The ACTU calls on the Queensland Government to put the safety of workers first, not the money-making interests of their business mates.

The Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (QLD) – which will be considered by Safe Work Australia on Friday – calls for national laws that require unions to give 24 hours’ notice before entering a site and to remove the right of health and safety reps to call a cease work due to safety concerns.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said, “What the Queensland Government seeks to do by removing the rights of trained workplace representatives is put all the onus on workers to identify, negotiate and resolve safety issues on their own. Not only is this unfair for workers but it’s dismantling a system that protects millions of people.”

“The Queensland Government will certainly make life easier for any business who wants to cut corners at the expense of workplace safety.

“All this will do is put workers at risk.”

“Expecting workers to individually speak up about their safety concerns will ultimately mean that many will not speak up or could lose their job if they do. Some workers won’t be willing or able to put their hands up and complain, especially if they are in casual work.”

“Furthermore workers don’t always have the necessary training to identify any danger and even if they do, approaching employers about the issue requires negotiation and dispute resolution.”

Mr Borowick said forcing unions to give 24 hours’ notice before visiting a workplace where suspected safety breeches are occurring would take pressure off employers to ensure workplaces are always safe.

“It defies logic that anyone serious about health and safety could accept that the giving of notice is a good idea. The surprise element of safety inspections keep employers alert and motivated to do the right thing.”

He also said the bid by the Queensland Government to remove the right of safety officers to call for a “cease work” due to safety confirmed they were only interested in protecting the interests of business.

“These changes will not help workers, particularly those in dangerous industries like construction and manufacturing, because it dismantles safety structures and tells workers to look out for themselves.”

“If the Queensland Government really has a problem with the laws they should wait for the national OHS law review in 2016, not respond with knee-jerk laws to make their business mates happy.”