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Construction industry shut down for two weeks in locked down areas after city riots

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The State Government has shut down all construction sites across all locked down areas including the Mitchell Shire for up to two weeks in response to violent riots at the CFMEU headquarters in Melbourne on Monday.

Urgent, unavoidable or essential repairs to protect health and safety will still be allowed.

A limited numbers of workers have been granted amnesty to attend construction sites in order to shut them down safely.

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The closure was effectively immediately from 11.59pm Monday night and will last two weeks. If regional LGAs emerge from lockdown sooner than two weeks, as Mitchell Shire is scheduled to do, construction sites reopen as normal.

The government entered into crisis talks late last night after a group dressed in high-vis clothing stormed the offices on Elizabeth street, protesting a new mandate requiring all construction workers to have at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by September 23.

Around 500 people gathered, most not wearing masks, and resorted to violence when union secretary John Setka tried to address the crowd. Rioters threw bottles at crates at Mr Setka before he was taken inside by security guards.

Victoria Police deployed crowd control tactics and equipment and several arrests were made.

Minister for Industrial Relations Tim Pallas said the decision was in response to ‘widespread noncompliance across the industry’.

“We put the industry on notice just a week ago, we have seen appalling behaviour on site and on our streets, and now we’re acting decisively and without hesitation.”

The government has also reported multiple outbreaks linked to construction.

Within the Victorian Opposition, Shadow Minister for Industry Bridget Vallence said the decision was drastic and would put tens of thousands of Victorians out of work, adding that the industry as a whole should not be punished for the actions of a ‘minority’.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus condemned the violence and told the ABC she believed the riot was organised by people not connected to the construction industry.

“We know from social media networks that the same people who were at the rallies on the weekend were asking people to come to these ones and to dress up in high vis,” she said.

“That’s not to say that there weren’t people there who were also construction workers, there were.

“But the people organising and orchestrating it were people with other motives.”

In a statement the Victorian Building Industry Group of Unions said the hardline approach was ‘unrealistic’.

“The Building Industry Group of Unions maintains the view that the construction industry would have voluntarily reached high levels of vaccination without a heavy-handed approach,” a spokesperson said.

“This heavy-handed mandate by the Chief Health Officer, which was implemented with no notice, has only served to drive many people towards the Anti-Vax Movement.”

On Monday Premier Daniel Andrews said said it was an illegal gathering and reiterated that getting vaccinated was the only way to stop the virus and reopen the state.

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