Building industry lobby groups and unions in Victoria have called for the state’s construction sector to reopen, saying that the industry had demonstrated the ability to work safely and that costs of remaining shut down would be catastrophic.

In a joint statement, Master Builders Victoria and the Victorian and Tasmanian division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union (CFMEU VIC/TAS) have joined with eight other bodies from the state’s building and development industry to write to Victorian State Premier Daniel Andrews and call for the industry to reopen on Thursday.

Master Builders Victoria CEO Rebecca Casson said more than $450 million was lost in revenue and $63 million was lost in wages for every day the industry remains closed.

“We have consistently demonstrated our deep commitment to working safely during this pandemic,” Casson said.

“We are proud of what we achieved while managing COVID-19 on our worksites during the lockdown conditions applied in Victoria during 2020,”

“Our industry is ready to return to work. We are committed to investing in continued COVIDSafe training. Our commitment is unwavering in staying safe and open.”

The latest calls come as Victoria’s construction sector has been almost completely shut down for the five-day lockdown period with the exception of work which relates to emergency repairs or the continued operation of critical infrastructure.

The five-day snap lockdowns are in response to the Holiday Inn COVID outbreak, and have been instituted as a ‘circuit-breaker’ to prevent the cluster from spreading.

On Tuesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the state was well-placed to ‘make changes’ on Wednesday night amid signs that the cluster is coming under control.

Whether that means the lockdown will end completely and things will return to COVID-normal, however, is unlikely to be known until Wednesday.

CFMEU Victorian State Secretary John Setka said the industry had demonstrated its ability to operate safely.

“The building, construction and development industry can and will continue to operate in a COVIDSafe manner to support workers and the broader Victorian community when industry restarts on Thursday 18 February 2021,” Setka said.

“If the lockdown continues, the impacts will be felt across the entire state. Homes will remain half finished, jobs lost, and supply chains significantly delayed.

“It is our sector’s view, that there is no evidence to warrant the continued shutdown of the building, construction and development industry – especially given our strict operating conditions and historical success in managing COVID-19.”

“Our industry kept Victoria afloat during 2020 and we did it safely.  Let us get back to work, building Victoria.”