POLICE were called to the scene of a workplace safety dispute at TAFE’s Hunter Street site on Thursday.
A Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union representative showed up to shut down an on-site crane after receiving “an anonymous call” about safety issues.
“There were multiple issues with the crane, the traffic management plan wasn’t working, so we asked them to pull up and get the safety right,” CFMMEU state organiser Brendan Holl said.
Members of the the union were also at the scene displaying banners, flags and chanting for fair pay conditions in relation to a separate industrial dispute with company Boom Logistics, which Mr Holl said was a “coincidence”.
The Newcastle Herald understands Boom Logistics was originally approached to complete Thursday’s job as part of the Hunter Street TAFE restoration project, but contractors were told workers had gone on strike.
“Mobile crane workers in Newcastle, Singleton, and Wollongong who have not had a pay increase in more than five years, have launched an indefinite strike after the breakdown in talks with their employers,” a CFMMEU statement said.
“More than 100 workers at Boom Logistics and WGC cranes have taken legally protected strike action because of the companies’ failure to offer a fair pay deal despite months of negotiations.”
Notified of the impending action, the project contractor 3 Cross Pty Ltd booked an alternative company to complete the job. But the project stalled when the CFMEU used its powers under the Work Health and Safety Act to shutdown the site.
Work was halted for most of the day as police and Safe Work NSW were called in to asses the site and negotiate between the parties.
“All permits were on site and all safety and traffic management plans were put in place,” a spokesman for 3 Cross Pty Ltd said.
“SafeWork NSW attended the site and did not issue any notices today. This was a dispute between a company and a union, and we lost an entire day’s work.”
The incident occurred just days after CFMMEU members protested in Singleton.
Tony Spassapoulos, CEO at Boom Logistics, said Thursday’s crane incident saw an “innocent party caught up in” the strike action.
“There is a lot of disruption going for companies dragged into this issue,” he said.
“We have met with the union and there is an offer on the table for five per cent, each year, over three years.”
SafeWork NSW confirmed that a representative assessed the TAFE restoration work site and no notices were issued.
READ MORE: Read more about the strike action here.
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