Unions rally over health and safety

Unions rally for improved health and safety laws, following overhaul they claim could see standards slide

September 1, 2009

Unions will today rally in Brisbane for improved health and safety laws, following a State and Federal Government overhaul which they claim could see standards slide.

In a bid to "harmonise" state laws, Australian governments are proposing to introduce new national health and safety laws.

Today’s rally is part of a national day of action, where the support of improved laws will be advocated across the country.

Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) Assistant General Secretary, Amanda Richards, says unions are concerned standards could be compromised in the quest for consistent, national workplace health and safety laws.

"Australian workers deserve the best possible workplace health and safety laws and we think this is a great opportunity for the government to lift protections for workers by achieving world’s best safety standards across the country," she says.

"But we’re concerned that in some areas Queensland’s state laws are superior to what may be implemented nationally, particularly in relation to a duty for principal contractors and the maintenance of workplace health and safety officers.

"We’re very concerned that Queensland workers could lose out in this harmonisation process."

Richards says unions are calling on the Government to adopt national laws that give workers a say, make employers responsible for safer workplaces, and allow unions to take court action to fix safety problems.

An estimated 7,000 Australians die each year as a result of injury or disease from work, according to Richards.

"We have achieved much for workers in the area of workplace health and safety over the years – workers’ compensation, rest breaks, protective clothing, restrictions of lifting heavy object – the list goes on," she says.

"However, we need to ensure that this harmonisation process brings about better laws for working Australians – not laws that put workers and their families at risk."

The rally is set to be held in Queen’s Park, Brisbane, at Midday.

It will be followed by a march to Parliament House where Industrial Relations Minister Cameron Dick will receive a delegation.

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