Around 200 CFMEU members gathered outside parliament house in Adelaide on 15 February to protest the lack of action taken after the death of construction industry veteran Jorge Castillo-Riffo. Jorge was one of two workers that have been killed while working on the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.
On 10 February, charges relating to Jorge’s death were dropped against HYCL, the company contracted to build the hospital. Since 2014, three workers have died on HYLC sites in South Australia.
While HYLC avoids punishment for Jorge’s death, the courts last year imposed more than $1 million in fines on the South Australian branch of the construction union. Many of these penalties were imposed because the union conducted safety inspections of dangerous worksites.
Jesse, a construction worker, told Red Flag, “A man gets killed at work, when he’s already protested that it’s dangerous. The bosses told him to do it or ‘I’ll sack you’. He gets killed and it’s no one’s fault?”
The issue of unsafe working conditions isn’t restricted to one site, one company or even one state. Dave Noonan, national secretary of the construction division of the CFMEU, told the rally about the threat posed to workers by the newly re-introduced Australian Building and Construction Commission. The federal building code that will be enforced by the ABCC will make it harder for unions to enforce safety standards on sites across the country. “Enough is enough”, Noonan said.
The campaign to defeat the anti-union building code has been given new urgency by the passage of an amendment that means the code will be enforced industry-wide by the end of the year, rather than two years’ time, as was first planned. Foreshadowing a widespread response to the government’s attacks, Noonan said: “We’ll be back right across Australia and the industry will stop”.