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News headings from LabourStart

Driver’s Death Highlights Need for Satellite Phones

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Driver died 300m from WaterSoon after Tony Bradanovich was found dead on the Gunbarrel Highway on January 23 after walking for more than 40km in blistering heat the TWU began receiving calls from the media wanting us to comment on the tragedy.

Tony wasn't one of our members and we were not fully informed at the time of all the circumstances that lead to his death. We were reluctant to make comment at that early stage and very keen not to say anything that might add to the considerable grief his family would be suffering.

But we were very certain about one thing and that was, if Tony's employer had issued him with a satellite phone, he may still be alive today. The TWU strongly believes that all truck drivers who cart loads to remote locations where mobile phones are likely to drop out, should be provided with satellite phones.

This is not an issue we picked up on after Tony's death. We have been campaigning for better communications for long distance truckies for some time. So we eventually grabbed the opportunity to push this issue in the media. And it may be that the only good thing that comes from a young man's awful death is that others are saved a similar fate in the future.

Unfortunately, there were some small minded people in our community who used our comments to indulge in a bit of union bashing.

One of them was a Mr John Mearns of Nedlands who had a go at us in a letter to the editor of The West Australian newspaper.

He is entitled to his view, as are we all, and as am I. So I sent off a reply to Mr Mearns via the West. Unfortunately parts of it were edited out. Both Mr Mearns letter and my response are published in full for all to read.

On behalf of our union and its members I extend sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to the family of Tony Bradanovich.

Letter from John Mearns

Gabrielle Knowles' sad story on the death of truck driver Tony Brandanovich (Tiny errors led to truckie's death, 29-30/1) serves as a graphic reminder on how unforgiving our remote areas can be. As someone who works in such an environment, I note that the TWU's State secretary, Jim McGiveron, had a broad brush shot at someone about the lack of safety steps which appeared missing in this tragedy.

I suggest he look within and identify how far short his members are in how they look after each other. Every mine these days has what is called a journey management plan, which would have prevented this accident because various triggers would have been activated, such as failing to call in at identified times.

That this union allows its members to operate in what appears a sloppy way is inexcusable. Litigation will not bring this person back but the pain of a public inquiry, as well as financial recompense to his loved ones, will no doubt lead to better work practices.

John Mearns, Nedlands

Jim McGiveron's Letter to John Mearns

Dear Editor,
John Mearns of Nedlands has used the death of Truck driver Tony Bradanovich to have a cheap shot at the Transport Workers Union in his letter to the editor (Harsh lesson 2/2/2011). In doing so he says ‘This union allows its members to operate in a sloppy way".

For starters, this union is constantly cracking down on companies who neglect the safety of their employees. And our experience is that without us applying the blowtorch to their slack backsides, many of them would be happy to continue on getting away with murder. And when we tell employers they must provide drivers with satellite phones when they travel to remote areas, they usually whinge about the cost and question their necessity. About a month ago we had to jump all over one of WA's largest and richest companies to get them to provide these phones to 20 drivers who deliver gas out to minesites. Even then, they only did so after we insisted they were breaching WA's occupational health and safety regulations and involved Worksafe.

Furthermore, Mr Bradanovich was not a member of the TWU as Mr Mearns infers. But if Tony had came to us for help he would have got it. The TWU is very big on safety and we intend getting even tougher on those bosses who put their employees at risk of being killed or maimed while doing their job.

I have absolutely no doubt that without unions such as the TWU, the number of workplace deaths in Australia would be many times greater than it is at present. And at present the workplace death toll is horrendous thanks to bad employers who put making money ahead of protecting peoples' lives.

People like John Mearns ought get their facts straight before going off half-cocked.

Jim McGiveron
TWU State Secretary