Perth heatwave: West Aussie workers toil through ‘extreme’ conditions

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Kim MacdonaldThe West Australian
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WA construction workers are being asked to soldier on despite the intense conditions.
Camera IconWA construction workers are being asked to soldier on despite the intense conditions. Credit: bridgesward/Pixabay

Construction workers have struggled through their fourth consecutive day of 40+ degree temperatures - many working in full sun.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has lashed out at employers, claiming they had never seen so much pressure put on workers to toil through extreme temperatures.

CFMEU Secretary Mick Buchan said employers were pressuring workers because of fears of a blow-out in construction timetables amid the labour shortage..

Most construction companies use their discretion as to when to down tools in extreme heat, with many following unionised sites in shutting shop when the mercury hits 37.5 degrees.

But this week dozens of workers worked in full sun in one of Perth’s worst-ever heat waves.

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Camera Icon“They’re taking the full force of the sun for hours on end without respite.” Credit: wal_172619/Pixabay (user wal_172619)

Workers on Mainroads Tonkin Gap Alliance site had voted on Thursday to lose a day’s pay instead of working, but management convinced them to change their mind.

“It’s simply not fair, safe or appropriate for workers to be working out in full sun in these sorts of temperatures,” Mr Buchan said.

“And certainly not for three, four or five days running.

“They’re taking the full force of the sun for hours on end without respite.”

Mr Buchan said the pressure from builders and contractors to work through the heat was “as extreme as we’ve ever seen it”.

“The shortage of brickies and other construction workers, high materials costs, and extremely high demand for new houses, means every company is trying to ride their workers to get it done,” he said.

“That’s exactly the circumstance where safety and wellbeing of workers goes out the window.”

A Mainroads spokeswoman said it was not aware of union claims that workers on the Tonkin Gap Alliance site had been pressured to stay on in extreme heat.

“Contractors and sub-contractors are all entitled to decide whether they continue to work in extreme heat conditions,” she said.

Builder Gerry Hanssen denied union claims a worker collapsed from heat exhaustion on the Civic Heart project in South Perth.

Mr Hanssen said the site remained open but workers were told it was their choice as to whether to work or not.

He said water was provided for workers, but it was not his responsibility to monitor water consumption.

“I’m not a nurse, mate, for anybody,” he said.

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