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Reason entry-level Aussie road traffic controllers earn $200,000 a year: 'So dangerous'

They're working 56 hours a week and CFMEU Victorian secretary John Setka believes they're paid appropriately.

Road traffic controllers earning more than $200,000 a year in Australia have been defended for earning such a high salary despite it being an entry-level job. Thanks to a deal organised by the Victorian branch of the CFMEU, tradies on union-controlled sites who hold the stop signs can earn an incredible amount of money.

But branch secretary John Setka is sick of people saying these workers just stand around and do nothing all day. He said road traffic controllers have a "dangerous" job and they aren't like others on a construction site.

"I find it insulting that traffic controllers get such a bad rap," he told radio station 3AW.

CFMEU Victorian secretary John Setka next to road traffic controller
CFMEU Victorian secretary John Setka said road traffic controllers deserve what they're paid. (Source: AAP/Getty)

Are you a road traffic controller? Email stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

"I mean, their job is so dangerous. There has been a number of them killed. They risk of serious injury. They're protecting the public. They're protecting the construction workers.

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"I mean, when it's raining torrential rain, and there's a concrete pour on they can't just say, 'Well, I'm gonna get up and I'm not standing there'. They've got to stay there right till the end."

When asked whether he thinks it's okay for tradies to earn more than $200,000 when other professions like nurses, teachers and paramedics earn comparatively much less, he agreed that they are all underpaid for what they do.

The $206,000 salary for a road traffic controller on a CFMEU site in Victoria is based off a six-day, 56-hour work week.

They receive a base rate of $49 per hour and that doubles to $98 an hour for 16 hours of double time. They also get $315 for a travel allowance, $186 for a meal allowance on overtime, and $280 for a site allowance on mega projects.

That works out to be $4,309 per week and $206,832 per year.

Setka admitted the hefty $200,000 salary only comes when a worker is doing several hours of overtime a week or doing back-to-back night shifts.

While that might be attractive to some people, he said it's not for everyone.

"Let me tell you, after a couple of weeks working night shift, you don't see anybody. It's almost like you've got no friends or family," he said.

He added that the fatigue from doing so many hours is one of the reasons why construction workers have such a high suicide rate.

A recent study analysed data from 2001 to 2019 and found Australian male construction workers' overall age-standardized suicide rate was 26.6 per 100,000 persons compared to 13.2 per 100,000 for male workers employed in other occupations.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

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