View Full Version : "The Builder who stole Christmas" - 457 visas holders have uncertain future

Sheelagh Blanckenberg
27th November 2009, 01:50 PM
November 27, 2009 - 12:10PM
The Brisbane Times (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/the-builder-who-stole-christmas-20091127-jvn7.html)

Workers protest in Brisbane this morning.

Construction workers have walked off major State Government building sites in Brisbane's CBD and on the Gold Coast over a $2 million pay dispute.

More than 100 employees are owed money by a Victoria-based contractor believed to be teetering on the verge of collapse.

Work at sites of the new $600 million Supreme and District Courts on George Street and the $287 million Robina Hospital on the Gold Coast stopped this morning, as Wideform Group of Companies workers took up the protest.

Wideform, contracted by developer Bovis Lend Lease to complete foundation work on the government's new Law Courts Complex in Brisbane, has admitted it is in financial trouble after being stripped of all its contracts in Queensland and Victoria.

The formwork company closed its Brisbane office yesterday afternoon, a week after Bovis Lend Lease cancelled both of Wideform's two state contracts, just three months in to construction of the19-storey courthouse.

The company's remaining three contracts in Victora have also been cancelled, a Wideform spokesman confirmed.

About 180 Wideform workers have been employed on the George Street project, which is due to deliver new Supreme and District courts by 2011.

According to the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the company owes between $1000 and $30,000 to at least 109 workers in unpaid entitlements, including one week's full pay.

CFMEU Queensland industrial relations manager Kevin Crank said Bovis Lend Lease had promised to bear the cost of Wideform's wages debts and pay workers their full entitlements on November 17, but had since reneged on the deal.

"No Wideform workers have received weekly wages that were due to be paid yesterday," Mr Crank said.

"We want Bovis to make good on its original promise in paying workers their entitlements ... and do the same for any other employees of sub-contractors, who have failed to pay up.

"The projects are in doubt and whether construction can resume before Christmas is in doubt as well."

This morning hundreds of workers held a rally at the George Street building site, accusing Wideform chairman Fred Ferreira of being the "builder who stole Christmas".

Worker Steven Andrad, 27, said he is $7,500 out of pocket.

"My wife and I can't go away for Christmas," Mr Andrad said.

"It's ruined our holiday plans. I'm not too impressed. We weren't even told what was going on until it was too late."

The future of 47 employees working on 457 visas sponsored by Wideform is also in doubt.

"I don't know if I'm allowed to stay in the country now," Carlos Gomez, 27, of Portugal said.

"We just don't know what is going on. We don't know anything."

A Wideform spokesman today admitted the company has experienced "financial difficulty".

"Cash flow is tight because of the global economic situation," he told brisbanetimes.com.au.

"We have no remaining contracts."

Bovis Lend Lease is understood to be seeking an injunction to the strike action on the Gold Coast at 3pm today in the Industrial Relations Tribunal.

Talks over the Law Courts Complex have not yet been agreed to.

Comment was being sought from Public Works Minister Robert Schwarten.

A Bovis Lend Lease spokesman told brisbanetimes.com.au the company was in discussions with the CFMEU in an effort to resolve the matter.

Silent Observer
30th November 2009, 01:12 PM
What is this contractor supposed to do?

His company is collapsing. He is got more to deal with than just his 100 employees!!

This sort of things happens when economies turn downwards folks.

Australia is not the saviour of the world's workers fleeing from their own economies because they cant find work!

Go to WA I say. They are constantly bleating they are short of workers!