Lend Lease workers rally for unpaid wages

Published: 6 Apr 2016

At 10:30 today, CFMEU Construction Branch State Secretary John Setka and Bendigo MP, Lisa Chesters addressed construction workers who rallied in support of the mostly ethnically-Chinese workers from Lend Lease’s Bendigo Hospital development.

John Setka and Lisa Chesters were introduced by Trades Hall State Secretary, Luke Hilakari.

The construction workers gathered at Lend Lease’s Dockland’s office to demand payment for weeks of unpaid labour on Lend Lease’s Bendigo Hospital project.

Today’s protest follows last Friday’s rally at Lend Lease’s Docklands office by the workers from the Bendigo Hospital site. Today, construction workers from across Melbourne came to tell Lend Lease that they’re angry that workers from the Bendigo Hospital site have gone without pay for up to nine weeks.

The Lend Lease subcontractor which engaged the workers, Asset Interiors, went into administration, owing workers hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages and entitlements.

The administrator has indicated that it appears as though Lend Lease owe in excess of $1.4 million to Asset Interiors.

Dong Lee, one of the workers from the Lend Lease site told journalists, “I’m an Australian citizen and I have been here eight year and I pay tax. I have three kids, a new born baby, just two weeks old and I have a mortgage. There’s no money to feed them. I am owed $12,000. That’s big money. I can’t pay my home loan and I might have to sell my house.”

The CFMEU has condemned Lend Lease’s role in the scandal, pointing out that the global construction giant had refused to act on CFMEU concerns which were first raised in December 2015.

CFMEU State Secretary said, “It’s modern-day slave labour. These are vulnerable workers who are being exploited on government jobs. Lend Lease was warned about this and they disregarded the warnings. Lend Lease knew people were going to be left high and dry.”

The Federal member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters said, “Bendigo has a strong and proud connection to the Australian-Chinese Community and that community has been fundraising for the hospital every Easter. It’s horrifying to learn that a new generation of Chinese Australians are being exploited a manner akin to the days of the gold rush.”

The CFMEU has written to Workplace Relations Minister Michaelia Cash outlining this latest corporate rort and pointing out that the Federal Government regulator, Fair Work Building Commission, has ignored systematic exploitation of workers on Lend Lease’s Bendigo Hospital site.

John Setka said, “These workers have nowhere else to go except the union. You won’t see FWBC here investigating any of this.”

The correspondence with Minister Cash lists the following concerns the CFMEU has about the Lend Lease project:

  • numerous safety breaches
  • visa violations and rorts
  • breaches of project agreements
  • operation of insolvent companies
  • Lend Lease withholding payments to sub-contractors
  • withholding wages and entitlements to workers  

CFMEU Construction National Secretary, Dave Noonan said, “Only yesterday Prime Minister Turnbull and Workplace Relations Minister Michaelia Cash were sipping lattes with Lend Lease management. The CFMEU hopes that the plight of these workers, who can’t afford to put food on the table right now was on the agenda, but we doubt it.

“The CFMEU is fully aware that instead of chasing up this outrageous breach of these workers’ rights, the Liberal Government’s political police force will prosecute the CFMEU for standing up for them today. What this Government doesn’t understand, is that this union will never flinch when it comes to fighting for workers safety, rights and entitlements.”