Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Safety before profits – Oppose weakening OH&S laws

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Rudd-Gillard government was elected in 2007 with a mandate to improve workers rights. Since then they have done exactly the opposite and pandered solely to the needs of the bosses. Labor has kept the vast bulk of WorkChoices, maintained the ABCC and now they want to water down hard won OH&S laws.

The government has established Safe Work Australia and they plan to draft a new ‘harmonised’ national OH&S law that will replace the nine existing laws across all states and territories.

The idea of harmonising the laws is not inherently bad, but what Labor are trying to do is reduce OH&S standards nationally to the lowest common denominator. Under the current proposals workers in some states, including Victoria, will lose out.

In Australia as many as 8000 workers are estimated to die each year from work related incidents or illnesses. On top of this there are 689,500 injuries and illnesses in workplaces each year. The idea that Rudd wants to weaken OH&S laws against this backdrop is a sick joke.

In Victoria the proposals will weaken rights to attend training, place restrictions on issuing Provisional Improvement Notices (PINs) and directing a cease-work, as well as making it easier for bosses to disqualify elected OH&S Reps. The employers support these changes because it will tip the balance of power in the workplace even further in their direction.

As any worker will know, safety for a boss is an afterthought. Their main concern is increasing profits. Spending money to make workplaces safe only gets in the way of profits and they often fight tooth and nail against the most basic of improvements.

The reason that the Rudd-Gillard government is not using this opportunity to improve laws across the country is because they are in the pockets of employers. Time and time again they put the needs of bosses before the needs of working people. It’s time for the union movement to wake up and break ties with this big business party.

With the onset of economic crisis, more and more bosses will be attempting to cut corners. Now is the time for safety standards to be improved not watered down. We need a campaign of industrial action to protect and improve OH&S legislation. We can not allow the Labor Party to wind back our right to go to work and come home in the same condition.

The Socialist Party says:

Strengthen not weaken OH&S legislation
Prosecute employers who fail to provide safe workplaces
For a 24 hour national strike in opposition to Labor’s OH&S law changes
For industry stop works and safety audits after every workplace death and accident
For unions to break the link with Labor – No funds to a party that supports watering down OH&S laws

All unions mass rally in Melbourne

Next Tuesday September 1st at 10am outside Trades Hall there will be an all unions mass rally in protest at the watering down of OH&S legislation. Trades Hall is located on the corner of Lygon & Victoria Streets Carlton South. SP members will be there from 9.20am with our campaign stall.


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