OHS Matters: Explosion in Lebanon – could it happen here?

On the evening of August 4, a fire in what is believed to be a fireworks factory, led to a small explosion in the port area of Beirut, Lebanon. Subsequently there was a massive explosion of a warehouse holding 2,700 metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate.

Ammonium nitrate is a common fertilizing agent - and is also the main ingredient in some types of explosives. The chemical had been stored in the warehouse since 2014 when it had been seized from a Russian cargo ship. It has been reported that Lebanese customs officials wrote letters to the judiciary at least six times from 2014 to 2017, seeking guidance on how to dispose of the highly combustible material – reportedly not getting any response. Because of the nature of the materials they were unable to act. Other reports are that customs officials did not follow proper procedures: they simply kept resending the same letters in response to the judge’s request for more information.

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Backbone of Our Movement: Dani

DaniMartin_Print.jpg

Dani
RTBU, Women’s Advocate

How long have you been a union member?

Three years.

Why did you join the union?

I honestly didn’t know much about unions before I started in public transport. I joined initially because I knew that it would mean that I would have support if I needed it.

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OHS Matters: COVID-19 (again!) What are the Implications for Employers?

 

We have heard the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, say that at one stage at least, 80 per cent of newly identified COVID-19 infections came from workplaces.

During Stage 4 all non-essential businesses in metropolitan Melbourne have been closed – and those that are still operating must have implemented a COVIDSafe plan by midnight August 7. In addition, workers needing to move outside their 5km from home, or who need to be out between 8pm and 5am must also have Permitted Worker Permits. These are measures being taken by the government to control Victoria’s ‘second’ and more serious wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Apart from the drastic financial effects of these measures on workers and employers/businesses, - what implications are there for employers if a worker contracts COVID-19 in the course of their employment?

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Analysis: The Bosses are Attacking, We Must Fight Back

 

In the last fortnight, the franchise industry has called for the scrapping of weekend and evening penalty rates. They have said that the COVID-19 pandemic can be used to “shift the paradigm” on industrial relations.

Also in the last fortnight, the High Court of Australia ruled against giving part time and shift workers sick leave based on the number of hours worked, versus the number of days worked. It means that workers working 8 hour days, and workers working 12 hour days, accrue the same amount of sick leave. Cadbury argued that a “normal day” was 7.6 hours, and every worker could accrue no more than 10 x 7.6 hour days in sick leave. This was a battle fought by Cadbury workers, represented by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. The AMWU won this fight in the Federal Court. But Cadbury took the fight higher. The new decision will save employers billions of dollars in our wages, and costs us billions of dollars in lost wages.

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Backbone of Our Movement: Emma Bagg

Emma Bagg
Organiser, staff delegate and staff HSR
ASU Vic-Tas Branch

 

How long have you been a union member?

23 years.

Why did you join the union?

I came from a working-class family, but we never really talked about the union movement, but my family always talked about fighting for workers’ rights.

When I was 15 and working in hospitality, I always questioned my rights and entitlements for myself and other staff. However, it was not until I was 20 and I started work at the Colac Abattoirs and I joined the AMIEU as I realised the importance of being part of a collective and standing together.

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Analysis: STOP UNSAFE WORK! Pandemic Leave for All Workers

 

COVID-19 is a very contagious, and very deadly disease.

It spreads easily, it spreads through the air.

It spreads in workplaces.

Staying home will stop the spread.

But some workers can’t stay at home.

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Backbone of Our Movement: Glen

Glen
HSR at the Australian Services Union (Vic-Tas)

How long have you been a union member?

All my working life.

Why did you join the union?

It’s how I was raised. Coming from a working- class family it’s the way it was.

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OHS Matters: History of Industrial Manslaughter in Victoria, Part 2

 

Last edition we looked at the unions’ struggle to achieve industrial manslaughter (IM) laws in Victoria, and how, in 2017 under Luke Hilakari as Secretary, the VTHC relaunched the campaign for these laws.

Since the earlier campaign, two other jurisdictions, the ACT and Queensland had introduced IM laws - but neither had had any successful prosecutions. So we wanted better laws, laws which would ‘work’.

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OHS Matters: History of Industrial Manslaughter in Victoria, Part 1

 

 

Why have we wanted and campaigned for industrial manslaughter laws in Victoria?

On a simple level it’s a desire for justice. When a family loses a loved one in a preventable workplace incident only to see the employer, who too often broke the law, prosecuted only to avoid paying the fine by going into receivership it hits them in the guts. Even when large corporations do end up paying the fine, that fine is like a slap on the wrist, and they can even insure themselves against it. Those companies, those employers don’t really pay; no-one seems to care. Yet if someone kills another person with a drunken punch or as a result of reckless driving, that individual is sent to jail.

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Backbone of Our Movement: Joel

 

Joel, Delegate for the Rail Tram and Bus Union

How long have you been a union member?

Since I commenced my first job at 15 – 11 years now.

Why did you join the union?

I’ve made signing up to the union and becoming active a priority at every job I’ve started at. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a family where everyone who has joined the workforce has been a union member. It’s just been the done thing.

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