Union News

Police officer and motorist killed in crash 
A 25 year old senior female police constable and a motorist were killed in a head-on collision in Victoria's north-west in Red Cliffs near Mildura at about 10 pm last Friday night. Another police officer is in a critical condition. The very early stages of the investigation suggested the utility vehicle veered across the road, Kulkyne Way, into the oncoming police car. 

The VTHC sends our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of both the police woman and the driver of the other car.

According to our records, this is the twelfth work-related fatality in Victoria this year. This number includes the policewoman and the pilot of the helicopter which crashed last week, however it may be higher if any of the passengers of the helicopter who were on business, are also included.

No worker should lose their life at work. 

April 28: International Workers' Memorial Day
This year's international theme is Make safe and healthy at work a fundamental right.

This is a reminder of Victorian Trades Hall Council's annual commemoration event to remember those Victorians who lost their lives at work - and to urge all of us to keep fighting to improve health and safety in our workplaces.

Join us in person next Thursday April 28 for the International Workers' Memorial Day 2022 event. There will be some guest speakers, as well as a minute of silence at 11 am and an opportunity to lay flowers and wreaths. The event will also be live-streamed through the Victorian Trades Hall Council Facebook page.

When: Thursday April 28, 10.30 am - 11.30 am.
Where: At the 'Memorial Rock', Victorian Trades Hall Council, corner Lygon and Victoria Street, Carlton. Let us know whether you're coming: RSVP here  

Remember the dead, fight like hell for the living. 

IWMD Event Latrobe Valley 
An International Workers Memorial Day Commemoration service is also being held in Moe. The event is being jointly conducted by ACV/GARDS and the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council. Reverend Marilyn Obersby will officiate at the Ecumenical Service, and speakers include:

  • Perdita Dickson, WorkSafe (Manager Occupational Health and Operational Programs Prevention, Strategy & Planning Division)
  • Steve Dodd, Secretary of the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council

Singer/musicians Susan Parrish & Patrick Wakefield, "In Harmony", Richard Harris & Co - bagpipers will also be present.

When: Thursday April 28, 11.00 am.
Where: Gippsland Heritage Park, 211 Lloyd St, Moe. 
There will be a free community BBQ at the conclusion of the event - all welcome!

April 26 - Commemoration for Rana Plaza 
It is the 9th Anniversary of the mass murder of garment workers at Rana Plaza on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. On 24 April 2013 over 1,100 workers were murdered when their bosses forced them back into the workplace despite warnings about building safety. 

Please come to the Melbourne Rana Plaza Commemoration event. This year it will be at the Qualitops factory, 6 Brex Court Reservoir. The garment workers will be joining the commemoration. There will be speakers followed by laying of flowers and a minute's silence. 

All are welcome. Please maintain safe COVID safe practices.
When: Tuesday 26 April at 7:45am
Where: Qualitops Factory, 6 Brex Court Reservoir

COVID Update 
There were 10,907 new infections reported today in Victoria. 

Victorian figures, April 13:

  • 60,756 active cases  (last week 62,028)
  • 14 deaths reported 
  • 2,809 COVID-related deaths so far
  • 391 are in hospital, 19 are in ICU, and 2 of these are on ventilators 
  • 1,410,828 total number of infections since the pandemic began

You can check the Victorian live update here.

Australia wide: we have now gone over the 5 million mark - there have been a total of 5,153,174 COVID cases (4,785,679 last week) and 6,609 deaths. 

Worldwide: Another milestone, with over 500 million cases. As of April 13, there had been 500,838,107 worldwide infections (493,746,386 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,209,173. (Source: Worldometer).

What has emerged over the past couple of weeks is that there are numbers of Australians now being re-infected with COVID. The latest reports are that at least 8,000 Victorians have been re-infected with the disease, and the cases of re-infection are increasing. Read more: ABC news online. Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation

Vaccination update 
As of April 11, 82.68 per cent of all Victorians had received their second dose, 85.83 per cent had received their first dose, and 52.92 per cent had their third dose. Those over 65 (over 55 for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island Australians) can now get their fourth shot. It is extremely important that everyone maintains high levels of care to minimise the risks of ending up in hospital.

Australia wide, by April 12, the figures are 83.28 per cent, 86.57 per cent respectively, with 51.24 per cent having received the third shot.  Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

Is your workplace still COVIDSafe? 
Now that restrictions are relaxing even further, it can be hard to keep up with what your bosses’ obligations are, and what you can do as a worker. It’s important to remember that workers must be consulted as their COVIDSafe plan changes, if you’re worried or unsure about this, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our COVIDSafe team here. All workers deserve to have a COVIDSafe Workplace.

Ask Renata

Hi there,

My employer has told me that my office has been condemned and asked if I could hang in with working until he is able to find another office. Do I have a right to refuse to work without being dismissed?

Your employer has a duty under the OHS Act to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.  This is s21 of the Act - see the summary of the Duties of Employers under the law. 

While you haven’t said why the office you are currently working in is being ‘condemned’, it is very/quite likely that there are hazards that are putting your health and/or safety at risk. Ask your employer what these reasons are and if there are hazards which could affect your health or safety, then your employer cannot ask you to stay on and knowingly place you at risk. While new office accommodation is found, it would be absolutely ‘practicable’ to have you work from home (as many of us in Victoria have done over the past few months due to COVID) until new office accommodation is found.

Under general workplace laws (the Fair Work Act) a worker cannot be dismissed for raising concerns about workplace health and safety, and if your boss tried to sack you, you would be able to apply for unfair dismissal (assuming you are a permanent employee, or a casual who has been employed for more than 12 months).

Talk to your health and safety representative, if you have one, and get in contact with your union as soon as possible. If you are not in a union, then you need to join as soon as possible. In the meantime, contact WorkSafe for advice and assistance. You have the right to work in a safe workplace.

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.  

VTHC Webinar - Occupational Violence 
If you missed our webinar last week on occupational violence & aggression (OVA) in the workplace, then watch it here. Special expert guest was Kathy Chrisfield, from the ANMF who outlined how the union has tackled OVA. Kathy's presentation was followed by a very good Q&A session, with some very good discussion. Read more: Occupational Violence.

Asbestos News  
Vic: EPA lays charges over building site asbestos 
Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has charged Kyle Road Developments Pty Ltd and its three directors under the Environment Protection Act 1970 following a comprehensive investigation into the dumping of asbestos contaminated soil at an Altona North development site.

EPA alleges the company moved and dumped asbestos that had been unearthed at the 16 hectare site where it plans to build high density living apartments, at 40-68 Kyle Road, Altona North. The company had earlier planned to remove asbestos contaminated soil for transport to a specially licensed landfill. Source: Mirage news 

ASEA conference: May 19 - 20 
The Asbestos Safety and Management Conference, is coming up soon: 19–20 May 2022 at the Fairmont Resort & Spa in the UNESCO World Heritage listed Blue Mountains. Run by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), it is being jointly hosted by the Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC). 

The conference will be a hybrid event, offering delegates the opportunity to either attend in-person or livestream the event.  Read more about the conference or to purchase a ticket, go to the conference website.

USA: EPA proposes rule to ban asbestos  
The US Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed a rule to finally ban asbestos, which is still in use and kills thousands of Americans every year. The proposed rule would ban chrysotile asbestos, the only ongoing use of asbestos in the United States. It is still found in products such as brake linings and gaskets, and is used to manufacture chlorine bleach and sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda.

The proposal marks a major expansion of EPA regulation under a landmark 2016 law that overhauled rules governing tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products, from household cleaners to clothing and furniture. Read more: abcNEWS 

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

International Union News 
Indonesia: 11 mine workers injured 
Eleven mine workers were injured in a truck crash at the nickel mine site of PT Indonesia Weda Bay Industrial Park (IWIP), located in North Maluku Island on 2 April.

Following an initial investigation by IndustriALL affiliate Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers' Union (FSPMI), the cause of the crash is believed to be brake failure. The dumping truck driver lost control and crashed into two other dumping trucks.

During the investigation, mine workers at PT IWIP said the company forced drivers to meet high targets or they would be punished. It is believed that the dumping truck was at full speed when the accident happened; the hasty and profit-oriented culture has led to preventable equipment failure and accidents. Read more: IndustriALL   

Canada: Survey reports widespread violence at work
Research conducted by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and academics has identified a major violence and harassment problem in the country’s workplaces. Its initial report revealed 7 in 10 workers have experienced a form of harassment and violence at work, with nearly 1 in 2 workers experiencing sexual harassment and violence in the past two years. The survey found 70 per cent of workers who experienced harassment and violence had to miss work because of the negative effects and 88 per cent of affected workers were “transferred, suspended, fired, or lost a shift” due to the harassment and violence. Overall, 1-in-4 who reported the problem said it made the situation worse. Read more: CLC news release. Source: Risks 1039

UK: Most workers now have to pay for Covid tests
The UK government has confirmed that from 1 April most people have had to pay for a lateral flow test in England. Free COVID tests will still be available for some groups, including NHS staff caring directly for patients, and prison and care home staff, the government has said. It is part of the government's 'living with COVID' plan, although levels of the virus are high. REACH-1 study findings published on 6 April show a COVID-19 prevalence in England during this period of 6.37 per cent, or 1-in-16 people, infected. This is the highest recorded figure since the beginning of the study in May 2020. Read more: UK Health Security Agency news release; BBC News Online. Source: Risks 1039

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