Construction workers rally against workplace deaths

Issue 

Construction workers rally against workplace deaths

By Michael Bull

MELBOURNE — Seven work-related deaths on construction sites within three weeks sparked a 7000-strong workers' rally in the city centre on July 14.

The rally, which began at Trades Hall, was led by 60 cranes and other heavy vehicles. Friends and families of the victims, carrying photographs of their loved ones, followed.

Coffins and wreaths were laid on the steps of Parliament House, where the rally ended in a protest against the deregulation of occupational health and safety by the Liberal state government. Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union construction division Victorian branch secretary Martin Kingham said government deregulation and cutbacks in the number of WorkCover inspectors were responsible for the escalation of deaths. Employers are now determining "safe" work practices, he said.

State opposition leader Steve Bracks also addressed the rally, pledging that a Labor government will overturn the WorkCover changes and restore workers' common law rights to sue employers.

Construction unions have agreed to step up the campaign around workplace health and safety, and will take strong industrial action against employers who run unsafe sites.