Unions ban workers from demolishing Sydney's brutalist Sirius building

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Unions ban construction workers from demolishing Sydney's brutalist Sirius building

Australian trade unions have banned construction workers from demolishing one of Sydney's only brutalist buildings, which failed in its bid for heritage listing earlier this summer.

The New South Wales (NSW) government plans to sell off the Sirius housing building in the city's Rocks area for redevelopment.

But a new "green ban" by Unions NSW and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) means no unionised workforce will be allowed to work on the site.

"The removal of residents from Millers Point to make way for the city's elite shows us what will happen if Sirius falls," said Rita Mallia, president of the CFMEU.

"The top end of town will move in and working people will be moved, out putting multibillion-dollar projects ahead of green spaces and affordable housing. We can't let that happen."

A photo posted by Philip Louw (@pgl1960) on

"The Sirius building is not only an important piece of architectural history – it is one of the last areas of public housing in the district," added Mallia.

At the same time, Unions NSW released a statement saying "no unionised workforce will take part in the Sirius demolition".

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On Saturday 17 September 2016, hundreds marched from Customs House Forecourt to the Sirius building to protest the building's sale and the government's failure to protect it through heritage listing. People have also been posting images on Instagram to win support.

The protests were supported by Sydney mayor Clover Moore.

"Heritage and community are worth more than a quick buck!" Moore wrote on her Facebook wall.

"The State Government's decision to level the iconic building and replace it with luxury apartments is an outrageous cash-grab that sets a dangerous precedent," she added.

"By selling out our communities and our history to make a quick buck, this decision could undo the very reason heritage legislation exists. We need to keep fighting for Sirius."

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In July 2016, NSW Environment and Heritage Minister Mark Speakman made the decision not to heritage list the Sirius.

Speakman ignored unanimous advice to list the building from the Heritage Council, as well as National Trust NSW and the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA).

Save Our Sirius – an organisation chaired by local AIA president Shaun Carter – is currently running a petition and a crowdfunding campaign to take legal action against the state government's decision.

"The Baird Government has failed to acknowledge the architectural, social and cultural importance of Sirius by refusing to list it on the State Heritage Register, paving the way for its demolition," said Carter.

So far over $38,000 AUD has been raised towards the campaign's $50,000 AUD target, which aims to cover legal action, rallies and promotion.

A photo posted by Clover Moore (@clovermoore) on

Australian comedian Tim Ross performed a show inside the Sirius building last month as part of a tour of architecturally significant buildings. He also took part in last weekend's rally.

"It's unlikely that the government will change their mind straight away but the green ban makes it a very unattractive sale proposition," he told Dezeen.

"No union labour will work in the site and a non sale will see them eventually back down," he added. "Few investors will want the headache of trying to demolish and build without a Union workforce."

The Sirius public housing block was designed by architect Tao Gofers in the 1970s. It has 79 apartments as well as communal areas including a lounge, library and roof terrace.

Each residence is housed within a concrete cube, with large windows giving residents unparalleled views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

The proposed redevelopment of the Sirus apartment block is part of a wider sell-off of public housing throughout the nearby Millers Point neighbourhood. Plans for the site include 250 new luxury apartments.