INDUSTRIAL trouble continued to plague the construction of the $300 million Bald Hills Wind Farm last week with police called to the site, south of Tarwin Lower again last Thursday and Friday.
It follows the alleged assault of an Occupational Health and Safety officer there the previous Friday but according to police, there have been no further breaches of the peace.
That’s not to say there weren’t problems.
The dispute slowed what had previously been a constant flow of trucks out of the huge concrete batching on Walkerville Road to a trickle at times last Friday with trucks lined up along the road waiting to access the plant.
There were also problems with access at the main works area, off Buffalo-Waratah Road and police were required to attend both of those locations to ensure there were no flare-ups.
Meanwhile, one of the unions involved in the dispute, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), has made some serious accusations about work practices at the site.
In a media statement last week, they said “workers on the Bald Hill Wind Farm job are working in an atmosphere of threats and violence following the assault of and subsequent suspension of an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) representative”.
CFMEU Victorian official Gareth Stephenson said the assault of the OHS rep occurred the day after he was elected by the workers on the job to address serious safety breaches.
Mr Stephenson said a CFMEU Safety Officer, Alex Tadic, had visited the site and made claims that management of the principal contractor Senvion Australia Pty Ltd had “failed in their obligations under the OHS legislation in establishing designated work groups”.
“There were no proper processes set up with which to deal with these issues,” Mr Stephenson said.
“Workers then elected Joe Stavlic as their OHS rep which they are legally entitled to do.”
Following his election, the CFMEU said “Mr Stavlic endured abuse from management of Hazell Bros” who are sub-contracted by Senvion to provide concrete services and he reported this to the principal contractor on the job, Senvion.
“While waiting for Senvion management in the site office, Mr Stavlic was attacked by two men who tried to snatch a notebook that detailed safety issues on the job including the (alleged) abuse by Hazell Bros management.
“The response of Senvion to this terrible state of affairs was to suspend Mr Stavlic, with full pay because they can’t guarantee his safety on the job,” said Mr Stephenson.
Mr Stephenson said he was baffled by Senvion’s refusal or apparent inability to actually deal with the reason why Mr Stavlic’s safety is under threat.
Mr Stephenson said that Senvion need to take responsibility for providing a safe workplace for all workers on the job.
“The obvious solution to this unacceptable state of affairs is for the company to address whatever – or more to the point – whoever is causing these problems,” Mr Stephenson said
“In light of these events, how can any workers feel safe on the job at the moment when an OHS representative is assaulted and management respond by removing the victim of the attack?”
Foster police are continuing their investigations into the alleged assault.
The developers of the project, Bald Hills Wind Farm P/L, a wholly owned entity of Mitsui Australia, has been contacted for comment.