Police, builders clash on CBD picket line

Violent scenes have erupted at a building site in Melbourne’s CBD this morning as striking construction workers clashed with mounted police as they advanced on their picket line.
Nanjing Night Net

Construction workers were seen lashing out at mounted police about 7am as officers advanced on Colonial First State’s $250 million Emporium Melbourne project, which has been blockaded by striking workers since last Wednesday.

There were reports that protesters were seen punching and hitting police horses as they advanced on the picket line this morning, with officers yelling at them to stop.

The project is near the corner of Lonsdale and Elizabeth streets, the site of the former Myer store, and up to 300 construction workers and 200 police have swarmed to the area.

The protest has shut down traffic in the immediate area.

The crowd of construction workers on Swanston Street had swelled to about 400 by 7.30am as Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and Electrical Trades Union members from sites across the city joined the protest.

The CFMEU wants better access to Grocon sites and to name shop stewards on its projects.

Grocon obtained a Supreme Court injunction last week banning key union organisers from being on the Lonsdale Street project, or at the company’s other Melbourne building sites. Some union organisers have ignored that court order, and will face fines.

Grocon chief Daniel Grollo last week said the picket line was illegal. “[They] need to respect the law and to stop their campaign of intimidation against our workers,” he said.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said police were attempting to assist Grocon employees to safely cross the picket line and enter their workplace.

‘‘The matters before the Supreme Court are a civil matter between the CFMEU and Grocon,’’ the spokeswoman said.

‘‘Police are not acting to enforce the civil writ, we are ensuring that those people who have a right to attend their work in a safe manner are given that opportunity.’’

Lonsdale and Little Bourke Streets will be blocked between Swanston and Elizabeth streets until further notice.

A number of workers were sprayed with OC foam as the two groups came face to face in a tense stand-off this morning.

Union members said they had been sprayed with OC foam during the scuffles with police.

Construction workers told The Age they were protesting against the company bringing in interstate labour to reduce rates and conditions.

-With Paul Millar

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Posted by at 24/04/2018
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