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WorkCover and CFMEU investigate weekend death

By 3 July 2006 41

A 48-year-old Queanbeyan man died on Saturday morning after falling between floors on a Civic construction site.

The accident took place at 7.30 am on the Section 84 Precinct B construction site (which I think is where the old Griffin Centre was). The man was pronounced dead at the scene and a post mortem was conducted yesterday for the coroner.

The ABC reported this morning that the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union is seeking to inspect the site this morning. Police and ACT WorkCover investigations into the accident have also been launched, but the union had to lodge an application 24 hours before being able to enter the site (due to the WorkChoices legislation).

The Canberra Times also covered the accident, reporting the CFMEU has taken up a collection for the man’s family and offered trauma counselling to his colleagues. Although the man’s name has not yet been released, the CT reports he was a supervisor on the site and is survived by a wife and two children.

The union has been using this as an opportunity to push their anti-WorkChoices case, saying companies are being pressured into not allowing union safety inspection. The ABC quotes a spokesperson for the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the Federal Government’s watchdog, as saying that no such thing has ever happened.

UPDATED: Kevin Andrews is upset that the CFMEU is still being heard.

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41 Responses to WorkCover and CFMEU investigate weekend death
#1
xman2:18 pm, 03 Jul 06

I was up in Brisbane a few weeks ago and had a quiet beer with my bro-in-law who is an electrician on a major building site in the CBD.

Conversation got around to the new IR laws and the effect it had on him and his workplace. He said that as far as wages were concerned there were no adverse effects yet, but that safety conditions had gone to hell.

He said there had been a couple of drops – equipment lost over the side onto the road – no real damage to person or property. In the past, the Union Safety guys would have shut down the area responsible for a half-hour or so and investigated how the drop had occurrred and move to rectify the problem. Now, post IR laws, nothing stopped, there was no investigation and the Union had no say. The only way an investigation would occur is if management approved it – and that seemed likely only in the event of injury or worse.

He was genuinely concerned that this was an aspect of the de-unionisation of the workplace that had been overlooked by most parties.

He’s a very laid-back bloke, but was really worried about where his industry was heading.

#2
bonfire3:21 pm, 03 Jul 06

While im all for safety i just have to wonder why ‘the union’ is the arbiter of whats right and proper ?

From my reading of the CT article, there was an investigation started right away.

In reference to xmans brothers mates views, I find it difficult to believe that there is no site safety procedure at that site.

#3
vg4:01 pm, 03 Jul 06

The union has a vested interest in the biased results of their investigation, whereas the other one’s, who professionally investigate matters, don’t.

Dying movement

#4
Mr Evil4:42 pm, 03 Jul 06

Problem is vg, there have been many recorded cases of extremely dodgy work practices occurring on building sites in Australia which haven’t been picked up by Workcover authorities, and have had to be brought to their attention by Unions.

Workcover can’t be everywhere at once, so in some ways it is probably good to have the unions keeping an eye on things as well.

#5
simto4:44 pm, 03 Jul 06

Well, the union’s investigation is on behalf of the employees. The other investigation is on behalf of the employers. So, no, the alternative isn’t neutral (unless VG truly believes that every political and journalistic investigation into the police has been neutral – which I think he’d concede is not the case).

Seems fair enough that BOTH should be able to investigate. Not one or the other.

Every union is hideous. Except for mine.

#6
bonfire4:55 pm, 03 Jul 06

So in a labour state, a labour govts own investigative body is beholden to the employer ?

please.

#7
vg4:57 pm, 03 Jul 06

I’m sorry, but the investigations by Work Cover and the Police are not ‘on behalf’ of the employers. They are on behalf of the State, if you will.

On the other hand the unions investigations have a far more biased slant.

Ultimately a Coroners court will accept the investigation of a professional authority, other than the often ‘raving lunatic’ approach of the unions.

Put it this way, do you think a Unions investigation would determine fault for anyone but the employer? Methinks not

#8
simto5:09 pm, 03 Jul 06

Okay, I’m big enough to admit that I stuffed up here – I skipped over the main article and straight into the comments (I’d read the article a few hours ago) and forgot that it’s a Workcover investigation, not an “independant” inquiry paid for by the employers.

However (yes, I am searching for a skerrick of a point to hide behind), I still don’t quite see what anybody has to hide by denying union access to the site. But maybe that’s just me.

#9
caf5:22 pm, 03 Jul 06

Whether vg likes it or not, the union represents the employees who are significant stakeholders in the outcome of any investigation. I’m sure the construction company and/or their insurer would also be conducting an investigation from their own angle.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Police investigation would only be looking at whether any criminal negligence or otherwise criminal act had taken place, which would be fairly unlikely.

#10
Unbeliever5:24 pm, 03 Jul 06

The unions are biased. Unions are no longer relevant. Unions are raving lunatics. Unions have vested interest!

What a load of horse shit! When will people get the fact that unions aren’t out to destroy businesses, despite the double-speak lies that work choices has been really good at putting out. Putting businesses out of the market, would have a dire effect on the unions main supporters – workers. No businesses no workers.

#11
Tempestas8:45 pm, 03 Jul 06

So vg I take the Police Association is something that has never dne any good either, nor the AMA nor the Bar Association. The government has it in for the union movement (who were doing a pretty good job of become less relevant all by themselves) because it sees them as the last vestige of power that stops business types doing what ever they want to whoever they want whenever they want.

If you are going to say that the relevant union has a vested interest, yes it does, it doesn’t want its members to die. Any business will always try to risk manage safety issues, if they have the capacity to shift the responsibility to to employees they will. End result safety standards will fall. For anyone to think that is a good thing is at best foolish.

I’ve no doubt some unions have behaved less than ideally, but I suspect they are much a function of their industry as anything else. What I can’t understand is why so many people bought the govt line that in the building industry the unions were evil and the building companies were saints.

A father died at his workplace, In the 21st century that should be a lot rarer than it is.

#12
vg10:51 pm, 03 Jul 06

Correct. The Poluice union is shithouse. Hence why I have not been a member for over 10 years

#13
VYBerlinaV89:19 am, 04 Jul 06

It’s a real shame that the unions concept has become so bastardised – the idea is great. Unfortunately the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Many years ago I was a union delegate in my workplace, a role I held for less than a year before deciding that the union movement wasn’t for me.
Personally I think both employers and employees have pressures that the other side doesn’t understand or appreciate. However, we are fortunate to live in a country where we can train up and change jobs according to our own schedules. I think some of the raving union crazies would do well to remember that where we end up is the product of our own actions – it can’t ALL be blamed on ‘management’.

#14
aranda26149:56 pm, 04 Jul 06

No doubt that this death is a taster for what the future may bring.

If a company like Bovis, can scrimp on safety, then it will be able to submit cheaper tenders. The lower safety standard will slowly spread.

Unions and a suitable workplace culture are the best way to prevent accidents and death.

Howard has blood on his hands because under the new laws the unions had subtle impediments to maintaining previous safety regimes.

Well perhaps not so subtle. One Bovis site manager violently assaulted one Union safety workers and specifically asserted that unoins had no right to inspect for safety.

Injuries are on the rise under Howards laws, – 3 May 2006, worker run over by a crane at Westfielf expansion in Liverpool, scaffoler seriously injured on 16 May 2006 after 8m fall, 5 Jan 2006,
Paul Highes fell to death, Energy Australia job, 5 May, Roy Salisbury incapacitated after fall at job in Campbell St Bondi, 8 March 2006, Pakenham, Christos Binos crushed to death, etc, etc

Competition creates incentive for cheap OHS. Howards laws only makes matters worse.

#15
Thumper8:18 am, 05 Jul 06

“Howard has blood on his hands”

Oh fuck off with your bleeding heart leftie mantras.

I’m against the IR laws as well but I don’t get myself bogged down in fucking stupid ideologies and statements.

#16
Absent Diane9:58 am, 05 Jul 06

anyway its not jw howards fault he is like he is. It’s the voters for putting him and his wanker mates in power with that horrible majority in the senate. And ALP’s fault for being fucking pathetic.

at least my concscience is clear.

#17
bonfire10:18 am, 05 Jul 06

exactly how does howard have blood on his hands ?

lets go to the stats:

http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rb/2004-05/05rb07.htm#statistical

fig 3 shows that since the last labor govt, and under this tyrant howard, workplace fatalities have trended downwards. hang on a mo, it looks like they were trending downwards before under those tyrants hawke and keating.

i know its an avant garde concept – but could it be that irregardless of who lives in the Lodge, workplace accidents are going to continue to trend downwards because of continual improvements in OH&S ?

or can we expect more of this union inspired anti-howard propaganda which when exposed to any scrutiny emerges as being false and misleading.

if one plank of your platform is a lie, i doubt the others are factual.

#18
Mr_Shab12:23 pm, 05 Jul 06

Do you think that the trend is going to continue downwards all by itself bonfire? Will building companies continue to strengthen OHS practice out of the goodness of their hearts?

I don’t think so.

We didn’t get OHS requirements because company CEO’s felt a moral obligation to their workers. The only thing a corporation exists for is to make money for its shareholders. OHS is expensive and drags on productivity and profit. Do you really think that Bovis won’t have their actuaries working out how many accidents they can have on site before the cost of Workcover claims exceeds the extra profit of ditching all but the most basic OHS requirements?

#19
bonfire12:27 pm, 05 Jul 06

i dont know mr shab, perhaps instead of mouthing union propaganda, you could provide somee evidence.

are you trying to convince or preach to the converted ?

#20
Mr_Shab1:06 pm, 05 Jul 06

Lies, damned lies, and statistics, bonfire.

Your blind assumption that I’m some huge fan of the union movement is as foolish as your disconnect between the strengthening of OHS legislation and a reduction in workplace accidents.

Will the IR changes affect OHS. Probably. The strongest advocates of stronger OHS law are, and have always been unions. Regardless of the government of the day, unions have always had the clout to strongarm business and government into accepting strengthened OHS regulations.

If the unions are gutted, and workers lose the capacity to collectively bargain, do you really think things will keep getting better? What incentives are there for business?

I certainly don’t think we’ll have a wholesale return to the bad old days, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that things will stop getting better, or go backwards.

In sectors where workers have greater individual power (i.e, skilled, white collar jobs) things will be fine (other than for the odd chronic back pain sufferer/compo junkie). If you’re a semi-skilled labourer without the option of moving to another sector you’re in more trouble. What are you going to do? Complain to the boss? You’ll get “If you don’t like it, find a job somewhere else”. And you’ll get it the same from every company.

Mongrel bosses breed mongrel unions, and vice-versa. Do you think removing the mongrel union will suddenly turn the mongrel bosses into friendly, reasonable types whose first concern is the safety, happiness and wellbeing of their workers?

#21
Mr_Shab1:08 pm, 05 Jul 06

And, no. I can’t provide statistics for you. Worker power has been getting progressively stronger for a long time (or at least it’s plateaued since the early Hawke-Keating years). I guess we’ll just have to wait and see who is vindicated after a couple of years of Workchoices, won’t we.

#22
bonfire1:20 pm, 05 Jul 06

i am a union member and have been as long as i can remember since i joined the workforce.

the new workplace legislation doesnt sit well with me in all respects, but i can see benefits and disadvantages for both worker and employer.

i think removing the ‘no disadvantage’ rule was wrong.

but you cant coem on here, claim ‘howard has blood on his hands’ cos you think its catchy and conforms woth your anti-howard view, and expect the claim to stand unchallenged.

this is the problem with propagandists – too many flase claims and noone believes anything you say.

as a union member, i woudl liek my union to focus on achievable goals. i was not impressed with their handling of our workplace award last time around, and let them know. i particualrly disliked the way they linked negotiations in my workplace into their broader anti-howard agenda when communicating with members in this workplace.

when i bought this up in public forums to discuss the new award i found strong support from other union members.

dont make the assumption – which the actu dangerously do – that being a union member equates to being anti-howard, a labor voter, or a fucking imbecile who will swallow any horseshit propapganda they throw our way.

#23
Mr_Shab1:29 pm, 05 Jul 06

Hold on there, bonfire. I never said “Howard has blood on his hands”. I don’t like the toadying little shit, but I don’t think he is culpable for this man’s death any more than I am.

The effect on yours truly of the new laws is going to be three-fifths of bugger all.

My concern is for the unskilled, the semi-skilled and people in the regions who don’t have the luxury of being able to up and leave a position they don’t like at the drop of a hat, and who don’t have any marketable skills. The invisible hand of the market assumes that you have something worth selling. They don’t – or at least not at a price they can live on.

Call be a bleeding-heart, but I’d say they’re boned, myself.

#24
Mr Evil1:53 pm, 05 Jul 06

Can’t wait until we get a few of those Chinese Mine managers over here: they know how to treat their workers and keep the profits flowing in.

Pity that the average life span of a Chinese miner is about three weeks! :-)

#25
vg2:32 pm, 05 Jul 06

How about people wait until the ACTUAL facts of the matter come out before their wild assumptions. All the lefty anti-Howard untion rhetoric may well be for nought.

26 people died on ACT roads last year, does Standope have ‘blood on his hands’? What abject piffle.

No matter what things are put in place the tragedy is that accidents sometimes will happen. If they are avoidable then someone should be held accountable, but the way people are going on here in an uninformed sense the cart is rolling down the hill whilst the horse is still in the paddock.

People can rant and rave about how wronged we are by the incumbent government but I’ll give you a tip, the vast majority of your countrymen at the last election voted them in.

There still exists ample scope for legal action against someone or something if liability is found here, workers ‘rights’ haven’t been thrown out the window.

People need to be a little less hysterical and save their bleating until fault is found at a later date.

#26
bonfire2:53 pm, 05 Jul 06

buy that man a drink.

in almost every instance where the actu has trumpeted an employer jackbooting over an employee via the new legislation, is been investigated – and if the employer is in the wrong theyve been warned, counselled or fined.

on occasion, the wronged employee has been found to b a little loose with the facts.

its human nature to turn new rules to your advantage. its also normal for legislation to have a few flaws and be modified.

i can recall hawke and co gutting the union movement to make ‘super unions’. apart from vesting power in certain hands, i dont think it did me or other small fish any favours.

im lucky i can choose to go on an awa now, and im confident i’ll ge a very good deal if i choose that route. i’ll be very unhappy if mr beazleys efforts result in my pay going backwards to win him friends in the actu.

if you think im robinson caruso, think again.

#27
caf3:08 pm, 05 Jul 06

“…I’ll give you a tip, the vast majority of your countrymen at the last election voted them in.”

Hold on, at the last federal election the Coalition parties polled 46.7% of the primary vote, which isn’t even a majority let alone a “vast majority”. On a two party preferred basis the AEC estimate is 52.7%, which at least is a majority but I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide if they agree that it’s “vast”.

Unless you’re relying on semantics, that the 94.9% of enrolled voters who turned up on the day collectively “voted them in”.

#28
Thumper3:09 pm, 05 Jul 06

The whole point is that a person should have a choice.

If they want to go on an AWA then so be it. yet, if they want to be part of a union with collective bargaining, then so be it as well.

Everyone is happy. No-one can complain….

#29
simto3:18 pm, 05 Jul 06

Okay, I’m drifting off topic here, but…

There are particular, very obvious problems with the AWAs. Removing the “No disadvantage” test is perhaps the most obvious of them. It’s pretty clear that nobody would be doing any worse if it was reinstated (that’s the nature of “no disadvantage”), and it would remove an awful lot of pain, angst and uncertainty. So why was it chucked?

Admitedly, Beazley would help his case immensely if he corrected the AWA formula to state “existing AWA’s would see out their terms, after which people are free to enter into contracting arrangements subject to the reinstated awards”. Then again, I’m not exactly sure what Beazley’s position is -that’s the problem with him being a man of no convictions, you have no idea what he stands for…

#30
Thumper3:22 pm, 05 Jul 06

Caf,

Fact, the ALP got smashed in the last election. Worst result in 50 years or something. They also lost in the senate. People abandoned the ALP in droves.

And the alternatives did not much better.

Like it or not, that is what happened. No point trying to rewrite history with certain selective statistics.

46.7% of the primary vote may not be an absolute majority, but that’s a false statistic. In Australian Federal politics it’s a good old shellacking to the losers.

Want proof, look at the Federal government today….

I might not be to happy about it all, especially the senate, but that is how it is. Pure and simple, no buts, no ands, no argument…

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