‘Entry-level’ tradies earning $110k a year

Labourers working on Melbourne's West Gate Tunnel are earning up to $200,000 a year, the Master Builders Association of Victoria has claimed.

According to the industry group, young, "entry-level" tradies working on the project are raking in $110,000 per year - in exchange for a 36-hour week.

But those with more experience who work the industry-standard 56-hour week are making a staggering $200,000 per annum.

"Site allowance" payments on the project have also soared to $9.25 per hour, which pushes up a labourer's wage by more than $24,000 each year.

Master Builders Association CEO Rebecca Casson told news.com.au out-of-control wages hurt everyday Australians.

"Big projects paying unsustainably high wages come at a painfully serious cost that's often unclear to taxpayers, who foot the bill," she said.

"That infrastructure is critical for Victoria, but a sustainable wage framework means we can also afford to build schools, aged care facilities and hospitals that make a huge difference in the lives of Victorians."

She also told The Age workers on the project were getting paid more than many professional employees.

"An entry-level labourer, working no overtime, on a six-figure salary is probably getting paid more than a teacher or other workers," Ms Casson told the publication.

The West Gate Tunnel project is one of the biggest in the country. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
The West Gate Tunnel project is one of the biggest in the country. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

"It's these incredibly high site allowances that really push wages up; these are payable regardless of any of the environmental factors on site."

The organisation claimed the incredibly high wages were the result of a deal struck by the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) - and that taxpayers were paying the price.

" … eventually the cost is actually borne by the people of Victoria because the costs are passed on," she told The Age.

"The economic health of Victoria depends on the building industry … and we would like to remind people of how many projects that improve lives, like child care or aged care facilities, could be built if we had a sustainable wage framework in place."

According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures, the average weekly ordinary time earnings for full-time adults in Australia in May 2019 was $1634, or $1608 for Victorians specifically.

That means even the most junior labourers on the site are earning well above the average Australian's salary, while some are earning more than double.

Australians have reacted to the out-of-control wages with shock and outrage, with many taking to social media to voice their frustrations.

"This is madness," one Twitter user posted, while another said it was an example of "typical government contract overspending and lack of oversight".

The Master Builders Association of Victoria has claimed some Melbourne labourers are earning almost $200,000. Picture: iStock
The Master Builders Association of Victoria has claimed some Melbourne labourers are earning almost $200,000. Picture: iStock

However, others argued there was nothing wrong with being rewarded for hard work.

"Sweet gig if you can get it …" a Twitter user posted, while another said: "Good on them it's none of your business what someone else earns."

But despite the backlash, Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan argued transport building jobs were helping the Victorian economy.

"Projects like the West Gate Tunnel, Metro Tunnel and level crossing removal are essential transport projects that contribute to Victoria's economic growth," Ms Allen told The Age.

The West Gate Tunnel is a 5km toll road being constructed in Melbourne, which will link the West Gate Freeway at Yarraville with the Port of Melbourne and CityLink at Docklands via twin tunnels beneath Yarraville.

It is expected to open in 2022, and the construction site of the $6.7 billion project is one of the biggest in the country at the moment.

It is being constructed by a consortium of John Holland and CPB Contractors.

The CMFEU has been contacted for comment.



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