Letter to the Editor – Safety is Union Business

Safety is union business and the SDA – the union for retail, fast-food and warehouse workers – makes no apologies for that.

Grace Collier’s opinion piece in The Australian, 3 May, insinuated that by running accredited workplace health and safety courses, the union is engaging in some sort of dodgy dealing. It’s an assertion that is untruthful, unfounded and misinformed.

Becoming registered training organisations to deliver accredited training courses shows how serious the SDA and many other unions are about workplace safety. Many organisations, including companies such as Coles (as referred to in The Australian), send their employees to SDA-run health and safety courses because, as well as being accredited training courses, they are also specifically tailored to their sectors and are run by highly experienced and qualified trainers. In many states it is the right of the Health and Safety Rep to nominate which registered training organisation they want to deliver their training, and it’s not surprising that many nominate their union to deliver such training.

Union courses are also invariably the most competitively priced in the market because our training is not underpinned by a profit imperative but rather a desire to promote higher safety standards.

Unions are often best placed to run these courses because safety is our core business, and we make absolutely no apologies for that – nor do we make apologies for securing the best possible wages and conditions for our members. The SDA also works hard to recruit members in high turnover industries and any individual who elects to take out union membership does so on the merits of the benefits that membership brings. The union has a long and proud history of negotiating wages and conditions for our members that have ensured Australian retail workers are among the best paid in the world. The safety standards we hold companies to are also world-class, and that’s a record we’re immensely proud of.

So yes, Grace Collier, having a “bunch of union officials” (ie qualified trainers, with unrivalled experience in safety training) train staff in safety not only makes complete sense, but is a big reason why our Australian workplaces have achieved such high safety standards over the years.

Gerard Dwyer
National Secretary, SDA – the union for retail, fast-food and warehouse workers

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