Unions seek tougher workplace safety laws on Workers’ Memorial Day

Unions will use Workers’ Memorial Day to renew calls to scrap the Australian Building and Construction Commission and replace it with national legislation based on Queensland’s health and safety laws.

QCU General Secretary Ros McLennan and The Services Union Secretary Neil Henderson at the Workers Memorial Day observance ceremony in Brisbane today.

Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan said workplace injury or death was an avoidable tragedy that no worker or family should have to experience.

“Every worker has the right to come home safe to their family at the end of their shift.

“We stand for the right of all workers to raise job safety concerns without fear of retaliation or prosecution and for the freedom to join a union and bargain for fair pay, respect and a better future.”

Workers’ Memorial Day is 28 April each year but Queensland unions will hold a memorial ceremony on Friday 27 April for family and friends to remember, honour and mark the lives of those who have died at work. Events will be held in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Rockhampton and Townsville.

Since the beginning of this year, 40 Australians have been killed at work*.

Last year, 186 Australians were killed at work. The year before, it was 182 workplace deaths.

Tragically in Queensland, 22 work-related fatalities for 2017 have so far been reported to the Office of Industrial Relations.  Sixty fatalities from asbestos-related illnesses were also reported.

Queensland recently introduced industrial manslaughter laws and new health and safety legislation which Ms McLennan said should be the basis of national model health and safety laws.

“We now have industrial manslaughter laws in Queensland – the first state to have such laws thanks to the union movement – and they will be a strong deterrent for negligent employers.

“These are the laws we need nationally so that our electricians, our plumbers – all workers in the construction industry – are protected by legislation, rather than pursued by the ABCC.

“It’s disgraceful that Turnbull’s ABCC is more interested in fining workers and unions rather than looking out for workplace safety. In 2016, there were 35 deaths on construction sites in Australia but since its inception the ABCC has failed to prosecute one single employer for breaching health and safety laws,” she said.

“We believe Queensland’s laws should form the basis of national laws to change the rules to ensure stronger safeguards to prevent injuries and save lives. We’re the first state with industrial manslaughter laws, and mandatory training for health and safety representatives.

“Unions have also campaigned for and won laws for mandatory licensing of labour hire companies, so the dodgy operators can be identified and shut down.

“Secure jobs are a central part of our national campaign to Change the Rules at work. Workers in secure employment will speak up on safety and workplace issues without fear of losing their job.

“We’ll also be campaigning to change the rules so workers can bargain collectively and negotiate on issues such as rostering, staffing, work practices, and use of temporary and visa workers. All of these factors affect workplace safety,” she said.

*The number of worker deaths detailed is based on initial media reports and is a preliminary estimate of the number of people killed while working. Once the appropriate authority has investigated the death, more accurate information becomes available from which Safe Work Australia updates details of the incident.

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