A lasting reminder was dedicated to our dear Australians who died in workplaces. A formal recognition of the work related death toll caused by accidents and diseases was commemorated. A $3 million National Workers' Memorial was installed on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra.
The National Workers' Memorial was erected to serve as a place where family members and workmates can contemplate their loss, but it will also be a focus for to redouble efforts to make all workplaces safer.
Between 2010 and 2011 a record 374 Aussies were killed by accidents in workplaces. Aggravating this appalling figure, it is estimated that the mortality rate when work-related diseases is counted, it would be equivalent to 10 times of that figure.
According to ACTU President Ged Kearney, '“Many employers are fulfilling their duties and ensuring a safe environment for workers. Regulators have done a better job than in the distant past, but there are still constant hurdles preventing workers from having proper representation on health and safety issues."
The ACTU President was alarmed by the statistics saying, “Here also in Australia, we have seen far too many deaths on building sites, wharves, farms, mines and from diseases like mesothelioma. Every work-related death leaves behind a shattered family and unions have fought many battles over the years to improve workplace health and safety. This has been brought home to us all this week by the horrific incident in Bangladesh, where the collapse of a multi-storey building that housed numerous garment-making factories is feared to have killed up to 1000 workers".
Ms. Kearney further commended the Labour Government for keeping its commitment to construct a National Workers’ Memorial, in particular Senator Doug Cameron who had chaired the bipartisan steering committee.
She is overwhelmed by the support of the Australian government but she has other concerns: "“We also have to make sure that the right to a healthy and safe workplace isn’t traded off for ‘cutting red tape’, because we know that it’s the workers who pay the price when workplace safety laws are weakened, and it’s often with their lives." she said.
The ACTU President further commented, "“There is still unfinished business, beginning with the need for industrial manslaughter legislation to be enacted in all jurisdictions. Why is it that in Australia you can cause someone’s death by action or inaction and be very confident that you will not go to jail? That is the only way to send this message home: no worker should die on the job."
The National Workers’ Memorial is a beacon of hope. It is through this monument that the Australian should be made aware that work should give people the satisfaction of using their skills to the fullest measure and making a contribution to their workplace, their community and the common good. It should enrich people, not rob them of their life.