Health and Safety Representatives have a very important role in the workplace – representing members of their DWG, who elected them to this position in all matters related to occupational health and safety. Their role is to take issues up to the employer to get them resolved. They also have a role in monitoring the employer’s compliance with their duties under the OHS legislation. The OHS Act gives them rights and powers to assist them in doing this. These include the right to training so HSRs have an understanding of the law. Sometimes, though, there can be some confusion when it comes to certain obligations. Here’s a recent, vaccination-related, example.Read more
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.Read more
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’.Read more
Starting July 1, the scrutiny on new industrial chemicals entering Australia will change. Under the previous system originally introduced under a Labour government in the 1980’s – all new chemicals had to be thoroughly assessed by the industrial chemicals regulator, NICNAS (the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme), unless a company applied for an exemption based on specific criteria.
The new scheme puts much more power into the hands of industry – which has never liked being regulated.Read more
“I am working in administration. I am a casual, now working from home. Does the company I am working for have to provide me with an ergonomic office chair?”
Unfortunately, there is nothing specifically in the law that requires an employer to provide the equipment necessary, for someone to work from home. However, under Victoria’s OHS Act (and similar acts in other jurisdictions), the employer DOES have a legal duty to employees (including casual employees) to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This is called the ‘general duty of care’ and applies to everything: the workplace, the equipment, the systems of work, supervision and training, and so on. But it is qualified by ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’.Read more
The world is still reeling from the shock and speed of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the social and economic ruin it has brought. Whilst the impact of the pandemic has been uneven, the best outcomes in terms of saving lives have been achieved in those countries which have prioritised communities achieving effective physical distancing to stop the spread of the virus over enabling businesses to make profits. In all countries, the virus has caused considerable economic disruption, and businesses and governments have begun to push to reopen economies and to shift the crisis onto working people. While this push will not necessarily be successful, to effectively resist this move, it is important that we understand the current crisis and the attacks which are likely to be launched against workers.Read more
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