The Australian media on May 16 and 17, 2018 contained several articles about the dropping of a blackmailing case against two prominent trade unionists, John Setka (pictured right) and Shaun Reardon. There are many issues and allegations in this legal action which started from a contentious Royal Commission and an ongoing dispute between the CFMMEU and the Grocon construction company.
Some unionists, such as the ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus on ABC Radio, say that the current case was “all about safety”. It is not all about safety and such misrepresentation needs to be called out. The original dispute was over the election of Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) – whether these could be appointed by the company or the union. This quickly became about power and influence not specifically about workplace health and safety.
There is no doubt that Setka has a
There seems to be a growing community frustration with regulators who hesitate to prosecute about breaches of laws, including occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, and about options that sound reasonable, like Enforceable Undertakings, but still let businesses “off the hook”. The calls for Industrial Manslaughter laws are the most obvious manifestations of the anger and frustration from perceived injustices.
But perhaps there was another way to achieve change in workplace safety, a way that could be based on a model that Australia and other countries already have.
This week the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) released its submission to the Independent Review of Work Health and Safety Laws. The submission deserves reading fully as it reflects many of the positions on and perspectives of occupational health and safety (OHS) of Australia’s major businesses and, not surprisingly, it has a lot to say about Industrial Manslaughter laws.
Comparing ACCI’s objections to the earlier attempt to introduce similar laws in Victoria in 2002 illustrates how little progress has been made.
Recent lessons from other major incidents, especially through the work of Professor Andrew Hopkins, have also shown the consequences of not taking responsibility for OHS. The power to counter the calls for Industrial Manslaughter laws is in the hands of those corporate leaders who accept this responsibility and work with it.
In my readings on Industrial Manslaughter, a reader recommended a book to help me understand how the world works. I haven’t found the time to read it through because I get angry and/or depressed but I wanted to share a suggestion that may help clarify our occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations and provide a reconsideration of the employer’s duty of care.
On 12 December 2017, part of Australia’s screen and television industry held a forum in Sydney about sexual harassment in the sector and what could be done to reduce this workplace hazard. This initiative occurred a day before an open letter was published about sexual harassment in the music industry. There is a momentum for change on sexual harassment in the workplace, but it is at risk of resulting in a fragmented approach which will generate turf wars, confusion and, ultimately, ineffectiveness.