Workers rally for OHS

Melbourne Union Rally Demands "Best Practice" National OHS Laws

Melbourne, 1 September 2009
Today over 7,000 workers marched on the Victorian Parliament in Spring St Melbourne.

They were led by a large contingent of women unionists who had gathered earlier in the day to push for equal pay.

They called on the Brumby ALP Government to insist that their federal government counterparts make the best laws possible in the national ‘harmonisation’ process for OHS law.

Both rank and file Health and Safety delegates and union officials addressed the rally.

More information on "harmonisation"      More information on the laws       More on the rally

A minute's silence was held to pay respects for workers killed at work, after a lone bag piper played on the parliament steps.

Hundreds of empty shoes and boots were put on the steps of Parliament to commemorate those who didn’t return from work after a serious incident at work.

A protest letter (below) from the VTHC was handed in at the entrance to Parliament by an official delegation from the protest.  This delegation included Brian Boyd, VTHC Secretary, Jeff Lawrence, ACTU Secretary, Martin Kingham, National Assistant-Secretary OHS of the CFMEU and Maitea Medina (widow of Tony Medina who died of a workplace injury).

The Parliamentary Sergeant at Arms took receipt of the Protest letter to the Premier and undertook to pass it on.

The mood of the rally was determined.  Any moves by politicians to water down OHS laws was condemned.

Protest letter from VTHC:

Tuesday 1st September 2009

    Hon John Brumby
    Premier of Victoria
    c/- Parliament House
    Spring St

    Dear John

    Re: OHS Harmonisation issue

    I write as a matter of urgency regarding the current process of ‘harmonising’ nationally Occupational Health and Safety law.

    As you will appreciate this is an important matter for the trade union movement.

    In our view the proposals on the table are inadequate and do not meet the basic test we have been putting forward all along i.e. that OHS laws across the country are ‘harmonised’ up to the best practice standards possible.

    In our view the COAG process has instead created wording on key aspects of OHS law which are far inferior to what is deserved in the nation's workplaces.

    From a Victorian perspective we have strived for many decades to achieve,  while ALP governments have been in office, the best OHS laws possible.  Much of the current Victorian OHS Act 2004 attests to that.  Key elements of that law assist Health and Safety Representatives (HSR’s) in Victorian workplaces to do excellent work in protecting their fellow workmates.

    In our strongly held view the current ‘harmonisation’ proposals will undermine this important work if they go ahead (see details attached).  I understand from previous discussions with Minister Holding that the State government is happy that the national law is to be substantially based on Victorian OHS law and is therefore supportive of the draft national framework.  However let me assure you the wording changes as highlighted in our concerns do not reflect the strength nor intent of what Victorian law states in terms of HSR rights.

    We are aware that the Federal Minister has given an undertaking to organise discussions in the near future with your government and other state governments with the union movement in order to hear our concerns.

    We urge you attend these discussions with the view to protect the HSR standards inherent in the Victorian Act and to reach a ‘harmonised’, overall result to best practice standards.

    Yours sincerely

    Victorian Trades Hall Council