Union News

Victorian HSRs and deputies: October 29 HSR Conference

Registrations to the conference have now exceeded 850. The Conference for Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) is the biggest Health and Safety Month event in Victoria (if not Australia) and has approval under s69 of the Victorian OHS Act meaning employers must allow elected HSRs to attend on paid leave. So if you haven't done so already, register now! The conference is being held on Tuesday October 29, with the theme of "Emerging Issues - Safe and Inclusive Workplaces".

This year we will be running the conference in more non-metropolitan Melbourne locations, so it will be easier for HSRs in country Victoria to attend:

  1. Melbourne: Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
  2. Bendigo: Trades Hall Council, Bendigo
  3. Gippsland: Federation University, Gippsland Campus, Churchill
  4. Portland: South West TAFE campus, Portland
  5. Wodonga: Wodonga TAFE Space, Lawrence Street Campus

The conference is free and is sponsored by WorkSafe - but registration is essential. Elected HSRs are entitled to attend the conference on paid leave as per s69 of the Act, but they must give their employer at least 14 days' notice. Employers must grant HSRs the paid leave to attend as long as they have received the 14 days' notice - so this means you must do this by October 15th at the very latest to guarantee you will get paid leave to attend. So get on to this as soon as possible to ensure you've got the leave and you're registered.

We also welcome Deputy HSRs - and many employers are happy to grant them paid leave to do so. So ask!

Go to the Registration website page now to register - it's super easy. Once you've registered you'll be able to download a letter for your employer and proof of the s69 approval from WorkSafe Victoria.

FREE posters for the conference are available now - we have lots of these available and if you'd like some, contact [email protected]. You can check out the poster here.  Feel free to copy it and post it on your noticeboard if you can't get hard copies.

Ask Renata

Hi Renata

I understand that Section 69 provides HSRs with protection to attend the HSR Conference. Would it also give HSRs the same to attend Worksafe's Health and Safety Month event on the 30th of October?

No, only the VTHC HSR Conference has WorkSafe Approval as a course under s69 which gives HSRs an entitlement to attend on paid leave. This is the only event during OHS Month that has this approval. Any other events, including any organised by WorkSafe, do not have a s69 approval. So if an HSR or other worker wishes to attend any of these events, then they should go to their employer to seek time off.  Of course, it would be great if employers organised for managers, supervisors and HSRs to attend this event as joint exercise: such an event provides a great opportunity for workplaces.

If you have any OHS related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.

Industrial manslaughter: Update

The VTHC is expecting the Andrews Labour government to have the Industrial Manslaughter Bill in parliament soon. If all goes to plan, Victoria should have Industrial Manslaughter legislation in place by the end of the year.

Bereaved families, unions who have lost members on the job and health and safety reps will be meeting with both cross-benchers and government ministers to press home the need to have such legislation in Victoria, and to encourage them to support the Bill.

AEU: Principal target of violent threats gets million dollar payout

In its latest journal, the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU) reports that Adviceline Injury Lawyers has recently resolved a claim alleging negligence against the Department of Education and Training (DET) for failing to provide a safe workplace for a principal.  The principal was subjected to serious threats of violence over months from the parents of two students, leading to an intervention order being taken out against them

According to Adviceline partner Lisa Paul, the parents' behaviour was reported to department representatives, but it failed to implement adequate security measures. She said, "As a result, the principal developed a significant psychiatric injury and has been unable to work for some time. A claim was brought on behalf of the principal against DET, which was recently resolved for an amount equivalent to a jury verdict of over $1 million. Although DET cannot control the behaviour of third parties, it must take all reasonable measures to provide a safe workplace."  Source: Workplace Express. AEU News [pdf]

ASU "Work Shouldn’t Hurt: Bullying and Intimidation in the Workplace" webinars

The ASU is running two webinars next week on bullying and intimidation for its members week - with VTHC OHS Unit staff going through:

  • How common Bullying and Intimidation is in the workplace
  • How to identify bullying behaviour
  • What to do if bullying is happening at the workplace
  • Practical tools, resources and next steps to address bullying in the workplace

1pm – 2pm Tuesday 8 October– day course 
7pm – 8pm Wednesday 9 October – evening course 

These live webinars are part of the ASU Career Launchpad professional development program, designed to help support their members throughout their career. There will be an opportunity to ask questions of the presenters and interact with other workers facing similar issues. For ASU members only: Register here. (Those who have not yet activated their ASU Career Launchpad account yet need to do so first: they need to click here and then enter their email address. Any questions or issues accessing the member portal, please contact the ASU at [email protected] or on 03 9342 3300).

Asbestos news

SA: Regulator suspends Class A removalist's licence
Earlier this year, SafeWork SA temporarily shut down Old Red Brick Co’s demolition of the historic Port Adelaide sawtooth shed after asbestos roof sheeting was found onsite, and after the construction union warned that workers, protesters and children at a nearby school might have been exposed to the dangerous material during the early stages of demolition. It now appears that the regulator has temporarily suspended the company's Class A asbestos removal licence for a period of three months due to "failure to ensure that the work and other activities were carried out safely and competently".

The CFMEU had produced photographs of suspected asbestos at the Shed 26 site, littered on various surfaces inside the building and apparently moved around, and video showing workers making plumes of dust potentially containing asbestos fibres airborne, by sweeping the floor. The union undertook an audit of the site which identified dozens of health and safety law breaches at the site, including unprotected workers disturbing broken suspected asbestos, no first aid equipment or emergency plans, unprotected gaps in the floor and railings that could allow falls from a height. Read more: Demolition firm stripped of asbestos licence InDaily

Vietnam: Toxic thermos flasks
Recently new tests results were released in Vietnam documenting asbestos contamination of thermos flasks made in China. According to the Research and Quality Accreditation Institute in Jiangsu Province, China, the thermoses tested contained asbestos. Commenting on these results, Vietnamese asbestos expert Dr. Tran Tuan said: “Asbestos-related diseases are preventable, and the most effective way to prevent them is to stop using all forms of asbestos to prevent exposure.” The Chinese government issued a warning to consumers about the toxic products.
See: Amiăng trong bình giữ nhiệt xuất xứ từ Trung Quốc có thể gây ung thư và phá hủy nội tạng [Asbestos in Chinese-made thermos can cause cancer and organ damage]. Source: IBAS

Spain: Asbestos action too little, too late?
People living within meters of asbestos-contaminated debris dumped by the defunct Ibertubo (asbestos) cement company have become increasingly frustrated and angry. After more than a decade of high-profile campaigning by residents, authorities in Toledo, Spain agreed in 2016 to remediate the public site on which 60,000 tons of toxic waste had been disposed. Unfortunately, the situation is still unresolved with piles of asbestos debris remaining in place. Campaigners had hoped the opening of the new Toledo Hospital sited nearby might have proved an incentive for the land to be completely cleared; this has not been their experience.
See: El barrio construido en medio del Amianto [The neighborhood built in the middle of asbestos]. Source: IBAS

ASEA Conference: Perth 11 - 13 November
Don't forget the 2019 Asbestos Safety Conference, at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.  All members of the asbestos management system have the opportunity to come together, exchange information and share ideas with over 300 domestic and international professionals from a range of sectors including workers’ health and safety, public health, the role of the non-government sector, and international campaign work. There will also be sessions focused on the work of asbestos support groups, the latest research into asbestos awareness communications and the latest from medical researchers. Check out the conference program here. For more information and to register, click here

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

International union news

UN calls for stronger protections for workers exposed to toxic substances
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has welcomed the adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a resolution backing stronger protections for workers exposed to toxic substances. Every 11 seconds a person loses their life because of lethal working conditions, and many of the deaths and serious non-fatal diseases are caused by chemicals.

“Every worker must be protected from toxic chemicals. Yet for firefighters, hairdressers, manufacturing workers and people working in many other occupations, the risk of cancer and other work-related diseases caused by toxic products is real, and it is costing lives. We salute the work done by UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics, Baskut Tuncak, and welcome this important UN decision,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow, a former president of the ACTU.

According to Tuncak, “global instruments only ban or restrict the use or emission of less than 0.1% of toxic industrial chemicals and pesticides of global concern to which workers and communities are exposed”.

The ILO Centenary Declaration, adopted last June, sets out a labour protection floor which guarantees all workers respect for fundamental rights, adequate minimum wages, maximum limits on working hours and safety and health at work. The Declaration also calls upon the ILO to elevate occupational health and safety into the ILO’s framework of fundamental principles and rights at work. The labour movement is fully committed to achieving this goal urgently and welcomes the echoing of a previous call by UN experts for the ILO to move forward with this.

“We know what is needed for safe working environments to ensure that people can lead a healthy life. We need the institutions whose role it is to protect people to recognise just how fundamental this is. The time has come to drive forward solutions for a world of work with zero cancer, and that means proper regulation including of the corporations which make so much profit from products that result in human misery. The right to health does not stop at the factory gate or the office door,” said Burrow. Read more: ITUC News

UK: workers deserve a break, says peak union council
The TUC is calling on the UK government to cut Britain’s overworked workforce a break, by creating four new public holidays. The peak union body says workers in England and Wales get just eight bank holidays a year, fewer than any other EU country and lagging far behind the EU average of 12 days. Workers in Victoria get 13 public holidays each year.

Workers in Germany and France get three additional public holidays a year, while workers in Sweden get 13 days – equivalent to an extra week off. Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland and Cyprus top the table with 15 days each, enjoying nearly twice as many public holidays as their British counterparts. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “work is becoming more intense.” She added: “Workers in Britain put in millions of hours of unpaid overtime every year but get fewer public holidays than their counterparts across Europe. Working people deserve a break. And as the days start to get shorter we could all do with something to look forward to. The government should create a new public holiday between now and Christmas.” Overwork is linked to increased risk of work-related accidents, injury and ill-health, and to more road traffic accidents involving fatigued professional drivers (Risks 914) or over-tired workers on their daily commute. Read more: TUC news release

Zimbabwe: Unions condemn rights violations
Union leaders in Zimbabwe are subjected to abduction, torture and death threats, which are gross violations of workers’ and human rights, say the country's unions. The violations take place against the backdrop of misery brought by austerity economic policies and annual hyperinflation of over 900 per cent, which has eroded wages.

Police are banning demonstrations, and protestors have been beaten in a clear violation of international workers’ and human rights standards. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president, Peter Mutasa, and secretary general, Japhet Moyo, face treason charges that carry a death penalty.

When the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association acting president, Peter Magombeyi, was abducted by armed men from his home in Harare on 15 September, doctors and nurses in major hospitals went on strike demanding his immediate release. Human rights groups and trade unions joined in the campaign. Read more: IndustriALL media release


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