23 December 2019

Elizabeth Humphries, Freya Newman and Natasha Heenan on the need for collective workplace action on climate: “Outdoor workers, especially those engaged in heavy labour, are particularly vulnerable to the health risks from smoke and particulate levels in the air. These workers are on the frontline of the impacts of the climate crisis, which also include growing risks from heat stress. Earlier this month, about 100 Maritime Union of Australia members — working at three main terminals at Port Botany in Sydney’s south-east — walked off the job due to unsafe conditions resulting from bushfire smoke. The Australian Workers Union also advised that work had stopped on some road projects because of the bushfire smoke hazard, and the Electrical Trades Union and others urged members to immediately stop work if they felt ill or badly affected by climatic conditions. Construction workers across Sydney and Canberra have downed tools on the basis of workplace health and safety, and union firefighters travelled to Canberra to repeat their calls for greater resourcing and the phasing out of fossil fuels. … A mass movement capable of building effective collective action and a democratic response to climate change is our best hope of addressing both a warming world and access to decent, stable work. And unions need to play a central role.”

(In “an act of bastardry”, DP World has used the safety stoppages as an excuse to deny sixty workers $20,000 each in productivity bonuses.)