National commemorations today. Thousands of unionists across Australia will today (Thursday) take part in activities to remember workers who have lost their lives in unnecessary workplace accidents.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“Across the nation today unions,
workers and their families and friends will participate in special ceremonies
dedicated to all those people who never return home from work and to those whose
lives have been cut short in pursuit of earning a living.

ABS data
shows that almost half a million people experience a work-related injury or
illness every year and that more than 15 serious injuries occur every

There are estimates that as many as 6,700 Australians lose their
lives in a workplace accident or through work-related disease each year. This is
a terrible statistic that means Australia’s death toll from work is higher than
the national road toll which stands at less than 1700 deaths a

Thursday 28 April is the International Workers’ Memorial Day.
Worldwide the ILO estimates there are around 2.4 million worker deaths every
year – 6,500 per day.

This year for Workers’ Memorial Day Australian
unions are putting a spotlight on changes to Federal Government laws that will
lead to more dangerous workplaces.

The Government has proposed new laws
to make it harder for working people to access help or information from unions
in their workplace when it is well known that workplaces with a strong union
presence are safer workplaces.

The presence of a unionised, trained
occupational health and safety representative is often a major factor in
determining whether a workplace has a better health and safety record. Federal
Government moves to prevent employees from seeking help and advice from unions
in their workplace could put lives at risk

The ACTU also opposes moves by
the Howard Government to pass new legislation that would override the ACT law
and exempt the Commonwealth from industrial manslaughter laws. If successful,
this would reduce health and safety protection for tens of thousands of
Commonwealth public servants and workers in the ACT.

The ACTU calls on
the Federal Government to reconsider its approach to industrial manslaughter
laws and calls for a new national program to reduce workplace deaths and
injuries through the development of national health and safety standards
underpinned by accurate data.

Considering the number of Australians who
lose their lives through work it is a national disgrace that the Federal
Government does not collect accurate national figures on workplace deaths and

Commemorative events are being held by state and territory
trades and labour councils today – see the ACTU website for more details: