Union News

HIGH WORK DEMANDS PUT LIVES AT RISK

In an example of how workers lives, and safety, can be put at risk by management practices that impose high work demands and a punitive workplace culture, a recent article in The Age Newspaper claims the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) was placing its 40 building and plumbing inspectors at risk by demanding they finish at least three inspections a day or, five a day, in the case of plumbing inspectors.

It is reported that a leaked WorkSafe review found that what was being asked of building and plumbing inspectors was not reasonable or achievable. “Management place greater emphasis on meeting performance measures than on quality of work or occupational health and safety”..

The investigation follows the suicide of a VBA building inspector in May, which prompted the Community and Public Sector Union the union covering VBA staff, to accuse the VBA of having a “toxic workplace” and demanding that employees be protected from “harassment and bullying”.

WorkSafe staff conducting a “psycho-social safety” review interviewed the authority’s inspectors and found they “feel pressured to not complete a thorough inspection and/or avoid finding risk items in order to meet performance measures”.

Problems with regulation in the industry have led successive state governments to promise ever harsher crackdowns on “dodgy” builders, with the building authority expected to fulfill promises made by planning ministers.

On Tuesday, a union spokesman said members felt “strongly vindicated” by the WorkSafe report.

Source: The Age 27 July, We Are Union OHS Reps

COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS 

On Tuesday 2nd August Victoria recorded: 

10,079 new daily infections  
13 COVID deaths 
802 hospitalisations, 44 in ICU and 6 of these on ventilators 

Cumulatively this equals: 

2,438,371 total Victorian infections 
4,674 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 273 since last week) 

You can check the Victorian live update here. 

Australia: As of the 2nd August , there have been a total of 9,476,145 COVID cases (an increase of 290,043 since last week) and 11,960 deaths, an increase of 1,634 since last week. 

World: As of 2nd August, there had been 583,211,121 worldwide infections (576,219,283 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,422,181 (Source: Worldometer). 

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation. 

VACCINATION UPDATE  

89.26% of all Victorians aged over 5, as of 2nd August, have received their second dose, 91.88% 
their first, and only 55.83% for their crucially important third dose. 

The figure for Australians aged over 5 for the same date is 90.02%, 92.77%  and 54.70%. 

Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

COVIDSAFE STORY/ARTICLE/QUERY 

Victoria's COVID cases are likely hugely under-reported. 

Health authorities say that amidst the current COVID-19 wave, only around 45% of cases are being reported to them. Alongside this, it is estimated that 10% of cases are people being infected a second time.  

Despite the underreporting of case numbers, according to the Chief Health Officer, Victoria seems to be past the peak of the latest wave, with a rolling 7 day average of cases falling from 11,703 last week to 10,199 this week. Modelling also suggests that the number of people hospitalised with COVID-19 will peak in early August with 900 to 1,000 patients in hospital with the virus. This week, the Chief Health Officer has said the number of people in hospital is ‘plateauing,’ but warned that there will still be substantial pressure on the hospital system for ‘some weeks to come.’  

Concerningly, this past July had the highest COVID-19 related death toll since the pandemic began in Victoria with 737 deaths over the past month. The Chief Health Officer has against stressed the importance of safety measures such as mask wearing, physical distancing, proper ventilation and regular testing to help prevent infection, hospitalisation and death. 

Source: Victoria's COVID cases are likely hugely under-reported. Here's what that means for this wave 

ASK RENATA

Hi Renata, we’d like to meet with our boss to clarify the membership of our DWG but are having trouble understanding the views of some of our workmates as there are multiple languages spoken at our workplace. What support is available to help us communicate about DWGs and HSRs?

Hi and thanks for your question,

There are two pieces of WorkSafe guidance you may find helpful:

  1. WorkSafe Victoria’s Compliance Code - Communicating occupational health and safety across languages
  2. WorkSafe Victoria’s Employee Representation Handbook

Both can be found and downloaded from WorkSafe’s website, here and here. Page 4 of the compliance code includes the following…

The Act requires employers to provide information to employees concerning health and safety in such languages as are appropriate to the workplace.

It is therefore the employer’s duty to provide workers with OHS information in their preferred language. Page 8 advises…

You should work out what information you need to give your workers and assess whether it can be easily understood by everyone in the workplace. All workers need to be informed about:

  • the company’s health and safety policy and procedures
  • any hazards in the workplace
  • safe work procedures
  • procedures for safe operation, use, maintenance, or replacement of protective equipment
  • injury and incident reporting procedures
  • consultation structures (e.g., health and safety representatives, designated work groups, management contacts and meeting schedules)
  • procedures for resolving health and safety issues
  • emergency and first aid procedures
  • safety signs and symbols.

Employers must ensure that all this information is available to staff either in their preferred language or in a form that they can understand.

The Representation Handbook provides excellent plain language explanations of the role and functions of DWGs and HSRs.

We suggest as a first step you remind the employer of their duty to provide information to employees concerning health and safety in such languages as are appropriate to the workplace, and then point to the DWG and HSR sections of the Representation Guide explaining this is information you need communicated to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) staff.

If you have any OHS-related questions send them in via our Ask Renata portal. Your questions will be answered by someone in the VTHC's OHS Unit.

WE ARE HIRING!

Victorian Trades Hall Council is seeking a WorkWell Project Organiser responsible for working with the ACTU and partner unions to increase mental health safety and awareness for Victorian workers.

The WorkWell Project Organiser provides outreach and support to unions, mental health advocates and OHS delegates in multiple workplaces as they learn how to identify and manage psychosocial hazards.

The successful candidate will be employed on a short-term contract until December 2022.

More information on duties, essential requirements and conditions can be found here, or simply give us a call if you’d like to talk to someone about this opportunity to work with the dynamic team at VTHC.

WORK-RELATED GENDERED VIOLENCE (INCLUDING SEXUAL HARASSMENT)

Elected HSRs and Deputy HSRs are entitled to at least one refresher training course each year, and may choose which course, in consultation with their employer.

VTHC’s WorkSafe-approved Work-Related Gendered Violence course provides HSRs with skills and knowledge to raise and resolve issues arising from work-related gendered violence - a serious occupational health and safety issue.

Our course covers:

  • Consultation, communication and representation
  • Gendered violence, definitions, impacts and injury
  • Identifying risks, risk assessment, prevention and the hierarchy of control
  • Issue Resolution

Course hours are 9am to 5pm and cost $330 or $350 regionally. Please contact Natalie Wood at [email protected] for more information.

 

 

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