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Women’s groups and unions unite to fight for women’s workplace safety


14 April 2021 at 5:23 pm
Maggie Coggan
“This moment of reckoning demands concrete commitments to a safer future for all – in our workplaces and across our communities”   


Maggie Coggan | 14 April 2021 at 5:23 pm


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Women’s groups and unions unite to fight for women’s workplace safety
14 April 2021 at 5:23 pm

“This moment of reckoning demands concrete commitments to a safer future for all – in our workplaces and across our communities”   

Women’s advocacy groups have joined forces with the council for trade unions to launch a four-point demand to deliver safety for women at work. 

It follows the federal government’s response to the Respect@Work report last week, which a number of women’s advocates said failed to provide proper protections for women at work. 

In a press conference on Tuesday, representatives from Fair Agenda, the Australian Council for Trade Unions (ACTU), The Parenthood, Gen Vic, and Professor Sara Charlesworth from RMIT University, launched the four demands they said would deliver safety, justice and equity for women in Australia. 

What are the four demands? 

  1. Stronger work health and safety laws so that employers have to tackle the underlying causes of sexual harassment at work.
  2. Better access to justice for workers in workplace laws. These changes could include  prohibiting sexual harassment in the Fair Work Act, providing a quicker and easier way to make complaints, and providing 10 days paid family and domestic leave across the board. 
  3. Stronger powers for the sex discrimination commissioner to make her own decisions to investigate industries and workplaces which are rife with sexual harassment, and positive duties on employers to take steps to eliminate sexual harassment.
  4. Ratification of the 2019 International Labor Organisation Convention on the elimination of violence and harassment at work.

ACTU president Michelle O’Neill said that the failure of the federal government to properly respond to the Respect@Work report was “devastating for so many women who thought the last few months would have led to real change”. 

“In particular, the Morrison government failed to take up recommendations to make the changes to health and safety laws, the Fair Work Act and the Sex Discrimination Act to provide real protections against sexual harassment and ensure employers had a responsibility to provide a safe workplace,” O’Neill said.

“The government response to sexual harassment leaves all the onus on the shoulders of women to make complaints and none on employers to prevent harassment.” 

Stronger, together

Renee Carr, the founder and CEO of Fair Agenda, told Pro Bono News that because sexual harassment was an issue that affected people in workplaces everywhere, it was important that organisations from different sectors came together to push for action. 

“We know that women are particularly affected by workplace sexual harassment, and we want to make sure workplaces are safe for all,” Carr said. 

“And that’s a value that the unions and gender equity organisations share at this moment.” 

She said this was a unique moment in time that the community sector needed to take hold of to see change at a government level happen. 

“This moment of reckoning demands concrete commitments to a safer future for all – in our workplaces and across our communities,” she said.  

“And that’s something that all organisations and individuals can make clear to the government that they’ll be held accountable against.”  


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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