Scores of workers have walked off Townsville’s NQ Stadium construction site today.
It comes after the CFMEU on Friday issued a statement saying that Watpac had proven itself unfit to continue as lead contractor of the $300 million project.
CFMEU state secretary Michael Ravbar said the patience and goodwill of workers and subcontractors on the project had been exhausted, and the government must intervene immediately.
“What you have is a company that is so desperate to recoup losses it has racked up elsewhere, that it is prepared to mislead and underpay everyone involved in the project and then put its hand out for even more money,” he said.
“This is nothing short of a taxpayer-funded extortion racket, where subcontractors have been threatened and intimidated to cut corners and costs, and you basically end up with wage theft by stealth.”
Queensland Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni has criticised Watpac’s management of the project, saying last week that he had repeatedly made it clear to Watpac that local workers must get the same conditions as South-East Queensland, but it appeared that Watpac had continued to let packages that did not deliver for local workers.
After the walk off today he said it was Watpac’s responsibility to manage the project and ensure it was delivered on time by the start of the 2020 NRL season.
“Watpac should choose subcontractors that meet our government’s standards on pay and conditions, and have stable industrial relations in place to prevent any disputes that could lead to interruptions on the job,” he said.
“The Queensland Government announced enhancements to our Buy Qld procurement policy in May.
“However, I’ve spoken to workers and subcontractors who tell me they haven’t received best practice pay and conditions as yet, even though Watpac have been aware of this requirement for over six months.”
He said the government expected Watpac to resolve these problems and get on with the job.
A local CFMEU spokesman said about 80 people had walked off the work site today and that a meeting would be held tomorrow to put further information to members.
Watpac issued a statement this afternoon saying it understood that about 60 workers chose to leave site today after being addressed by the CFMEU, while the remaining 120 employees on site continued to work.
The company described the walk-off as an unlawful action, and said it was unnecessary ‘given that we are well underway with the agreed process of fulfilling our obligations under the instruction’.
On Friday Watpac managing director Martin Monro accused the CFMEU of fabricating claims regarding the North Queensland Stadium project.
“At no stage have workers or subcontractors been threatened or intimidated by Watpac and I would ask the CFMEU reflect on their actions when it comes to recent behaviour on site and the allegations they continue to make,” he said
Mr Monro described claims by the CFMEU that the company was trying to recoup losses and underpay subcontractors is an absurd attempt to mislead the Townsville community and create ill-will.
“We are committed to the Best Practice Principles and, despite the fact this has been implemented part-way through the project, we are working with government and subcontractors to apply these principles accordingly,” he said.