BWI hits CIMIC’s massive labour rights violations

BWI joins the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in condemning CIMIC, Australia’s largest construction company, for reportedly underpaying hundreds of workers, subcontractors and banks in its troubled Middle East operations by more than USD 500 million. 

According to the CFMEU, CIMIC, formerly Leighton Holdings, is one of the biggest construction companies operating in Australia and has been the lead on numerous projects including Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, Melbourne’s Westgate Tunnel, and Sydney’s WestConnex motorway.” 

CFMEU also said that the company also tried to pocket more than USD 20 million in JobKeeper payments during the pandemic despite recording USD 620 million in profits, before being forced to hand it back following community outrage. 

“This is CIMIC’s record, a long and callous history of disregard for workers’ rights. The stories of workers who the company has abandoned in Qatar and elsewhere are a disgrace,” said Dave Noonan, CFMEU National Construction Secretary. 

According to reports, CIMIC has abandoned its Middle East operations and took a USD 1.8 billion write-down after it was unable to recover debts owed for projects built during the Dubai property bubble in the early 2000s. It sold its 45 percent stake in the BIC Contracting (BICC) joint venture in the Middle East (formerly known as Al Habtoor Leighton Group) to UAE-based SALD Investment. 

With CIMIC leaving the Middle East, it also abandoned its workers. It was reported that many workers are stranded in cramped rooms in labour settlements. They can’t leave the premises and return home due to lack of funds and the expiration of their visas. They still wait for their unpaid wages and end of service entitlements after being made dismissed by CIMIC. 

“This is truly despicable! This is a human and labour rights calamity. We call on CIMIC to take full responsibility and fulfill all its obligations to all of its workers. We call on the company to immediately release all the unpaid wages and service entitlements of its workers and ensure their safe return to their countries of origin,” BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said. 

“We also call on all relevant authorities to expedite its probe of CMIC’s actions and prosecute it for its numerous criminal liabilities to workers and other entities. We must not allow this company to get away with this awful crime,” Yuson added.