Remember the dead; fight for the living
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 3, 11 May 2020, page no. 6
On Tuesday 28 April, Queensland unions joined others around the world in observing Workers’ Memorial Day, the international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made physically or psychologically unwell by their work. From across the state, unionists and family members of those killed or injured at work joined comrades for a heartfelt online memorial service.
Last year, 168 Australians were killed at work, including 33 Queenslanders. As at 23 April, 63 Australian workers had been killed at work in 2020. Take a moment to reflect on those numbers: 63 people killed in just four months. In Queensland, two deaths have been confirmed as work-related, with several others still under investigation.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how workers are still placed at risk, carrying the physical and mental load of being unsafe in their workplaces while still trying to do their jobs. Of course, managing psychosocial hazards like occupational violence or workload anxiety is just as important as managing physical hazards.
Governments, employers, workers and society as a whole are facing new challenges as we combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes consulting on and putting in place systems of work to protect the safety and health of workers. The QTU, with and on behalf of its members, has fought tirelessly to ensure schools have the basic necessities and workplace protocols in place to effectively mitigate against the risks faced by teachers, our workplace colleagues and students of contracting COVID-19 through their presence at school.
Good hygiene practices and resourcing and social distancing practices where possible are the consistent messages from the Chief Medical Officers of the nation and states, but they have not always occurred as they should. The united voice of teachers through the Union has been essential in achieving the strong safety procedures that protect all in our schools and, by extension, the wider community.