457 visa holders twice as likely to die at work

Parramatta Bishop Kevin Manning has joined members of the Filipino community and the CFMEU at the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the lives of five Filipino guest workers killed in Australia.

The plaque was unveiled at the offices of the Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU) in Lidcombe, NSW, on Thursday February 19 2009, the Parramatta Catholic website reports.

"Any accidental death is a tragedy ... but it is more tragic when a foreigner dies in an accident that could have been prevented," Bishop Manning told the gathering.

The unveiling took place one year after two of the 457 visa workers, Antonio Pili and Rey Jardinel, were killed in a John Holland company vehicle on the way home from work in Nebo, Queensland.

CFMEU Assistant Secretary Mal Tulloch said the workers came to Australia seeking a better life, but ended up paying the ultimate price.

"Guest worker deaths are all too common, with 457 visa holders twice as likely to die at work than the national average. This plaque will not only be a memorial to the Filipino workers killed, but a reminder of all those guest workers who have lost their lives in Australia."

In his address to the gathering, Bishop Manning said that any accidental death was a tragedy - a tragedy for the family, for friends and co-workers. "But it is more tragic when a foreigner, away from family and friends, dies in an accident that could have been prevented."

Bishop Manning emphasised that employers had a special obligation to care for guest workers. "It is, I think, safe to assume that many of the overseas workers arrive here without an adequate knowledge of their rights as workers in an Australian workplace. They are ripe for exploitation.

"Union officials, fellow workers and the public in general must be vigilant in ensuring that they work in safety with adequate pay. Provision must be made for compensation if they are hurt or killed while at work.

"Employers are obliged by law to have in place occupational health and safety procedures to ensure, as far as possible, the safety of workers in their care. In the case of overseas workers, every effort must be made to enable these workers to know their rights and obligations and to understand work safety procedures."