More than 100 workers constructing part of Melbourne's West Gate Tunnel will lose their jobs because of contaminated land and the state government is furious.
The Australian Workers Union says 137 workers are being told on Thursday they are being made redundant, as tunnelling work stalls due to a fight over who should pay for removing contaminated soil at the site.
Transurban is delivering the alternative to the city's heavily-congested West Gate Bridge with builders CPB Contractors and John Holland.
The government had expected that if any issues arose with building, workers could be deployed to another part of the tunnel or a different state government-funded project, rather than be laid off.
Victorian Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan says she has vented her frustration with Transurban boss Scott Charlton over the debacle.
"This is an incredibly disappointing decision. I'm disappointed and can I say, angry," she told reporters in Melbourne.
Ms Allan referred to the businesses delivering the project to explain why they deemed the job cuts necessary.
But joint venture builders CPB Contractors and John Holland said all inquiries should be directed to the government.
Transurban said the builders are looking to support affected workers, including through redeployment and redundancies wherever possible.
About 4000 people are working on other elements of the tunnel, including building new ramps and widening the West Gate Freeway.
"We're committed to delivering this project safely and as quickly as possible and continue to work with all project parties to finalise plans for tunnelling and spoil disposal," a Transurban spokeswoman said.
Ms Allan says Transurban and its builders have always been aware of the contaminated soil at the site.
"This is a matter which has been identified in the contract, needs to be dealt with in the contract, and that's the government's expectation."
AWU Victorian Secretary Ben Davis says the tunnel builders "sat on their hands".
"I'm really angry that my members' jobs are being used as cannon fodder in what is ultimately a commercial dispute," he told AAP.
The union will be be endeavouring to find employees other work, looking at the Metro Tunnel as a potential option.
Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said the Andrews government needs to resolve the situation.
"This is a government project, they've made the promises, they're the ones spruiking all these jobs. Well now these people are out of a job, and Daniel Andrews needs to fix it," he said.
Australian Associated Press