significant responsibilities.

“Everyone employed in the building and construction industry must take this warning very seriously, otherwise our sector’s permitted worker status will be at risk.”

Victorian Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia, Danni Hunter, also backed the new building and construction blitz.

“Higher vaccination rates and thoroughly diligent compliance with all COVID prevention measures will ensure building and construction can continue to make an overwhelmingly positive contribution to Victoria,” she said.

“That’s why we’ve supported the Master Builders Victoria campaign to increase vaccination rates and say to the whole building, construction and property sector `Let’s Get the Jab Done’ and get Victoria moving again.

“The Government has thrown down the gauntlet to the building and construction industry to reach a high threshold of 90 per cent first dose vaccination before it can re-open at 50 per cent capacity. But we also need a means to measure this vaccination rate so we have a clear roadmap to increase capacity of the industry.”

A copy of the COVID safety guidelines which have been agreed between the building sector and the Victoria Government can be seen here.