||Issue No. 142||28 June 2002|
Interview: Safe as Houses
Safety: Ten Steps to Safety
History: Staying Alive
Unions: Choose Life
International: Seoul Destroyers
Corporate: Crash Landing
Activists: The Refusenik
Review: Dumb Nation
Poetry: Helping Out The Rich
Redundancy Bonus for Members Only
Lib MP Named in Cole Commission
Sentencing Guidelines for Safety Breaches
Safety Lock-Out Enters Second Week
Unions Seek Talks With New Airport Owners
Strip Bosses Face Dressing Down
Beattie Called Into Bargaining Impasse
Nurses Deliver Largest Ever Petition
US Braces for its Own Waterfront War
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Good News from the Pilbara
Go Mark, Go
Labor Council of NSW
In many unions, Occupational Health & Safety is a back-water, something divorced from the day-to-day activities of industrial negotiations and the forward looking organising agenda.
But talk to workers, and it's the issue at the forefront of their minds. A recent poll of CFMEU members, for instance, found 71 per cent believed protecting workers' safety was an important union service - way ahead of wages and conditions
That's why there's been such resonance in the union's resistance to the Cole witch-hunt - by campaigning on health and safety the CFMEU has actually thrown down the gauntlet to the Commission to address life and death issues, rather than Tony Abbott's self-serving rhetoric.
It's also why last year's battle for workers compensation in NSW was such a passionate one - and ironically, out of the ashes of that conflict, come opportunities to move forward and reinvigorate work health and safety.
Upcoming changes in OHS legislation NSWgive extra impetus to this push - the requirement that all workplaces have a workplace safety representative provides a golden opportunity.
Where unionism is weak the safety rep structure provides a way in. Where unions are already strong these new structures are a way to engage members with campaigns that actually mean something
And it's not just about safety on building sites - its about sustainable workloads, reasonable hours, bullying and victimisation - it is above all, about the humanity of any given workplace.
It's about factories and hospitals, schools and shopping centres, chemical labs and coal mines; it doesn't what colour collar a worker wears, they have a legitimate expectation for a safe workplace.
There is a lot of science in OH&S but there's nothing scientific about mobilising workers around their basic right to earn a living without ruining their bodies through lax safety, poor work practices or unsustainable targets.
Perhaps the time has come to mainstream work safety - recognise it's a hot issue for workers and therefore fertile ground for organising.
How ironic it would be, if amidst all the complexity of the modern workplace and the nightmare of labour market deregistration, the simple demand for a safe workplace becomes the rallying call for a new generation of unionists.
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