The Guardian • Issue #2096


International Day of Mourning

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2096

On 28th April unions and families around the world commemorate workers who never came home from a day at work. Workers’ Memorial Day pays tribute to those killed due to workplace accidents, or from work related illnesses. It’s a day of reflection and remembrance.

Too many workers die in Australia every week. Attacks on trade unions and deregulation saw a spike in workplace accidents in some of the more dangerous industries in the country. A 2023 Safework Australia report stated that “A staggering 1,850 traumatic injury fatalities and 1,140,000 serious workers’ compensation claims indicate a profound impact on the nation’s workforce.” Approximately one in every 12 workers experiencing significant work-related injuries or illnesses over a ten-year period.

Unfortunately, changes in our industrial relations system since the Howard years have impacted badly on workers’ safety on the job. Taking construction as an example, the draconian legislation put in place against construction workers and their union significantly diminished rights at work with increased fines and the threat of jail sentences against workers and their unions.

CFMEU members and officials faced huge fines for exercising the right to do their job which includes ensuring that safe work standards are observed so that workers go home at the end of each shift.

Safety reps and union delegates were victimised if they raised safety concerns, or fined if they stopped the job to protect workers. It is a fact that workers and their unions taking action means safe workplaces. To prevent serious accidents and deaths in the workplace, workers must vote with their feet and stop the jobs.

Despite some changes, workers’ safety is still not the centre of the law, which prioritises profit. The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is gone, but the laws still exist, and there must be a complete overhaul which prioritises workers.

In April we sadly lost a number of workers in the workplace. Some of the workers who didn’t return home were employed in precarious employment, working as contractors, ‘sole traders’ and other forms of sham contracting. Unfortunately, the families of those workers were left with pain and bills to pay, as in many cases there is little to no compensation.

We must demand that workers have the right to come home after each shift. Employers whose unsafe work practices kill workers should go to jail or face heavy fines if found guilty of negligence. In some states legislation exists but remains untested. Federal laws will apply to public sector workers only, from July. The legislation and its vigorous application and adherence must protect all workers in Australia wherever they are. Workplace safety must be seen as a right.

It is essential that unions have unrestricted access to workplaces during working hours to guarantee safety.

The Communist Party of Australia demands safety on the job and encourages all workers to join their respective unions. Workers have the right to collectively look after each other and have a say.

The CPA pays respect to those fallen on the job and stands with their families on this day of remembrance. No more deaths in the workplace! Every worker deserves a safe work environment.

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