|Issue No 79||24 November 2000|
Raw Asbestos to be Blocked at Ports
By Zoe Reynolds
Waterside workers announced they would instigate safety bans on shipments of raw asbestos coming into the country, effective immediately.
Maritime Union of Australia national secretary John Coombs announced the bans on asbestos imports that already apply in other European nations including France, Finland, Italy, Germany and the UK.
Mr Coombs was speaking at National Asbestos Awareness Week, Remembrance Day, held in honour of the thousands of Australians workers killed due to exposure to deadly asbestos fibres.
"The union and its members are not prepared to compromise Health and safety standards by exposure to asbestos dust. The Australian public should be aware that this proven lethal substance is still being imported into the country by the tonne," he said.
"We shut down the mines, but now they are bringing it from overseas." Australia imports 1500 tonnes of raw asbestos and an estimated 1 million products containing asbestos. Most of the raw asbestos goes into the manufacture of brake linings in Melbourne.
But a World Trade Organisation panel of experts concluded in September that asbestos fibres can be substituted with safer materials. The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission has recommended a phase out of asbestos imports over five years.
ACTU executive says this is not good enough. Australia has one of the worlds' highest rates of mesothelioma
Worksafe Australia estimates 16,000 mesothelioma deaths and 40,000 lung cancer deaths between 1987 and 2010. Less than 15 per cent of patients who develop lung cancer will survive five years.
The majority will be dead within 12 months. And as yet there is no cure for mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining caused by asbestos. The union movement has been at the forefront of the battle to outlaw asbestos and win compensation for men and women dying from asbestos disease.
Unions have successfully campaigned for the closure of the asbestos mines at Wittenoom, Barbara and Baryulgil for government bans on blue asbestos and for employees to have the right to stop work if asbestos guidelines are breached.
The MUA, CFMEU and ETU are now lobbying the NSW government for an asbestos disease research institute at Concord Hospital. Unions have also helped win record compensation payouts for workers and their families struck by asbestos disease and death.
Last week wharfie's widow Maureen Crimmins won a marathon legal battle for compensation against the Federal Government. More than 500 claims are to follow.
It is noteworthy that the ACTU executive passed a resolution of October 31, 2000 as follows: The ACTU Executive is appalled at the failure of the National Occupational Health & Safety Commission to recommend prohibition of the use of white asbestos. Executive notes that the NOH&SCC themselves estimate that 40,000 asbestos related deaths will occur in the next 20 years. The failure of government representatives and employers on the Commission to support the prohibition of the use of asbestos is a national disgrace and if not challenged will condemn innocent workers, their families and the general public to unacceptable exposure to a killer dust. ACTU Executive therefore determines to conduct a campaign to ban the use of asbestos and asbestos containing products so that no more Australian contract asbestos related diseases."
Interview: Back on Track
After blowing the whistle on rail privatization, NSW Transport Minister Carl Scully is rebuilding bridges with the trade union movement.
Unions: The Problem with Organising
It may be the new mantra, but Brisbane Institute director Peter Botsman argues that organising may be the wrong to go for a movement attempting to attract a new breed of workers.
International: Burma: Workers Act on ILO Ruling
Energy workers' trade unions across the Asia-Pacific have urged Western oil and gas companies to "cease investment in Burma while the use of forced labour continues".
Economics: Rethinking Incomes Policy
While many have thrown incomes policy out with the Acoord bathwater, Graham White argues it still has a role to play.
History: What Goes Around Comes Around
Labor Council's Mark Lennon argues that while trade unions - and labour history - might be unfashionable, there's life left in both of them.
Education: Peas in a Pod
Both sides of politics must take blame for funding levels in our public schools, argues NSW Teachers Federation president Sue Simpson.
Satire: Hurley Rebukes Actors' Guild: I'm No Actor!
Liz Hurley has responded angrily to claims by actors that she crossed a picket line by filming an Estee Lauder ad.
Review: It's Only a Job
In a stunning new book, author Phil Thornton and photographer Paul Jones have combined to portray working life in all its diversity through the eyes of ordinary people like process worker Sharonak Shannon
View entire latest issue
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/79/news2_port.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005