International Day of Mourning 2024

NSW Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis addresses the memorial

Unions have long fought for the health and safety of all working people. The IEU attended the annual ceremony to honour those who have died at work, and to fight for the living.

On Monday 29 April, the IEU joined other unions, peak body Unions NSW, NSW Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis, NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey and families and friends of victims for a service to remember those who have been injured or lost their lives on the job.

In 2023, 125 people died in workplace accidents throughout Australia, and 8000 incidents were reported to SafeWork NSW alone.

“Every worker has a fundamental right to go to work and to come home healthy and safe,” said SafeWork NSW Acting Deputy Secretary Trent Curtin. “We all must act together, government, businesses, industry and worker representatives, to reduce the risks in our workplaces.”

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey; tributes to people who have died at work.

New laws to make a difference

NSW Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis acknowledged the women who were killed in Westfield Bondi Junction on 13 April, along with security guard Faraz Tahir, who died trying to stop the attacker.

“Faraz died while working his first shift at Bondi Junction – he gave his life in the defence of others,” Minister Cotsis said. “His actions were courageous and extraordinary. And on this day, when we pay our respects to those who have lost their lives at work, we include Faraz as he was one of us.”

Minister Cotsis also acknowledged the families of those who have lost loved ones at work, and their relentless campaigning for industrial manslaughter laws that the Minns Labor government would introduce into parliament in June. “I want to be clear that we hope we never have to use these laws,” Minister Cotsis said.

“They will be there to send a very strong message about how seriously the government takes workplace safety and to make it known we will uphold the highest standards with regards to work, health and safety.”

Engineered stone to be banned

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey acknowledged loved ones’ families and friends and noted progress to keep people safe at work, including the banning of engineered stone, which is the cause of fatal lung disease silicosis, from 1 July — another union-led campaign.

“Change, no matter how slow in coming or how small a step, does ensure there are fewer families who will have to join us in coming years,” Morey said. “Manufactured stone is being banned, and that’s because of the work of the families, the unions and the representatives here today.”

Other speakers on the day included Savannah Fynn from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Unions NSW President Lauren Hutchins, and Ann Spinks, who spoke on behalf of the many families who have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident or illness.

Patrizia Cassaniti

For those in need

Patrizia Cassaniti (pictured above) lost her 18-year-old son Christopher in 2019 when scaffolding he was working on collapsed at Macquarie Park. His colleague Khaled Wehbe was also trapped and suffered crush injuries. The scaffolding company was fined $2 million for the disaster, with NSW District Court Judge Andrew Scotting saying workers were put in “significant peril”. Unions have pressed for closing the loophole that allows insurance policies that cover these fines.

Patrizia has established the Touched by Christopher Foundation, which supports families who lose a loved one at work. To find out more:

Prayer for the fallen
by Reverend Ian Lawton

We remember those we have lost with great fondness. They gave much to the world as individuals, family members, friends and work colleagues.
We remember their families in their enormous sadness for those who have died at work building a better place for the rest of us, those who died while constructing our buildings and expressways, hospitals and schools.
For those who have died young and innocent, victims of avoidable accidents, may we learn from this loss, honour the memory of those lost and work towards a safer workplace for all people, where the rights and dignity for all workers are upheld above all else.
Monica Crouch