Major projects in Victoria could be disrupted by a union stoush over safety training. 

The Plumbers and Pipe Trades Employees Union is initiating industrial bans, expressing concerns about compromised fire safety due to insufficient funding for fire suppression experts.

The union alleges that the government's failure to adequately invest in industry training for fire suppression systems has led to a shortage of qualified workers. 

Projects such as the Footscray Hospital build are reportedly feeling the impact, with potential consequences including the absence of key pipe installations and delays in critical works.

While not a complete strike, the industrial bans will vary across sites but may involve crucial pipes not being installed or delays in essential tasks, affecting work sites like hospitals, nursing homes, tunnels, and schools.

“They will be holding up the jobs in certain areas, the flow of work,'” says Plumbers and Pipe Trades Employees Union secretary Earl Setches.

“If people don't want to talk about it, the bans will become critical and hold the jobs up.”

The union's action is a response to concerns about the inadequacy of the current subsidy for apprentice training in fire protection, which has led to capped training positions. 

Currently, the Victorian government subsidises training through the registered training organisation Fire Industry Training (FiT) in Brunswick.

The union and FiT argue that the existing funding model is insufficient, resulting in a decline in apprentices. 

The scarcity of qualified fire suppression plumbers is anticipated to drive up costs and extend project completion dates.

“There's a shortage of workers now, and now we're not funding apprentices ... It's insane,” Mr Setches told the ABC.

“That's why we know if it gets elevated away from the department, elevated to the premier, and senior cabinet ministers, they will not understand why we are not funding new apprentices.”

The union is calling on the government to increase the number of funded apprentice spots and to lift the subsidy, currently around $20,000, due to rising training costs. In comparison, Queensland's subsidy is $30,000.

FiT, the sole provider of this specialised training in Victoria, co-signed a letter with the union to Skills Minister Gayle Tierney, outlining the critical role of fire protection workers in the built environment. 

The letter referred to the Grenfell fire disaster in London as a warning of the potential consequences without properly trained professionals.

The union and the sector have been lobbying the Allan government for increased funding, proposing an increase to 125 funded apprentice spots this year and 150 next year. 

The government says subsidies are determined based on the latest evidence of training delivery costs.