Bungala solar plant tradies look for other work amid contract dispute
Summary: WORKERS building the Bungala solar plant near Port Augusta are facing three weeks without a pay cheque after an industrial dispute left the project at a virtual standstill.....
Unions supporting about 120 electricians and trade assistants working on the $400 million project understand it will be about 10 days before work resumes under new contractual arrangements.
Construction stopped last week amid uncertainty over the future of an agreement between head contractor Green Light Contractors, CATCON – the company responsible for the project’s civil works component – and electrical subcontractor Keightley Electrical Services.
The project is being developed by European energy giant Enel together with the Dutch Infrastructure Fund on Bungala Aboriginal Corporation land.
Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union organiser Paul Scudds understood many people working on the project had already left the area. “The site has ground to a standstill,” Mr Scudds said.
Once completed, the solar farm is expected to be one of the biggest in Australia.
Mr Scudds had been advised the project would likely pick up again around October 22, but said “the workforce will not be there in two weeks’ time – they’re already disappearing now”.
He said some members planned to work interstate, while others could not afford to stay in the area unless their accommodation was covered through work.
Mr Scudds said project organisers stopped issuing work permits to Keightley Electrical Services because it had been unable to provide proof of insurance cover.
Keightley managing director Tejas Patel confirmed CATCON had cancelled its contract with his company. That followed workers turning up to the site over several days last week, only to be sent home.
Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union organiser Ryan Ernesti said it was a “no-brainer” for people to move on if they could find work elsewhere. “People can’t sit around for 10 days with no pay,” Mr Ernesti said.
He said the dispute could set the project back by about a month.
Mr Patel said his company always had proof of its insurance on the site. He said problems started after his company reported an insufficient number of health and safety officers overseeing the project.
Mr Patel said his company could take on about 30-50 of the Bungala project staff for other jobs, but the rest of the 120-strong team would need to find work elsewhere.
Neither Green Light or CATCON were available for comment.