In communities all over Victoria, workers are hearing for the first time about their workplace rights, including their rights to a safe workplace. And they’re hearing about it from someone who speaks their language – literally.
Supported by the Migrant Workers Centre at Trades Hall, “Multicultural Safety Ambassadors” reach out to their communities to deliver community education on issues like workers compensation. The program is in its second year, and over 22 workers from over 20 different language communities have graduated as safety ambassadors.
Recently, Winta Eyod presented a session in Amharic at an Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo church, and Shemsia Waritu led training in a park for an Oromo women’s community group.
“It’s crucial to get workplace rights and safety information out there in language, but also have it be delivered by trusted community leaders” says Migrant Workers Centre director Matt Kunkel. “It’s nothing new to us as unionists. It’s the organising model; organising workers to fight for their own rights, their own safety. Trusting workers to be the experts.”
Complementing the Safety Ambassador program, organisers have been reaching out throughout the month of Ramadan, joining Islamic communities at mosques for prayer and celebration, and of course to talk to workers about workplace safety and rights.
In Kensington, OHS organiser Awale Ahmed spoke to mostly Somali and East African attendees about workplace COVID safety, work rights and upcoming Try-A-Trade days. “We've got a couple of young women interested to join and they signed up for it.”
Besides delivering critical information to workers in communities, the program is also identifying a new pool of talent for the movement. “There are so many campaign jets coming through the program,” says Matt. “We’re just putting them in touch with their natural home in the union movement”.
Wishing all our Muslim comrades Eid Murbarak as Ramadan this year draws to an end!