January 13, 2012

Inside this issue:

  • Health and safety protections going backwards
  • FBEU Fighting Fund
  • Financial relief for members who stopped work in June and September 2011

Health and safety protections going backwards

As pointed out in Commissioner’s Orders last week, the NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 was superseded on 1 January 2012 by the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Unfortunately, the best and most effective work health and safety law in the country has been replaced by a watered down suite of statutes that were solely designed to benefit employers. To its credit, the previous Keneally Government recognised this and refused to be part of a national scheme reduced  NSW workers’ health and safety standards. One of the first acts of the O’Farrell Government, along with capping public sector wage increases, was to sign NSW up for the weakened national scheme.

The bottom line is that NSW workers are worse off under these laws that:

·        introduce a weaker “as far as reasonably practicable” test for a safe workplace;
·        severely restrict the ability of unions to prosecute employers for OH&S breaches; and
·        reverse the onus of proof on employers to prove they provided a safe workplace.

This erosion of statutory protection for NSW workers simply reinforces the need for strong and effective unions. The FBEU has never relied on legislation to ensure our members’ health and safety, relying instead when necessary on our industrial muscle. New laws or old, this will not change.

FBEU Fighting Fund

Last year’s AGM supported the State Committee’s call to re-direct the funding previously squandered on the UFUA to establish an Award Fighting Fund. This new Fighting Fund will be used to support the Union’s industrial/political campaign for new Awards for retained members (due February 2013) and permanent members (due February 2014), including the provision of financial relief to members who participate in official stop-work and/or strike action. The Fighting Fund stands at $162K and will rise by around $28K per quarter until it reaches its $450K target (less expenses, see below) in mid 2014.

Financial relief for members who stopped work in June and September 2011

The Union’s 2011 AGM also resolved to approve the use of the Union’s Award Fighting Fund to provide financial relief for the hundreds of FBEU members who were docked wages for engaging in the Union’s stop work actions against the O’Farrell Government’s IR laws on 15 June 2011 and 8 September 2011.

In accordance with the AGM resolution, members who stopped work on these days and who:
a)   make application for relief on the approved form by no later 1 May 2012; and
b)   provide evidence that their wages were docked in the form of the relevant pay advice;
will be reimbursed from the Union’s Fighting Fund at the rate of $28 for each hour, or part thereof (to the nearest fifteen minutes) that they were docked.

Members claiming financial relief for last year’s stop work actions may request an application form by calling the Union office on 9218 3444 during office hours, or emailing office@fbeu.net.

Jim Casey

State Secretary