Electricians’ union bans uranium

Photo by Welshdan/Flickr

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has banned its members from working in uranium mines, nuclear power stations or any other part of the nuclear fuel cycle, AAP said on May 31.

The union says uranium is the new asbestos in the workplace. The ban will apply to ETU members in Queensland and the Northern Territory and breaching it could lead to expulsion, said ETU Qld secretary Peter Simpson.

“We are sending a clear message to the industry and the wider community that vested interests in the uranium and nuclear industries are trying to hoodwink us about this dangerous product and industry.

“Corporate interests, and their political supporters in the Labor and Coalition parties, are also trying to buy working families off with high wages, while denying the true short-term and long-term health risks of such jobs.”

The ETU expects other unions to follow its lead and join its campaign against the uranium and nuclear industries.

Australia has about 20% of the world's known uranium deposits and the largest known deposits of high-grade uranium ore.

On May 31, launching When the Dust Settles, a new film commissioned by the Queensland and Northern Territory ETU, Simpson said: “This is not just about the ETU. It's about everyone. It's about safety and the future.

“We are campaigning to have a national anti-uranium policy re-introduced, as in the past. We will take this to the union's National Council and beyond. We don't want nuclear waste, nuclear power or any part of the nuclear cycle.”

Film-maker David Bradbury thanked the ETU for its support, and called for a new campaign “to keep uranium in the ground.”

“We have a moral obligation to our children and their children to face up to what is being done with our uranium”, he said.

Paediatrician and anti-nuclear activist Dr Helen Caldicott said, “The only way to stop this is for the unions to rise up again”, as they did in the 1970s and early 1980s. “We need to stress to all workers that there is no safe dose of radiation.”

Union action against uranium mining during the 1970s and 1980s included the refusal by the Australian Railways Union (now the Rail, Tram and Bus Union), Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation (now the Maritime Union of Australia) to transport uranium ore.

The film has been sent to all 14, 000 ETU members in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

[For more information, contact the Queensland branch of the ETU or www.frontlinefilms.com.au .]