Unionists express anger at Australia’s approach to OHS on Workers’ Memorial Day

Some days, politics should be kept in the background.  Increasingly the International Day of Mourning is being used as a political platform, principally by the union movement.  But this is discomforting and a little like anti-war protests during ANZAC Day, as happened several decades ago.

International Day of Mourning, or Workers’ Memorial Day, as it is also known, should be a time of reflection.  There is no doubt that there is a political element to wortkplace safety and the deaths of workers but it is hard to remember the dead, look at the memorials and the floral tributes when a tannoy is shouting to a unon protest rally.

This was part of the scene outside the Trades Hall in Melbourne on 28 April 2010.  Thousands of construction workers used the memorial as the starting point for a march to the offices of the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

Dean Mighell, Victorian State Secretary, Vice President at Electrical Trades Union of Australia, spoke at the rally.  He made some excellent points about workplace safety and, although the union rhetoric was in full flight to the audience of union members, his comments are worth noting.

Mighell notes that after a hundred years of unionism the fight for workplace safety continues and that still regulators have a level of resources that is inadequate to the task.  His political disappointment with the Prime Minister’s approach to OHS is clear and he, legitimately, uses the deaths of four workers who were installing insulation as an example of a flawed understanding of workplace safety.

Below is an audio recording of Mighell’s presentation.  Note that there are several swear words in the speech.

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Kevin Jones

2 thoughts on “Unionists express anger at Australia’s approach to OHS on Workers’ Memorial Day”

  1. Today a small but dedicated group did the Don Gage Memorial Walk from WorkCover Corporation in Adelaide to the Deceased Workers Memorial Forest. It was about a 45 minute walk, we then planted 15 trees and released balloons to honor and respect the lives lost.

    The passive message is simple – each tree and ground cover planted on International Day of Mourning in the Deceased Workers Memorial Forest represents the failure of all the safety system and legislation within South Australia.

    There are now 140 trees and ground covers, each indicating a broken family.
    Yet not one union representative has ever gone to the Deceased Workers Memorial Forest, though they are invited to attend and to plant a tree and to release a balloon.

    Instead the unions select to shame and blame and make a lot of useless noise, knowing full well that after the rally\’s held in every major city, the very same union members would return to unsafe workplaces and return to unsafe work practices.
    But throughout the shame and blame speeches where losts of noise and cheers could be heard, there were promises of protecting all workers not just union workers.

    Today I held in my arms a widow as she wept for her lost husband, a sister who wept for her brother and a friend who wept for his best mate.
    Today for Work Injured Resource Connection was about allowing the healing process continue and to show our own solidarity of strength and support for the loved ones left behind.

    The people who have the ability to close down unsafe workplaces do not attend such cememoriations nor do they attend the union rally\’s.
    They sit in their offices and ignore the politcal blame and shame speeches from the unions, and they pretend that there are no trees or ground covers in the Deceased Workers Memorial Forest.
    If the unions are serious about workplace safety, then I beg them to shut down the unsafe workplaces until they do that then I can not belive that they are serious about what the yelled about today.

  2. While I agree that this should be a day of reflection and respect for the families of those who are no longer with us as a result of workplace caused death, I am sure that a poll, could it be taken of those workers, would be unanimous in condemnation and they would be more than a little incensed with the current state of affairs.

    Failure by the authorities to act proactively in enforcement, failure by the legislators to put precise, prescriptive, meaningful and enforceable legislation and regulations in place. failure by government to appropriately and financially resource the OHSW enforcement authorities is an insult to those workers who paid the ultimate price.

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