Union News

Reminder: April 28 is International Workers Memorial Day

Next Wednesday, April 28th is International Workers Memorial Day, and this year for the first time in Victoria, official statistics will acknowledge the toll of workplace illnesses.

This year's international campaign theme is: HEALTH AND SAFETY IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT AT WORK #IWMD21

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim the lives of health workers and frontline workers around the world, it is particularly relevant to stop and hold a (socially distanced) vigil remembering the dead and fighting for the living. Join workers and bereaved family for a moving ceremony at Trades Hall on 28 April at 10.30 am. Find out more about the day and RSVP

Coronavirus (COVID-19) -  update 

Australia has had a total of 29,574 cases of coronavirus diagnosed, and no deaths since last week, so a total of 910 COVID-related deaths.  The comparison with the rest of world - and how well we have managed the outbreaks here, is becoming increasingly stark.

Internationally, the numbers of infections and deaths are terrifying: the cumulative number of infections last week was 138,013,074. Today it is 143,541,237. This is 5,523,565 new infections in the past week, an increase of 12 per cent, and the largest increase to date. Another terrible milestone, three million deaths, has been overtaken: there have now been 3,057,512 COVID-related deaths around the world. It had been hoped that the numbers would reduce due to increasing numbers of people being vaccinated - but it is clear that in many countries the vaccination programs have been slow, living conditions such that the infection cannot be controlled, and the hospitals/health systems totally overwhelmed.

This is the situation in India: over a quarter of a million new infections each day. As recently as February, India appeared to have the virus somewhat under control, recording 11,000 daily new cases compared with a September peak of more than 93,000 daily new cases. On Monday this week, the country reported over 270,000 new infections — its highest daily rise since the pandemic started. India has now recorded more than 15 million infections and more than 178,000 deaths, and experts agree that even these figures are likely lower than the actual numbers.

So what happened? By January the government had relaxed almost all of the 2020 lockdown rules. Since then, millions of voters have gone to the polls for major state elections and millions of Hindu pilgrims travelled to attend one of the largest religious festivals, Kumbh Mela. Now New Delhi, the capital, is in a week-long lockdown to prevent the city's health system from collapsing, which authorities say has been pushed to its limit. The city of 29 million has fewer than 100 beds with ventilators, and fewer than 150 beds available for patients needing critical care. Other parts of the country are under similar strains. 
Read more: ABC news online)

COVID-19 Vaccinations

In last week's journal we reported that the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, had announced the government had abandoned the goal of  ensuring that every single person in Australia would receive at least their first vaccine by October of this year. 

Since then the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca is preferred for adults over 50 years old and the Pfizer (Comirnaty) is preferred in adults aged under 50 years. This is due to the now undisputed serious, but very rare, potential side effect of a particular type of blood clot linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

This has meant that due to shortages of the Pfizer vaccine, and the fact that the federal government is still administering it to aged care residents, many workers in Phase 1a are still not vaccinated. It also means that it is likely that there will be a large number of AstraZeneca vaccines available for Australians over 50 years of age. 

At time of press, 172,308 Victorians had received at least their first vaccination. This is only about 10,000 more in the past week - so there are clearly problems with supply. 

Reminder: The Department of Health's Victorian COVID-19 vaccination guidelines (the guidelines), appendices and resources available online on this DHS webpage. The guidelines provide advice and describe the minimum requirements for delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination program in Victoria, in accordance with the requirements set out by the Commonwealth Government. The guidelines are updated weekly. Please ensure you are using the most up to date version. Updates are highlighted in yellow in the document.

For more information, go to these pages on the website: Coronavirus disease and Coronavirus the Victorian situation 

Ask Renata  

Hello Renata,  

In the time it took to get my manager's approval to attend the OHS training course I was hoping to enrol in, the course has disappeared off the available list on the website. I presume that means it's full. Is there a waiting list? Would it be worth just doing the refresher course in lieu of not having any training at all?

Next time enrol in the course that you're wanting to do first, and then let your employer know that you have enrolled. As long as you've given at least 14 days' notice, and the course is one that has been accredited by WorkSafe, then your employer must allow you to attend it. Try to give as much notice as you can. However, if there are genuine reasons why the dates do not suit your employer, then be prepared to negotiate. If you get resistance from the manager/employer, then contact us, or your union, or WorkSafe. 

And no, you need to do the full course before you do a refresher. To properly understand what the law says, what the employer's duties are, what powers and rights you as the HSR have - and how to be able to use them effectively, you must do the initial 5 day course first. The one day refresher training - which HSRs are entitled and should attend each year after they have done the full course, is designed to keep HSRs up to date, give them a chance to learn about new and emerging risks, and practise their skills. 

To find out more, including the parts of the Act that are relevant, go to this page: OHS Reps' Right to Training

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

OHS Reps @ Work Live Show - Gendered Violence in the Workplace

Did you miss our latest Live Show last Wednesday? If you, like me, missed the show, don't worry as you can check it out now on our Facebook page, or just click here. Listen to special guests Wil Stracke, Assistant Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council and Sophie Ismail from the Australian Council of Trade Unions for a conversation about gendered violence in the workplace and what HSRs can do to help address it. During the session Sophie talks about the new ILO Convention and its definition of gendered violence, how gendered violence impacts workers, and much more. 

Many HSRs sent in questions, which were discussed during the show. Again, check out the video of the Live Show here, and also check the information on Gendered Violence and Sexual Harassment on the OHS Reps website. 

Have you downloaded the OHShelp App yet?

OHShelp is a free, all-in-one app for Health and Safety Representatives. It has been designed to help HSRs stay informed, organised and in touch with their unions.

HSRs are now able to use the app to identify workplace hazards and access fact sheets written in plain language. The app also allows users to log issues as they find them, and to share the details with their employer, workmates and union. Check out more information on what's on the app, and how to sign up on the OHShelp website. For the moment the app is only available for union members, but a free trial is being organised for non-union members. 

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