Work has ground to a halt once more at a $6 billion Barangaroo project in Sydney following the discovery of asbestos at the site, with the construction union blasting project owner Lend Lease for its handling of the deadly material.
Staff voted to walk off the job at a meeting on Tuesday morning following the discovery of asbestos by officials from the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) just after midday on Monday.
Work will not resume until the area is declared safe by an independent hygienist.
Forty workers who had been digging foundations on the southern end of the site will instead work on the northern end.
The building union has blasted project owner Lend Lease’s handling of the situation, with CMFEU assistant state secretary Rob Kera saying the company had given previous assurances regarding the safety of the site.
“I believe they handled the situation disgracefully…from a company that says they follow world’s best practice,” Kera is quoted as saying in an article in the Australian Associated Press. “There has been an indefinite stoppage around the southern Barangaroo precinct.”
Lend Lease group development manager David Hutton, who acknowledges the presence of some asbestos in the soil at Barangaroo, says there are some occasions where unexpected finds occur as soil is excavated.
Hutton says the site has been cordoned off and will now be cleaned in accordance with the company’s remediation plan.
This is not the first time asbestos has been discovered at the Barangaroo site. In April, around 150 workers walked off the job after an earlier union inspection uncovered the material.
At that time, union state secretary Brian Parker demanded that formal procedures to detect and deal with the material be put in writing.
At that time, Parker said union officials had not seen any of the monitoring systems which the company claims are stationed throughout the site to detect asbestos in the area where the material had been found, adding that workers had told him that nothing had been done about previous detections of asbestos on the site and that none of the workers he had spoken to had received any training about how to deal with the deadly material.
This contradicted claims by the company that it employs monitoring systems stationed throughout the site to detect asbestos and that all workers are informed about asbestos dangers during company inductions.