600 workers walk off WestConnex project

| March 16, 2019

More than 600 tradespeople have halted work on the WestConnex M4 East motorway tunnels at Haberfield this morning following the release of an independent air monitoring report that recorded “extremely high” fungal contamination and classified it as a “probably health risk”.

The Electrical Trades Union said the testing of the tunnels of the $16.8 billion motorway project recorded airborne fungal concentrations more than four times higher than the highest contamination category, while surface testing found rates more than five times what is considered “extreme contamination”.

The report, commissioned by management in response to safety concerns raised by workers about fungal contamination due to inadequate ventilation in the tunnels, not only stated that the contamination posed a probably health risk but also required “remediation or removal of all affected surfaces”.

ETU Secretary Justin Page said workers were refusing to enter the tunnels due to the serious health risk posed by the air contamination.

“Workers have been raising concerns about moist conditions and inadequate ventilation combining to cause a serious mould problem in the tunnel, but no one realised just how bad the situation was or how great a health risk was posed until this testing was finally undertaken,” Mr Page said.

“After finally agreeing to undertake independent testing, management are now refusing to recognise the results which have shown extreme levels of contamination that are posing a significant risk to workers.

“This morning, management has continued to refuse to meet with workers to hear their concerns or outline a plan for removing this contamination from the tunnel, instead insisting workers go back into areas that have been identified as unsafe by the independent industrial hygienist.

“Our members need to know that they are not being exposed to a serious health risk before they return to working in what they now know is a dangerous and highly contaminated worksite.”

Mr Page said the NSW Government needed to get involved and identify how the fungal contamination would be remediated before commuters begin using the tunnels in the coming months.

“This is the signature infrastructure project of the NSW Government, yet from day one they’ve had a hands-off approach and refused to take charge of the very serious issues that have resulted in cost blowouts, poor planning and horrific workplace safety from day one,” Mr Page said.

“The Berejiklian Government continues to put the safety of workers at risk rather than take action to address the serious issues facing this bungled project.

“Premier Gladys Berejiklian must take urgent steps to address these extreme fungal contamination before the general public begin using these tunnels, otherwise it risks becoming another mess like the light rail.”