Tradesmen in Melbourne have appeared to protest a ban on ‘tearooms’ by setting up tables and taking their meal break in CBD streets.
On Friday, dozens of workers sat on plastic chairs in the middle of Lonsdale Street, Swanston Street, Spencer Street and Sydney Road.
They blocked traffic and forced the cancellation of trams on Spencer Street.
Similar protests have also occurred in Kew, Parkville and Richmond.
The group returned a few hours later and were seen blocking more trams and traffic as they took a lunch break.
Victoria Police officers turned up before and surrounded the group who were blocking an entire city intersection.
But the break was done and dusted by 1pm and the group dispersed and returned to work.
It comes after the Victorian government imposed tough restrictions on the industry, with 13 per cent of the state’s active COVID-19 cases linked to construction sites.
All construction workers will be required to show evidence to their employer that they’ve had a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, by 11.59pm on September 23.
Limited medical exemptions and proof-of-booking exceptions will apply, in keeping with the vaccine mandate for aged care workers.
In further changes from 11.59pm this Friday, construction site workers are banned from crossing the metro-regional boundary for work, tearooms must shut, and food and drink can no longer be consumed indoors.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the decision was backed by health advice and designed to keep the construction industry open at its 25 per cent workforce cap.
“If they want to work and be part of that 25 per cent, they need to be vaccinated with one dose by midnight next Thursday night,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“If they’re not, they won’t be able to come on site. That’s keeping them open. The other thing would be to close them down to zero.”
The industry was earlier this week warned it risked losing its authorised worker status amid the launch of an enforcement and vaccination blitz.
Victorian state construction union secretary John Setka said the decision to close tea rooms was “appalling”, given it was made without consulting the CFMEU.
“It’s not really a protest,” he told 3AW radio on Friday.
“What they decided was if we can’t sit in the smoko shed, where do we have our break? So they’ve taken all the tables and chairs out into the fresh air.
“They’ve got nowhere else to have their smoko.”
When asked about the protest, Jeroen Weimar said everyone needed to “be a bit humble”, especially given their industry was still up and running.
“I’d appeal to the industry. So many sectors, so many employees would love to be at work,” Weimar said.
“So many of us would love to be working almost normally and actually people are bending over backwards to keep the construction industry going.
“I think we all need to be a little bit humble on this and recognise the privileges that those of us who are still able to work, get”
– With AAP