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Joe Alaalatoa – AWU Silver Member 

August 30, 2021

Joe Alaalatoa, an AWU Silver Member, says members on his Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel project are miles ahead of their non-union cousins. 

“I’m an AWU delegate and Health and Safety Representative, employed on the project by John Holland as part of the Cross Yarra Partnership.

People ask what you get from the union? Have a look in your pay packet: penalty rates, superannuation, redundancy payments, income protection.

I joined the union 20 years ago in Victoria and was a member in NSW before that.

Back then you had to be a member, but now the union is protecting our way of life. Without it there would be mayhem.

A lot of the workers in other parts of the industry aren’t in the union and don’t have any support.

They have no union rules protecting them. Their wages can vary from $10-$15 an hour and their conditions are non-existent. Most of their employers are not even paying award conditions.

Our members have become stronger, and more vocal. That was part of our job, to teach them to speak up for themselves.

Most of our members are tunnellers and construction workers. And we are all full-time, where nearly everyone around us are casuals or contractors.

Health and safety is also a big union issue.

The latest AWU campaign is over silica dust, which is at its worst in benchtop cutting and factories, but creates massive dust issues here from the tunnel boring machines and road headers.

Here you are provided personal protective equipment (PPE). Kids turn up and think you just get that, that the company will provide it, but every bit of PPE – safety glasses, boots, gloves – comes from years of union efforts.”


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