More than 1000 building unionists rallied in Emma Miller Place on April 27 to mark International Workers' Memorial Day. Protests and commemorations also took place on the same day in Canberra, Melbourne and Perth, and on April 28 in Sydney and Adelaide.
Organised by the building unions and the Queensland Council of Unions, the Brisbane action was billed as a time to “remember those who have been injured or killed at or through their work and to renew our commitment to fight for the living”.
Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) state secretary Michael Ravbar told the rally: “Last year, there were 15 construction industry deaths in Queensland. There were also 500 people ill from asbestos.
“We need to send a strong message to government and employers that we're sick and tired of deaths in the workplace.
“Right now, there is a big push by employers for productivity, and safety comes second.”
Federal Workplace Relations minister Bill Shorten and a woman whose son recently died of the asbestos-caused disease mesothelioma also spoke.
Father Terry Fitzpatrick from the south Brisbane community said: “We need to also remember the families who suffer from these workplace related deaths and injuries, and pledge support for the carers of those disabled from industrial accidents. We need to tackle the companies who put profits before workers' health.”
He called for a minute's silence for those killed in the workplace. Black hardhats were placed on a coffin to represent all those who had died in industrial accidents last year.
Widows and children of some of those killed presented a banner that read: “Work Safe and Come Home”.