Union News

Vale Paddy Garrity

Born: 1937, Seaham Harbour, England. Died: 2020, Melbourne, Australia. 

Paddy was a seaman, renovator, arts activist, administrator, circus rigger, concert manager, festival organiser, staunch unionist, beloved husband, friend, comrade. He migrated to Australia in 1951. He was a passionate warrior for the working class, for the unemployed, for the arts, was involved in many organisations and fought many battles. In the words of some who knew him:

"When I was Secretary of Trades Hall for a decade, Paddy was the heart and soul of the place. He opened it up as a venue. He was a friend and mentor to so many, me included. His life was one of doing and activism - seafaring and workers rights, arts officer at the Naval Dockyard, Unemployed Workers Union, rigger for Circus Oz. Paddy loved people and stories. There was always that mischievous twinkle in his eye. He was the eternal optimist. Paddy could make things happen and in record time - the logistics of most of our big rallies were his work." (Leigh Hubbard - VTHC Secretary 1995 - 2005)

"Paddy was a bright star in the firmament of the Melbourne trade union and progressive political community for many years. Humanity passion and humour were his hallmarks. He will be missed." (Dave Noonan - National Secretary, CFMEU)

"[I] Still picture Paddy standing on a window ledge at the Melbourne Club toasting the demo outside with a champagne glass. Coalition Against Poverty and Unemployment rally just before Hawke got elected." Marcus Banks.

A life well lived - you will be sorely missed Paddy Garrity! 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) -  update  

According to the latest official figures, there are 23,898 cases of coronavirus disease diagnosed in Australia - an increase of 2,148 since last week, almost all in Victoria. 450 people have died - 118 more than last week.  This morning the Premier announced there have been 216 new cases diagnosed since yesterday and 12 more fatalities. The numbers are now consistently decreasing, as Stage 4 restrictions are now in the third week. Read more on the Victorian situation here.

The ACTU is still calling for pandemic leave for all workers - while there have been some payments, equivalent to pandemic leave, made available to Victorians - announced by the Federal government, but paid for by the state government, there are still many workers who are missing out. We need a fair national system - so sign the ACTU's petition now and send it around to all your contacts/post it on your social media. The ACTU's has also set up a page to email your MP to demand Paid Pandemic Leave. 

The international situation keeps worsening: the number of people infected is now at 22,306,538 - last Wednesday it was 20,503,280, this is once again over 1.8 million more infections. There have now been 784,353 deaths around the world.  Read more: For more information on Coronavirus and COVID-19, go to this page on our site. 

Ask Renata  

Hi Renata 

Due to the current COVID-19 crisis and protocols in workplaces such as segregation and/or split shifts what should happen with regards to a worker wanting to come off a PM shift, for instance, and go onto the AM shift? Is there an isolation period?

If there is no COVID-19 in the workplace, and no-one on the shift the worker is coming from has tested positive, and there's no-one who has been asked by DHHS to self-isolate (which they do when someone is identified as a close contact to someone who has tested positive), there would be no reason for that or any other worker to go into isolation for any length of time.

Remember that under the new notification regulations, the employer must notify WorkSafe if any worker or contractor has tested positive for COVID-19. This then allows for special arrangements, such as identifying any workers who may be have been in close contact with the positive case, and any other necessary measures. Any HSRs should also be informed. 

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

Masks and face coverings advice updated

We have update our information on COVID-19 and masks - adding advice on face shields. WorkSafe Victoria has also issued new advice: Managing coronavirus (COVID-19) risks: Face masks in workplaces.

ACTU COVID-19 resources

A reminder to our subscribers of the ACTU resources for working people on coronavirus and their workplace rights and safety. The peak union body has a dedicated COVID-Aware fact-sheet site from where HSRs and other can download a kit.  The ACTU Support Centre can also provide free and confidential advice on any additional questions workers may have about their rights at work and COVID-19. The Support Centre phone number is 1300 486 466.

Health Care workers seek automatic WorkCover rights

Doctors, paramedics and other healthcare workers have called on the Andrews government to guarantee that those infected with coronavirus will automatically qualify for WorkCover compensation, as the sector warns it is being put at unnecessary risk of exposure. Healthcare staff now represent more than 14 per cent of active Victorian cases, with 2414 coronavirus cases detected in this group since the pandemic began.

Citing concerns with substandard personal protective equipment and safety measures, over 3000 healthcare workers have signed a letter to federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. 

Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill wrote to the state’s Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy in April, asking her to create a new "presumptive" right for those on the healthcare front line to automatic WorkSafe compensation.

Mr Hill said the government should make coronavirus a "proclaimed disease", as was the case for firefighters who dealt with asbestos and got sick with some types of cancer. "Firefighters don’t have to justify that on this date and in this place you breathed it in," he said. "All they have to prove is that they were engaged in the act of firefighting."
Read more: The Age

International Union news

Global: COVID led to ‘brutal crackdown’ on workers’ rights

Some of Europe’s biggest retailers are standing by while COVID-19 is used as a pretext for union busting and other workplace abuses, human rights activists have warned.

A new report, from the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), portrays an “emerging and widespread pattern of supplier factories appearing to target unionised workers for dismissal”. Thulsi Narayanasamy, senior labour rights lead at BHRRC, said: “Workers face a brutal crackdown when exercising their most fundamental rights, and brands aren’t stepping up enough to ensure workers in their supply chains are protected. Threatening the right to organise collectively and be part of a trade union at such a critical time… stops them from being able to ensure they are paid wages, are safe at work and free from harassment.”

The report looks in detail at several ongoing disputes between unionised workers and managers in factories in India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Bangladesh and India. In every case it is alleged that big name brands should have been more active in ensuring workers were not punished or targeted for being union members. Several of the companies named in the report, including Primark, Levi Strauss, Inditex, H&M and Mango, all stressed in responses to the BHRCC and The Guardian that they are committed to protecting workers’ rights to join and form unions and bargain collectively.
Read more: Union busting and unfair dismissals: Garment workers during COVID-19 [pdf], BHRRC, August 2020. The Guardian. Source: Risks 

UK & EU: COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks in occupational settings

Outbreaks and clusters of COVID-19 have been reported since the start of the pandemic in the European Union,  the European Economic Area (EU/EEA) and the United Kingdom (UK). Fifteen EU/EEA countries and the UK reported 1,376 clusters of COVID-19 in occupational settings between March and early July 2020. 

Workers in occupations which bring them in close physical proximity to other people (co-workers, patients, customers, etc.), particularly when working in indoor settings or with shared transport or accommodation, are more exposed to and at higher risk of COVID-19 in the absence of mitigation measures. 

The majority of occupational COVID-19 clusters reported were from the health sector, however testing of healthcare workers has been prioritised in all EU/EEA countries and the UK. Large numbers of clusters were also reported from the food packaging and processing sectors, in factories and manufacturing, and in office settings. Fewer clusters were reported from the mining sector, however some of these clusters have been large. 

Occupations are commonly linked to socio-economic status which can also affect the individual’s risk of COVID-19. Moreover, workers in many essential sectors cannot work from home, which may explain why certain occupations have been shown to have a higher risk of COVID-19 infection and mortality than others.
Read more: Executive Summary: COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks in occupational settings in the EU/EEA and the UK  The Technical report can be downloaded as a pdf from this page.   


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