Melbourne tradies dragged tables and chairs onto the streets to protest the closure of their break rooms. Food and drink can no longer be consumed indoors on construction sites.
A new set of Covid-safe restrictions caused the sudden closure tearooms on constructions sites. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made the announcement after Covid cases continued to rise within the construction industry.
In response, construction workers set up their smoko and tea break areas on the streets of Melbourne.
There is now an impromptu break area in the CBD causing traffic delays between A’Becketta and Elizabeth. Other ‘tea rooms’ are popping up across the city. Plastic chairs litter the streets at Lonsdale, Swanston, Spencer, and Sydney Road with trams cancelled on Spencer Street.
Covid Commander Jeroen Weimar was not impressed with the situation, calling the protest ‘dangerous’ and insisting that these gatherings will be a place for the virus to spread among constructions workers.
“It’s probably where we drop masks to eat and drink and where we see people,” said Weimar.
Construction sites are already under heavy restrictions with plans for mandatory vaccinations, check-ins, on the spot inspections, and worker shift bubbles. Each site is required to have a CovidSafe marshal overseeing health and safety operations.
“We have seen too many cases in construction,” said the premier.
Daniel Andrews has imposed a 25% workforce cap in place for Victoria and warned the construction industry that if they wish to remain part of the ‘cap’ they would have to comply with the new order.
“If they want to work and be part of that 25%, they need to be vaccinated with one dose by midnight next Thursday. If they’re not, they won’t be able to come on site,” said a frustrated Andrews. “That’s keeping them open. The other thing would be to close them down to zero.”
The protest came to a natural end after the smoko break was finished. There is no news yet as to whether this will be the ‘new normal’ for Melbourne.
John Setka, head of the CFMMEU, said that it was not ‘really’ a protest because the workers had nowhere else to go. Others observed that construction workers could have used the sidewalk rather than the street, indicating that this action was intended to cause disruption to the CBD and was, in fact, a protest.