Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1608      August 28, 2013

Commit to safe practices

The transport Workers’ Union (TWU) says its dispute with coal giant Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) in the port of Newcastle has created an alliance of unions which have taken protected industrial action to fight for a fair union agreement.

The unions – the Transport Workers’ Union, Maritime Union of Australia, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, Electrical Trades Union and Australian Workers’ Union have formed a united front which is known as the Single Bargaining Unit.

In response to industrial action, PWCS management replaced union members with inexperienced workers: resulting in serious safety hazards. On July 18, the company’s use of inexperienced workers caused a coal spillage, with tonnes of coal spewing from a coal loader onto the wharf and the deck of the ship – the Pacific Triangle. The trimming plate on the coal loader was badly damaged after it collided with the ship, which caused delays up to 12 hours.

This serious accident could have had far worse consequences had there been workers standing nearby.

This is what happens when you have inexperienced workers who have little, if any training on how to handle specialised machinery and equipment that weighs in excess of some 300 tonnes.

The unions say the PWCS management ought to know better about the real dangers and risks that can arise in relation to workers’ health and safety.

Any minor collision can cause serious injury, death and/or damage to vital machinery which can cost PWCS customers and shipping companies thousands of dollars per hour.

On its website, PWCS prides itself on taking precautionary measures to ensure workers’ safety in a potentially dangerous work environment.

If PWCS is serious about maintaining safe work practices, then it should put its money where its mouth is and get real about its commitment to safe work practices and the health and safety of workers, the Single Bargaining Unit said.

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