Soil spoils tunnel work
The discovery of contaminated soil could see over 100 workers on Victoria’s West Gate Tunnel project sacked.
Soil contaminated with the industrial chemical PFAS has brought tunnelling work to a halt, creating a stoush between operator Transurban, the project's builders and the Victorian Government.
On Thursday, 137 tunnelling workers on the project were told they no longer have a job.
A giant tunnel-boring machine was due to start digging last July, but the State Government and the project's builders still do not have a solution to the toxic industrial contamination.
PFAS chemicals have been linked overseas to an increased risk of some cancers, but Australian authorities deny the link.
The official finishing date for the West Gate Tunnel is scheduled for 2022, but that deadline now appears unrealistic.
Australian Workers Union shop steward Johnny Keys said the workers are pawns in a game between Transurban and the builder CBP and John Holland.
“[Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews] has been seen nowhere. He's not putting pressure on Transurban, or the joint venture. These guys shouldn't be losing their jobs,” he told the ABC.
“It's a disgrace.”
Premier Andrews says the workers — who were contractors and not employed by the Government — could be rehired soon.
“If I could intervene I would. All I'd say to them is there will be a couple of difficult months, but we'll have this drilling underway as soon as we possibly can,” he said.
“We're not going to compromise safety, we simply can't do that.”
Opposition transport spokesperson David Davis said the Government should save the workers' jobs.
“They need to make sure that tunnellers who've come from overseas or interstate [and] moved their families to Victoria are not let go. I mean, this is bizarre.”