VCON/Element Five manager arrested over threats

VCON/Element Five project at Box Hill in Melbourne's east
Contributed from Victoria

 Last week, The Pen reported on the situation, on sites on VCON/Element Five construction sites, where one worker has been killed and other injured.

The problem is that this contractor has been cutting corners and making the work environment unsafe. Orders have been given to clean up their act. There have been what has been described as 104 “serious incidents” and 23 improvement notices in the past two years.

Inspectors of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) have failed to enforce a change and the contractor has continued to act with impunity.

This led to a campaign involving construction unions and Trades Hall to expose the contractor.

It is obviously having some effect, because a company site manager allegedly threatened a safety officer at Trades Hall last Wednesday, via an email.

This is what it said.

“F–k off you scum c–t!,” the email began. “If you continue to attack my livelihood I will track you down and attack you and your family!! This is your first and final warning!!”

The person concerned has been arrested and charged. after allegedly threatening to track down a union safety organiser and saying he would “attack you and your family”.

Campaign supporters had been handing out a flyer outside VCON/Element Five sites, inviting people to sign a petition. The safety officer wh ohad been allegedly  threatened also sent out emails calling for support.

Meanwhile, the media has remained almost silent. An employer provides an unsafe workplace and causes death and injury and both the Murdoch and Fairfax press do not consider it important enough to give it anywhere near the same sort of coverage as a union official accused to using threatening language.

Here is a clear cut case of double standards. Apparently, union representatives must watch what they say, while employers should have free reign to do as they like. Even if it results in actual death and injury it doesn’t matter.

To be fair, the Age did publish an article by Nick Toscano (23 June 2017). It did briefly mention the email and arrest of the manager. But the main thrust of this newspaper has still been to join in the pillorying of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and its Victorian secretary John Setka, reporting out of context, words said in anger at a union rally.

Construction workers are not happy that these sites continue to operate unsafely and point to the ongoing failure of the ABCC inspectors to enforce ordered that have already been given. Those who have got an axe to grind against the union should remember this.

This includes the Murdoch and Fairfax media that have eagerly joined in on the witch hunt, aimed removing union organisation, from one of the most dangerous industries in the country.

Should this succeed, it would quickly lead to more VCON/Element Five’s, because only the existence of unions has provided some level of safety.

It is not likely to succeed though. The reason is that the majority of those who work on the job, understand what is at stake and that it is ultimately up to them, to combine for their collective rights. This is something that opponents of the CFMEU and other unions cannot understand.

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