Discriminating against HSRs or threatening to do so is illegal

Patricks fined $180,000 for discriminating against a health and safety representative

In a landmark decision on Monday 17 January 2011, the Melbourne Magistrates Court found in favour of WorkSafe Victoria on three of five charges under section 76 of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

Three years ago, a former Patrick employee who was a safety representative at Geelong Port was suspended, reprimanded and threatened with the sack for raising safety breaches where workers’ lives were at risk.

Ms Kearney said safety issues are a key point of dispute in current enterprise bargaining negotiations between the MUA and Patrick, including lack of training and high casualisation at bulk and general operations.

“Health and safety reps are democratically elected volunteers who play an essential role in protecting their workmates,” Ms Kearney said.

“Their presence is often a key factor in the OHS performance of a workplace. They are often the first to raise the alarm about unsafe practices and they must in turn be protected from intimidation or discrimination by their employers.

“They have a hard enough time representing the rights of workers without also facing discrimination. That’s why we need to empower OHS reps and give them legal protection to keep their workplaces safe.

“At Patrick, an HSR raised legitimate concerns about safety in Geelong and was hounded out of a job by a management culture that puts profits ahead of the health and safety of workers. The wharves are dangerous places, and three waterside workers were killed on Australian docks last year.

“This ruling against Patrick should be a wake-up call to all Australian employers, who often behave with impunity, and we call on all regulators around Australia to more vigorously prosecute employers who discriminate against HSRs.”