ACT News


Rally highlights worker safety

Their banners said it all: ''Stop Killing Workers'' and ''Safety Before Profit''.

Hundreds of ACT workers marched over the Kings Avenue Bridge yesterday to highlight a spate of recent deaths in the territory's construction industry.

The rally, to commemorate the international day of mourning for people killed at work, was described by the building union as ''a wake-up call'' to the industry that employers who break workplace safety laws ''won't be tolerated''.

Three construction workers have died in workplace accidents in Canberra since December.

Tradespeople, teachers, nurses and the families of Canberra workers killed on the job took to the bridge, some carrying flags, others a coffin representing the victims of workplace accidents.

Among the crowd was the family of construction worker Wayne Vickery, who was crushed by a road grader in December.


Mr Vickery's wife, Fiona, his children Skye, 16, and Jay, 13, his father, siblings and extended family all took part in the march.

''My brother would have been here marching today,'' Mr Vickery's sister, Sharon Westwood said.

''If we can raise awareness about increasing workplace safety, so that no other families have to go through what we have been through, that would be a good thing.

''The days are up and down - sometimes you'll be feeling really good but then a small thing will happen which sometimes brings the good memories back, or it will bring the tragedy back.''

Construction Mining Forestry and Energy Union ACT branch secretary Dean Hall said the rally was a message to ''all of the ACT, including the people who make decisions, owners of construction companies, sub-contractors, workers and the government''.

''We believe there are rules and regulations and an act that polices workplace safety,'' he said.

''We're not asking for more laws, we're just asking for those laws to be properly enforced.

''People go to work to live not die.''

At a ceremony at the Carillon, Unions ACT secretary Kim Sattler said the number of recent deaths at ACT work sites was ''unprecedented'' and the number of Australians killed at work each year was greater than the number of people killed on the road.

''We've really got to put this on the national agenda,'' she said.

''It's only because people stick together and look after each other that there's not more.''

Australian Nurses Federation ACT branch secretary Jenny Miragaya said the problem was not isolated to the construction industry.

At yesterday's ceremony, Mrs Vickery turned a sod of soil at the proposed site of a national memorial to people killed at work.

She said all the rally needed to do was make people more aware of dangers in the workplace.