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A COVID-19 outbreak has hit the Melbourne office of the construction union a week after a violent protest was held there, with several staff infected and those in attendance on that day, including union secretary John Setka, forced into self-isolation.
CFMEU Victoria and Tasmania president Rob Graauwmans is one of four union workers who have tested positive, with hundreds of others self-isolating for 14 days.
CFMEU secretary John Setka outside the union’s Melbourne headquarters on Monday, before the protest turned violent.Credit:AAP
Union sources said they believed the cluster stemmed from a violent protest last week, when hundreds of construction workers faced off with Mr Setka outside the CFMEU office in opposition to the state government’s vaccine mandate.
A text message sent to union delegates advised that two protesters in attendance last Monday had tested positive to coronavirus and, as a result, “We strongly recommend, out of an abundance of caution, that you get tested”.
Union officials fear the outbreak could grow.
The news comes at a turbulent time for the construction sector, which the Andrews government shut down for two weeks last Tuesday in response to a growing number of cases linked to worksites.
It remains unclear whether worksites will reopen next week as predicted, with negotiations ongoing between the state government and industry.
The health department confirmed on Wednesday that a second protester had contracted COVID-19 after a first case last week – a man who attended the protests before being hospitalised on Thursday.
Senior union official Luke Hilakari, the Trades Hall Secretary, confirmed he was among those asked to isolate from Tuesday and had received an initial negative test.
“This just shows why getting vaccinated is important for everyone in the community and I’m very pleased that I’ve had both doses,” Mr Hilakari said.
A CFMEU spokeswoman refused to comment to The Age.
Mr Setka has lashed protesters as “drunken morons” since last Monday, insisting the majority were anti-vaccination protesters rather than union members.
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