Union News

VTHC End of Year Party - RSVP now!

Are you an HSR/Deputy HSR? Are you in Melbourne? Have you RSVP'd to the End of Year Party yet? If not, then do so right now.

HSRs work tirelessly to keep workers across Victoria safe. It's been a huge year and to celebrate everything we've achieved we're going to have an end of year party! And we can finally meet face-to-face!

The VTHC OHS Unit is inviting HSRs and DHSRs to our End of Year event on December 15.

This will be an opportunity not only to catch up with each other, but also find out about all the fabulous things the union movement has achieved in the OHS space the past two years, and what is coming up in 2022. There will be food and drink, so join us. 

When: 6pm - 8pm. Wednesday, December 15
Where: 'Loading Bay' - Victorian Trades Hall Council, corner of Victoria and Lygon Street, Carlton
RSVP (essential for catering purposes!): Click here 

And talking of end of year parties

Every day of the year should be safe, that includes the work Christmas party. Your employer still has a duty to ensure a healthy and safe environment, so far as is reasonably practicable. 

The talented people in our unit have created a game to walk HSRs through what their employers can do to make their workplace Christmas party a safe event for everyone.  Have a go now! VTHC's Workplace Christmas Party Safety: The Game

Coronavirus Update 

Latest on Omicron

On 26 November, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated a new COVID-19 strain, known as B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern and named it Omicron. Omicron joins Delta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma on the current WHO list of variants of concern.

While it appears that the variant is more contagious than Delta, it is unclear whether it is less severe. Evidence is also emerging that the Pfizer vaccine offers a level of protection against the new variant. 

NSW recorded 10 new cases of the Omicron variant over the weekend, with nine of the infections connected to a cluster involving a Sydney climbing gym and two schools. By Monday, the state had recorded 25 cases of Omicron — 14 locally acquired and 11 from overseas or on international flights. A case has also been recorded in the ACT,

Latest figures December 8

Victoria: Unfortunately, the number of new infections daily remains stubbornly around the 1,000 mark - sometimes even higher. The number in hospitals and in ICU is hovering around the same number, slightly up from last week. 

  • Active cases on Wednesday December 8: 11,331
  • New cases reported: 1,312
  • Hospitalised: 303, in ICU: 51; on ventilators: 27
  • Total number of COVID-related deaths: 1,390 
  • Vaccination rate: 91.36 per cent double vaccinated;  93.46 per cent one shot (over 12)

Check the Victorian situation here

Australia: 

  • Total cases: 220,552  (210,237 on December 1).
  • Total COVID-19 related deaths: 2,065. 
  • Vaccination levels: 88.29 per cent double vaccinated; 92.96  per cent one shot. Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age

Worldwide: 

  • Total cases: 267,252,563  (262,993,505 last week).
  • Total number of COVID-related deaths: 5,284,820  

(Note these figures are updated constantly - check the Worldometer website for latest figures and trends). Read more information on Coronavirus   

Do you have a specific question about Covid-Safety in your workplace? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with your union, or submit an inquiry through the Covid-Safe Workplaces website.

Ask Renata

Hi Renata,

I am just wondering if there are any rules against a 15 year old working in a manufacturing factory?

This is not a matter that is directly covered by the OHS legislation. The legal age to work in Victoria is actually 11! But there are some types of work children under 15 cannot do. See this Victorian government page for more information on this.  

What is relevant though is that the OHS Act places a general duty of care on all employers towards all employees. 

So, it’s most important to make sure that the employer has taken into account the age and experience of the 15 year old and ensures that their health and safety is protected as much as reasonably practicable. It’s also crucial that the employer provides the right type and right amount of information, training, instruction and supervision to the worker, AND that the young worker knows what their rights are.

Check these pages and if it’s someone you know, then I would suggest discussing these matters with them, and recommend that they join the relevant union for that workplace:

Inexperienced workers are more at risk of being injured in the workplace, so it is crucial that they know their rights. 

If you have any OHS-related questions send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website. Your questions will be answered by Renata or one of the other members of the VTHC's OHS Unit.  

Retail, hospitality workers facing violence and aggression as we come out of lockdowns

Retail and hospitality workers continue to be on the frontline of the pandemic, confronted with some horrific behaviour from customers, many workers health and safety is being put in jeopardy. The COVIDSafe Workplaces Team at Trades Hall visited over 300 workplaces in November to speak to workers about their experiences since the end of lockdown. The response was overwhelming and concerning, with about in 1 in 30 workers threatened with physical assault (and in some cases, assaulted) and about a quarter being subject to aggressive behaviour and verbal abuse simply for asking customers to check in. Nobody deserves to feel unsafe at work for simply trying to do their job.

The team found that workers were often poorly equipped to deal with the requirement to ask customers to sign-in and to verify their vaccination status. A quarter of workers indicated that they had no training at all in how to manage aggressive behaviour, with many others only receiving very rudimentary training. Workers were often unsure of what to do when incidents occurred with few avenues of support if things went wrong.

Unfortunately, workers continue to be subject to abuse and occupational violence throughout December following the introduction of vaccination requirements for general retail. The outreach team has visited a further 170 workplaces to find out how this had gone. Roughly 20 per cent of workers indicated that they felt unsafe asking for proof of vaccination, with others saying that while they generally felt safe, enforcement was uneven due to concerns about asking some customers. Half of all workers the team spoke to were subject to verbal abuse or aggressive behaviour when asking customers to sign-in, while threats of physical violence were generally rare, they were shocking when they occurred.

Some workers were called Nazis for attempting to enforce the vaccination requirement. One retail clothing store worker described how a customer who refused to show proof of vaccination struck her with a handbag and threw a stack of clothes into her face. At the more extreme end, a café manager in Footscray was struck in the face after requesting a customer check-in at the premises.

A story on the ABC last week reported that a Melbourne CBD bookstore had hired professional security after a staff member working as a COVID-19 marshal was allegedly pushed down an escalator.  The Dymocks employee was briefly knocked unconscious in the incident after allegedly being pushed by a customer who refused to check in using a QR code and show his vaccine certificate. Later, the staff member was found to have suffered a mild concussion and cuts to his back from tumbling down the escalator. Police were investigating.

As the percentage of Victorians vaccinated continues to grow, the state government last week gave the clearest indication yet of the criteria it will use to discontinue the vaccine mandates, in the face of continuing criticism of rules requiring people to prove their immunisation status in retail and hospitality settings. Premier Daniel Andrews said the rules could change in the next few weeks but only after health authorities assess the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for children aged between five and 11, as well as the booster program.

Asbestos news

ASEA releases updated stocks and flows model for asbestos

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) has released updated asbestos stocks and flows information for Australia. This project was undertaken in partnership with Blue Environment. This updates the model estimates from 2015, and reflects new information from literature and industry experts. The model estimates the amount of legacy asbestos remaining in the built environment (stocks) and the quantity of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) reaching the end of its productive life and is now becoming waste or is in disuse (flows).

The updated estimates show that in 2021, around 6.4 million tonnes of legacy asbestos remains in the built environment in Australia. This includes 3.4 million tonnes of asbestos cement pipes, 1.7 million tonnes of asbestos cement sheeting (domestic) and one million tonnes of asbestos cement sheeting (commercial). Together, asbestos cement pipes and commercial and domestic sheeting make up approximately 95 per cent of the remaining legacy asbestos in the built environment in Australia.
Read more: The asbestos stocks and flows estimates infographic and the 2015 Australian stocks and flows model.

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

International union news

South Africa: documents to ratify Convention 160 submitted

With women mineworkers raped and murdered underground, energy workers killed during night shifts while others are attacked and scarred for life with acid while at work, the South African workplace is a crime scene for gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH).

Confronted by this horror, trade unions continue to fight against GBVH and the campaign for the ratification of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190 which seeks to eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work and the adoption of Recommendation 206, are part of sustained actions to stop GBVH and create safer workplaces.

On 29 November, the South African government submitted its documents to the ILO as part of the ratification process. The documents were submitted at a meeting in Johannesburg with the ILO, the department of employment and labour, and trade unions that are part of the National Economic Development and Labour Council – the country’s social dialogue platform. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) represented unions.
Read more: Industriall media release 

 

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