AUSTRALIA’S peak union body has attacked the Western Australian government for refusing to sign up to new national occupational health and safety laws.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said the Liberal government was endangering workers by ignoring national safety standards that would be adopted on January 1 by all states except WA and Victoria.
“Workplace safety is a national issue of national importance,” ACTU president Ged Kearney told reporters in Perth.
“Every worker deserves to know they will be safe at work and their families deserve to know they will come home safely.
“The (Colin) Barnett government’s refusal to sign on to the national OHS regulations and federal laws is risking workers’ lives.”
Ms Kearney said 21 workers were killed in WA each year on average – with two workplace deaths in the past week – while someone was seriously injured on the job every 30 minutes.
She said the WA government was sending the wrong message to employers.
A spokesman for Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien said the government had not been given enough time and information by the Federal Government.
“We are not about to make a decision on this until we know the impact of these regulations, especially on small business in WA,” he said.
“In some instances it might result in a weaker outcome for WA workers.”
The spokesman said: “Victoria has said no and NSW will probably say no as well,” he said.
“Queensland will not be signing up for the mining part, either.”
UnionsWA secretary Simone McGurk said all state workplace ministers had met and agreed “in principle” to harmonise OHS laws in 2009, giving the government “more than enough time”.
Ms Kearney and Ms McGurk were part of a delegation that handed a 2000-signature petition to the WA government on Thursday demanding it sign up to the new regulations on January 1.
All states will be given 12 months to implement the new laws.