136 workers have been killed at workplaces across Victoria in just the last five years. Tomorrow, bereaved families and unions will place a pair of boots for each life taken at the foot of Parliament: a vivid reminder to members of the Legislative Council of what’s at stake in the upcoming vote on workplace manslaughter laws.
Workplace Manslaughter legislation will be debated in the upper house this week. Key MPs have met with the bereaved families and colleagues of workers killed by employer negligence. These families will be watching the debate closely this week.
Under the current OHS Act, employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment for employees. But prosecution for negligently causing a workplace death typically results in only relatively minor fines, and no real consequences for the business or the negligent employer. Unions and the families of workers killed say that these inadequate penalties result in companies viewing worker deaths as a “cost of doing business”.
Statements attributable to Luke Hilakari, VTHC Secretary
“This bill will not only save lives, it will prevent serious workplace injuries. 27,000 Victorians were forced onto WorkCover in the last financial year and 24 were killed – every one a person who did not get home safe and sound. This bill is necessary to hold employers to account for decisions that compromise safety.”
“Bosses have total control over the workplace. They dictate how, when and where work gets done. Bad employers need to stop shirking their responsibility when they are criminally negligent. They are the ones cutting the safety budgets, setting unreasonable deadlines, managing the work processes, and ignoring worker concerns over safety. Good bosses have nothing to fear from this bill – and bad bosses are on notice.”
When: 9am Tuesday 26 November
Where: Front steps of Victorian Parliament House
What: Unions and the families of people killed at work will place 136 pairs of work shoes on the steps of parliament, representing each of the workers killed in the past five years.
Who: Bereaved families and Union leaders will be available for comment.
Media Contact: Edwina Byrne 0409 017 140