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Union billboards attack Grocon on safety standards

The battle between builder Grocon and Victoria's biggest construction union continues, with expensive billboard ads going up on Melbourne's freeways this week attacking the company.

A Grocon spokesperson described the five billboards as part of a campaign designed to "distract from the union's increasingly toxic brand". The billboards are up at sites on the Flemington section of CityLink, the Monash Freeway in Richmond and the West Gate Freeway in Port Melbourne.

The ads, which one industry figure estimated would each have cost at least $20,000 per four weeks, will remain in place until at least the end of the month.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union is also running radio ads in the wake of the dispute with Grocon, which started in August over shop stewards on its building sites.

The dispute was sparked by disagreement over who got to appoint shop stewards and the right to display union paraphernalia at Grocon sites.

Police and protesters clashed during the height of the picket line at Grocon's Lonsdale Street Emporium site in late August.


Grocon has told the Supreme Court the picket line was a deliberate attempt to intimidate its employees.

One of the ads the union has paid for features a building worker in a hard hat saying: "I don't want my life in the hands of Grocon's yes men."

Grocon spokeswoman Jane Wilson said the ads were disingenuous because the builder had an excellent safety record.

"It also beggars belief to suggest that the same people who intimidated our employees during the recent violent blockades should now be the ones to protect their health and safety," she said.

But Bill Oliver, state secretary of the union's building division, said that it still had concerns about the safety of workers on Grocon's sites.

"Until workers are able to have proper safety representatives rather than employer-appointed stewards, the union will continue to have concerns," he said.