The Guardian 25 May, 2005

Patrick asbestos exposed

Patrick Stevedores tried to use John Howard’s new industrial laws to block inspection of a Port Botany site subsequently found to be riddled with asbestos.

When Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) organiser, Alan Blevin, arrived at the extension project in response to occupational, health and safety inquiries, he was denied access by a Patrick security guard briefed on federal government proposals to run trade unionists off building sites.

"The guard knew all about the new legislation", CFMEU assistant secretary, Brian Parker, said. "When I asked him what it said about safety, he said ‘nothing’. I told him to go to the top of the class because it doesn’t.

"He wouldn’t accept Alan had right of entry under NSW law."

When CFMEU officials eventually got through the gate, they alerted Workcover to concrete slabs all over the site that hadn’t been tested for contaminants, and found plant and machinery that didn’t meet licensing regulations or comply with manufacturers’ standards.

Testing of the concrete, at a Petersham recycling yard, revealed it had been contaminated with asbestos.

There was also asbestos in pipes found across the extension.

Workcover has slapped exclusion zones on over half the site in a bid to protect workers, and others, from deadly asbestos fibres.

Mr Parker said it was "disappointing" that Chris Corrigan-owned Patrick was still prepared to be used as the federal government "attack dog".

"Patrick has been in bed with the federal government for years on its agenda to roll back workers’ rights. You would have thought they would have learned their lesson years ago, but here they are ignoring our legal rights to protect the health and safety of members."

Back to index page