International Workers’ Memorial Day – remembering the 17,000 frontline workers lost to the pandemic

27 April, 2021

On 28 April each year, International Workers Memorial Day is marked as an occasion of remembrance and action for workers killed, injured, disabled or made unwell because of their work.

The 2021 theme set by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is Health and Safety is a fundamental workers’ right.

This theme acknowledges the devastating impact of COVID-19 on workers, with a particular focus on honouring the 17,000 courageous frontline health workers around the world who died at work due to the pandemic.

One life lost is too many

IEU-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said it was union members who have led the fight for improved Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws and safer workplaces.

According to the most recent (2019) data from SafeWork Australia, 183 workers across Australia were fatally injured at work that year.

Sadly in 2020 in Queensland alone, the Office of Industrial Relations recorded 26 work-related fatalities including one person working in the education and training sector.

“Workplace injuries and deaths are unacceptable, tragic and absolutely preventable,” Mr Burke said.

“Employers have an obligation under WHS law to eliminate and minimise the risks to employees as much as reasonably possible,” Mr Burke said.

“This includes minimising both physical and psychological hazards and risks to ensure staff are protected and working in a safe environment.”

Every workplace needs a Health and Safety Representative

The importance of establish Work Groups (WG) in your workplace and electing a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) cannot be understated.

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (QLD) and the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 (NT), employees at a workplace have the right to form a WG and for members of that WG to elect a HSR to represent employees on issues relating to workplace health and safety.

“Electing a Health and Safety Representative is an essential step to ensure the mental and physical health of you and your colleagues are protected,” Mr Burke said.

“HSRs have strong protections and powers to act as a spokesperson and represent their colleagues on issues relating to workplace health and safety,” he said.

Our union is committed to educating our members about matters relating to WHS, including combating gendered violence, and we have resources with comprehensive information about the role of HSRs, their powers and protections.

The handbook is a tool which is available to members and its contents will empower members by educating them about WHS legislation, their rights as an employee, the role and powers of a HSR as well as the obligations of employers to safeguard the health and safety of their staff.

We also host exclusive professional development training sessions for members focusing on how to establish a WG and elect a HSR in your workplace.

Chapter should contact our union for information on how to establish a WG and elect a HSR if they have not done so already.

“Our union will continue to fight for the safest possible workplaces for our members and support any members who are injured physically or psychologically because of their work,” Mr Burke said.

“Ultimately, unionised workplaces are safer workplaces,” he said.

Meaningful action for safer workplaces

The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) will hold a remembrance ceremony to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day this year.

The ceremony will be at Emma Miller Place, Roma Street, Brisbane from 11am to 12pm on 28 April 2021.

The event will be livestreamed from the Queensland Unions Facebook page for those who cannot attend in person.

An online commemoration video can be accessed via the Queensland Unions Facebook page before and after the event.

Northern Territory members can attend a remembrance ceremony which will be held on 28 April 2021 at 11am in Raintree Park, Darwin.

IEU members are encouraged to take action on IWMD to raise awareness of WHS by:

  • Safeguarding the health of you and your colleagues through establishing a WG and electing a HSR if you have not done so already.
  • Adding the QCU’s temporary Facebook frame to your profile picture on social media to mark IWMD.
  • Signing up to attend our union’s gendered violence training.
  • Initiating a discussion with your colleagues to raise greater awareness about the need for safe and healthy workplaces.
  • Hanging a SafeWork Australia poster in your workplace.
  • Using the #IWMD2021 hashtag on social media.

IEU-QNT members who need support with a work-related injury should contact our union immediately by emailing industrial@ieuqnt.org.au or phoning FREECALL 1800 177 937 (QLD) or 1800 351 996 (NT).

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