Wharfies prepare to escalate safety campaign
MARITIME workers are preparing for a ‘‘massive escalation’’ of safety campaigning following the death of a popular Melbourne wharfie last week.
Anthony Attard, a father of three in his mid-40s, was killed aboard the roll-on/roll-off vessel Tasmanian Achiever, docked in the Port of Melbourne, when he was run over by a cargo loader.
The death on 20 May sent shockwaves through the close-knit wharfie community, especially as Mr Attard was a Maritime Union of Australia delegate and representative on the enterprise bargaining committee in his workplace, Toll Group.
MUA officials, including Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith and National Safety Officer Matt Goodwin, spent several days in the workplace last week supporting members in the aftermath of the tragedy.
But as the shock over the death has receded, it has been replaced by anger at a watering down of safety on the wharves since the Abbott Government was elected.
“The way the workers at Toll have rallied together, united, and supported each other, is a credit to each and every one of them,” the union said in a bulletin to members. “The wharfies and seafarers at Toll are a class act, there’s no two ways about it.
“This latest tragedy highlights why we must fight to make sure that safety is mandatory.
“There is a safety crisis in stevedoring. These tragedies are not ‘accidents’. There are causes. That’s why we need regulation.”
In the safety alert sent to members late last week, the MUA said a number of serious safety issues had been identified that had to be fixed before work could again begin at Toll’s Port of Melbourne facilities.
These include lack of a decent traffic management plan, lack of a dedicated spotter and flagman to coordinate the safe movement of people and vehicles on and off the vessel, and lack of commitment to training by Toll.
14 times more likely to be killed at work
But the union says there are wider safety issues in the industry that extend beyond Toll.
Wharf workers are 14 times more likely to die on the job than the average Australian worker.
It says the Abbott Government has blocked a stevedoring code of practice and 12 other lifesaving codes of practice, which have been described as “red tape”.
It has also ordered the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to begin dismantling Marine Order 32, described as “the safety Bible for wharfies for over 30 years”.
The union is advising its members to begin preparing for a “massive escalation” of its waterfront safety campaign, beginning with a two day safety conference next month to chart the way forward.
“The MUA has long campaigned for better safety and now demands that this crisis in waterfront safety be addressed by regulation,” said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.
“Safety must be mandatory and it must be law.”
• The MUA’s Victorian Branch has also set up a fund for Anthony Attard’s family. Donations can be made to BSB 802 884, account number 100040459.
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