On 31 March 2009, Australian trade unionists (pictured below) protested outside the Safety In Action Conference. The crowd was objecting to the presence of Ms Janet Holmes a Court, the chair of John Holland, as a keynote speaker. As Dave Noonan, CFMEU Construction Division national secretary, put it
“It is an outrage that a company with a dismal safety record is the key note speaker at a major safety conference,” Mr Noonan said. “John Holland needs to stop talking about safety and start working with the unions to make their worksites safe.”
Many of the conference delegates who were attended a breakfast seminar were oblivious of the protest outside. According to a media statement from the Safety Institute of Australia national president, Barry Silburn
“We share the same goal as the unions – to bring safety failures into the public arena and work towards preventing more deaths – so we wholeheartedly support their efforts and were pleased to see them at the conference today,” Mr Silburn said. “We certainly don’t condone the systems failures at John Holland. Janet Holmes a Court’s presentation was an opportunity to hear what went wrong and of her plans to improve those systems. She acknowledged that John Holland had made mistakes and gave delegates the opportunity to learn from them.”
Recently, the trade union movement has become more strident in its protests about John Holland’s move to the national workers compensation scheme, the only construction contractor to choose this option. The union argues that safety on John Holland sites has deteriorated since the move. They also complain over John Holland restricting union access to their worksites.