Transport

Road jobs cut at Transmission Gully

The 'Mexican stand-off' at Transmission Gully continues as the main builder goes through a restructure and sheds construction jobs

The main builder of Transmission Gully is disestablishing road construction jobs at a time when the prospect of the road's completion looks further away than ever.

Redundancies rolled on at the Transmission Gully site last week with 33 people employed by CPB Contractors served notices that their positions would be restructured.

Transmission Gully is being built by a joint venture between CPB Contractors and HEB Construction.

The majority of jobs being restructured were critical to the road's construction and included traffic control and paving jobs.

"You only work for CPB once."

Sources close to the project have expressed incredulity that positions in road construction were being disestablished while the road itself was allegedly three years behind schedule and its costs potentially set to blow out by $500m

Some of the jobs being restructured were once filled by migrant workers who had left the country and never returned.

New Zealanders wouldn't be able to take their place because CPB had chosen to restructure those jobs out of existence. Employers can only make positions redundant when the jobs themselves are no longer needed. 

Several sources told Newsroom that activity levels at the site had increased since the country went to Level 1, but had not returned to pre-Covid levels even after a $14m payment was made from NZTA to keep construction going.

That won't just be down to migrant workers having been locked out of the site. CPB Contractors have also had trouble securing subcontractors to work there. A common refrain amongst subcontractors Newsroom has spoken to is: "you only work for CPB once". 

CPB's parent-company CIMIC declined to comment on the restructure or the reported issues suffered by subcontractors. Amalgamated Workers Union - which represents workers at the site - also refused to comment.

'Disgraceful'

Earlier this month Newsroom reported that Melbourne's multi-billion dollar West Gate Tunnel PPP roading project - which also involves CPB - had seen its deadline extended out by a year, workers served redundancy notices, and a force majeure clause exercised.

Victoria's Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan told Newsroom that CPB's behaviour on that contract had been "disgraceful". 

"While businesses across Australia are going to extraordinary lengths to keep staff on – here in Victoria we’ve seen Transurban’s builders CPB and John Holland sacking people over a petty dispute."

"We won’t be held ransom by construction companies especially when we have a lot of work here on offer."

NZTA are currently locked in negotiations that aren't likely to end anytime soon.

A rumour that an agreement had been reached and a resolution to the Transmission Gully mess would be announced by July 10 appeared to be wishful thinking.

Both NZTA and HEB (who are 20 percent of the joint venture building Transmission Gully) issued a rare denial that an agreement had been reached or that any date had been agreed to for an announcement around it.

Newsroom reported CPB had leaned on a force majeure exit clause to present NZTA with a 'take it or leave it' deal to extend the completion date of Transmission Gully out to 2023, remove warranty obligations on the road, make a lump sum payment (alleged to be greater than $200m), and move the whole agreement to a ‘charge-up’ contract. 

Road Transport Forum Chief Executive Nick Leggett said the proposed deal could add an extra $500m to the price of the road if it was accepted by NZTA.

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