Unions to ban work on engineered stone unless government acts
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) executive has resolved to take all necessary steps to ban engineered stone by the middle of next year if federal government bans are not in place by then.
This means union members will not allow engineered stone to be imported, transported or used in building sites across Australia. The decision comes after years of campaigning by unions and health experts, who have warned of the deadly health risks associated with engineered stone.
Engineered stone is a popular material for kitchen benchtops and other surfaces, but it contains up to 95% crystalline silica. When silica dust is inhaled, it can cause silicosis, an incurable and potentially fatal lung disease.
In some states, up to one in four stonemasons who work with engineered stone have been diagnosed with silicosis.
The ACTU is calling on the federal government to ban engineered stone and introduce a national health monitoring and silicosis screening program for workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica. The union is also calling for adequate compensation and support for affected workers.
ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien said foreign multi-national corporations that manufacture and import engineered stone have known about the risks it poses for decades, but have failed to take action.
“Safe working conditions enjoyed by workers today were not given to us by governments or employers,” he said.
“They were fought for and won by workers and their unions. Today the ACTU executive sends a clear message that governments should ban this harmful fashion product.”
NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association General Secretary, Shaye Candish, has stated her Association’s support for the bans.
“[Silicosis] is entirely preventable. Nurses and midwives will stand with the union movement as we call for this ban,” Ms Candish said.
The ACTU’s decision to ban engineered stone is a significant step forward in the fight to protect workers from silicosis.