Union News

International Asbestos News
Last week VTHC were honoured to welcome Mr Sok Kin, President of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation Cambodia (BWTUC) and APHEDA Country Manager, Veasna Nuon.

Our Cambodian comrades spoke with MP’s and Unions of the many hurdles and injustices they face in the fight to eradicate asbestos from their homes, workplaces and communities and shared compelling stories of workers' struggles in the face of harassment and arrests.

Over decades of democracy in Cambodia there's been progress on workers rights, trades unions, ILO standards and human rights, but since 2017 things have gone backwards.

We heard how the freedom to organise has been severely curtailed, with 90% of unions eliminated and any ability to create news ones severely impaired - sometimes with violence justified by spurious accusations of anti-government activity. Unions are effectively the only opposition left in Cambodia. Union leaders, mostly women, have been jailed, often using COVID breaches as a pretext.

Here to attend the 2022 Asbestos Safety and Management Conference as part of an 11 delegate contingent from the Mekong countries, our Cambodian comrades joined 340 asbestos researchers, union workers, regulators and government agencies to learn about Australia’s terrible asbestos legacy and provide updates on the situation in Southeast Asia.

Conference attendees heard about the dire situation in Indonesia for example, where asbestos containing roof sheets and other materials are imported and manufactured at an alarming scale. Tragically for those exposed to asbestos, there is little clinical research and no testing facilities available, so people are going undiagnosed.

Indonesia is not alone. Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos are importing vast quantities of ACM (asbestos containing materials) as much as 32,000 tonnes annually. It is mined mainly in Russia and Kazakhstan, and those responsible disseminate misinformation on the dangers of exposure to protect their export industry. 

In Parliament House the conversation with MPs ranged from how political pressure might impact at ground level to strengthening international connections and better protecting Union leaders and the workers they represent.

Minister Stitt spoke on the Victorian Government's plan to deal with our own asbestos legacy, the eradication strategy for public buildings and what technical and diagnostic assistance might benefit our South East Asian neighbours.

Hard won lessons learnt here in Australia together with messages of support and solidarity will travel with our Cambodian Comrades back to their communities and homes.

If you would like to help the Asbestos–Not Here, Not Anywhere campaign, you can contact Steve Mullins, APHEDA’s Asbestos Campaign Coordinator on [email protected]


More information on Asbestos: In the workplace and In the Home.  


VTHC's first OHS Basics Month
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is all about keeping workers safe and healthy at work. Every single worker has a right to a safe and healthy working environment - no matter what. Unions have always fought for healthier and safer workplaces. Safety is union business. 

The aim of OHS Basics Month is to empower new health and safety representatives (HSRs), delegates, and workers with the OHS knowledge and skills to get started in making their workplaces safer.

We're kicking off OHS Basics Month with a seminar on the fundamentals of OHS and will be joined by OHS legend, Renata Musolino and HSR David Clements who will share their insights on how-to organise for a safer workplace.

Some light food and drinks will be provided so make sure to RSVP here for catering numbers

Other OHS Basics Seminars include:

Safety Consultation
Using HSR Powers to Win
Tips for Top Inspections
Managing Conflict

Check out the full calendar of events here!

If you can't make it to any of these events, don't worry! They'll be published to our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page. Make sure to like our page so you don't miss out.

Latest Numbers 
On Wednesday 1 June Victoria recorded:

  • 9,934 new daily infections
  • 17 COVID deaths
  • 528 hospitalisations, 30 in ICU and 9 of these on ventilators

Cumulatively this equals:

  • 1,906,427 total Victorian infections
  • 3,434 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 102 since last post)

You can check the Victorian live update here

Australia wide: As of June 1, there have been a total of 7,295,230 COVID cases (7,005,098 last post) and 8,549 deaths, an increase of 409 since last week's SafetyNet.

Worldwide: As of June 1, there had been 532,635,961 worldwide infections (528,027,579 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,313,530 (Source: Worldometer). 

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation

Vaccination update 
83.45% of all Victorians, as of June 1, have received their second dose, 86.07% their first, and only 54.46% the crucially important third dose.

The figure for all Australians for the same date is 84.06%, 86.84% and 53.13%.

Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

Ask Renata

'Can a person who holds a high risk licence to operate an elevated work platform (EWP) over 11m also operate an EWP under 11m with the same licence?'

A high-risk licence, as you’re aware, is required to operate a boom-type EWP over 11 metres.

For EWPs under 11m, most likely to be a scissor lift, a high-risk licence is not required.

However, under section 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act employers have a duty to provide information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to work safely – including operating a scissor lift.

Familiarization with the operation is typically demonstrated via the completion of the appropriate competency-based units - 'Operate elevated work platforms CPCCCM3001' and 'Work safely at heights CPCCCM2012'

The Elevated Work Platform Association of Australia has more information here as does the CFMMEU's training department, located here.

If you have any OHS-related questions send them in via our Ask Renata portal. Your questions will be answered by someone in the VTHC's OHS Unit.

National news 
National Fatality Statistics 2022  
Safe Work Australia last updated its statistics on fatalities May 19, at which time it had been notified that 65 Australian workers had been killed at work this year. The fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 29 in Transport, Postal & Warehousing 
  • 14 in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing
  • 5 in Construction
  • 4 in Electricity, Gas, Water & Waste Services
  • 4 in Public Administration & Safety
  • 4 in 'other services'
  • 3 in Manufacturing
  • 1 in Mining
  • 1 in Accommodation and Food Services

Sadly there have been 10 more worker deaths this year, than at the same time last year.

These figures are based on initial media reports and provide 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. As a result the numbers of deaths in each sector change. To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Preliminary worker deaths webpage. Updated information is used to publish Safe Work Australia’s annual Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities database which includes finalised work-related fatalities from 2003 onwards. Note that the figures are based on preliminary reports, and so at times will change


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