The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) wants company directors held personally liable for court imposed fines over workplace deaths, so that in the event of the company not being able to pay the fine, directors will have to assume responsibility for doing so.
The union body is campaigning to have fine loopholes closed so that company directors are held personally liable.
Michael Borowick, ACTU assistant secretary wants to strengthen directors’ liability and plans to lobby both governments and its members to ensure court-imposed fines are paid by the companies owning them, even if these companies go out of business.
Mr Borowick stated that when a restructure occurs, the company’s directors should be held liable. He says this is an important step in making sure employers prioritise the safety of people at work.
Mr Borowick explains:
“Strengthening occupational health and safety laws to make negligent companies and individual directors liable sends a clear message to employers that they must ensure people are safe at work,” he says.
Mr Borowick expects to move motions at the ACTU 2015 Congress this month and the during the Australian Labor Party national party conference in July that will ensure fine loopholes are closed.
A concern to ACTU is the number of companies that have been liquidated before paying the necessary penalties as imposed upon them by the courts. Some of the companies went through a restructuring process.
Mr Borowick says that, in this case, the directors must be held liable. Failure to pay the necessary penalties is disrespectful to the memory of those killed on the job and to their families. He went on to state:
“That has to stop,” he says. “If a court imposes a fine, it should be paid.
“[Avoiding the fine] shows disrespect for the judicial process, and disrespect for the families of workers killed on the job.”
ACTU’s campaign for change was launched during International Workers’ Memorial Day- a day set aside to remember all those killed at work, all over the world on 28 April.
Here in Australia the day was marked with commemorative events in every state which were coordinated by the various Trades and Labour Councils. According to ACTU, it is a day set out to remember those killed on the job and to fight for the living.