Forty Civil Pacific workers who lost their contract with construction giant John Holland have been replaced by workers who have agreed to work for cheaper wages, according to Chris Kyriakou.

Last week Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE) reported on the sacking of twenty-two year old Chris Kyriakou, one of the workers promised a two year contract by Civil Pacific (sub-contractor for John Holland) to work on the West Gate Bridge Strengthening Project. Kyriakou was promised  standard industry rates, as agreed to with the unions, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the Construction Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

“We are still protesting outside the John Holland Office in hope that we will get our jobs back,” says Kyriakou. “It is very disappointing that John Holland is prepared to undermine this industry and rip workers off, and disappointing that the new workers they’ve hired are willing to take other people’s jobs for less money and less entitlements.”

Yet spokesperson for John Holland, Stephen Sass denies that John Holland sacked the workers, and that new workers have been hired for the project.

“These people were fired by their employer Civil Pacific not John Holland. The pay agreement was muscled by the unions without talking to us, and when we said we were not going to increase the cost of the project, they walked out and then fired people”.

According to AMWU Victorian Secretary, Steve Dargavel, the CFMEU and the AMWU wrote a letter on Friday to John Holland seeking to negotiate an agreement and have brought the dispute before the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner.

However Sass denies any requests have been received from the unions or Civil Pacific asking for their contracts back.

John Holland is part of an alliance of four groups including VIC Roads asked by the State Government to complete the West Gate Bridge Strengthening Project.

Neither the Brumby Government, nor other groups in the alliance will intervene in the dispute.

“This is a private dispute. We hope that it is resolved as soon as possible but can’t comment further due to matter being before the courts,” says spokesperson for the Brumby Government, Bill Kyriakopoulos.

Shadow Minister for Roads, Terry Mulder says that it is, “simply not good enough”.

“There has to be a go to person in Government to be able to sit down with contractors and union leaders to resolve the dispute. We saw a similar situation with the meltdown of the rail network and the Government refused to intervene then also”.

However Kyriakou fears that, “If they (John Holland) get away with this the whole industry is going to go downhill and every other company will do the same- get rid of award rates and get people to work for a lesser rate. I am hoping for a resolution within the next few weeks – hopefully John Holland will realise what they are doing is wrong and take us back at the industry rate”.

Spokesperson for the alliance, Anne Learmonth says that the West Gate Project is proceeding despite the dispute.

“We are leaving the industrial relations for John Holland to manage,” she says. “At this stage the dispute has not delayed the installation and temporary public safety barriers will start appearing on the bridge at the beginning of April.” The protests continue.