Grocon not responsible for 'killing workers' - ACTU secretary

ACTU secretary Sally McManus has admitted she made an error when she accused building company Grocon of "killing workers", but continued to defend her stand against unfair industrial laws.

During an interview on the ABC's 7.30 Report last week, Ms McManus said Grocon was fined $300,000 for "killing" five workers.

"While it was not accurate to say 'Grocon was fined $300,000 for killing five workers', it is accurate to point out that the huge discrepancy in fines paid by the company and the CFMEU is a glaring example of the inherent unfairness in our industrial relations laws," Ms McManus said.

In a statement issued on Monday night, Ms McManus said Grocon did not have the best record for workplace safety.

The March 2013 collapse of a wall on a Swanston Street construction site in Melbourne led to the death of three passers-by. The incident followed the death of a construction worker on a nearby Grocon site the previous month.

It was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $250,000 - less than a quarter of the maximum available penalty.

"This compares with the almost $4 million in fines levied on the CFMEU over a similar timeframe for protesting Grocon's record and taking action to stand up for worker safety on construction sites," Ms McManus said.

Grocon issued a statement on Friday saying it did not deny tragic deaths had occurred on its sites, but insisting it had not caused them.

"Findings on the public record are that Grocon has not caused the death of any individual," a company statement said.

"It is beholden on Ms McManus to publicly correct her statement and Grocon will be writing to her seeking this correction."

The company said the Victorian Coroner's Court confirmed in 2014 there were no workplace safety issues involved in the death of a crane driver, William Ramsay, on Grocon's Emporium building site in February, 2013.

It said WorkSafe had also confirmed Grocon's conduct did not cause a wall to collapse on a Swanston Street footpath, killing three people. However, the Swanston Street case did see a Grocon subsidiary fined $250,000 after it pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a safe workplace.

Ms McManus sparked controversy when she told the ABC on Wednesday that she believed in the rule of law "where the law's fair, where the law's right, but when it's unjust, I don't think there's a problem with breaking it".

Unions have thrown their support behind Ms McManus by challenging the fairness of industrial laws that outlaw strike action to achieve better pay and conditions.

The Coalition has strongly criticised the ACTU secretary as a law unto herself in promoting unlawful conduct.

The Labor Party has also opposed breaking the law, saying it is better for parliamentarians to work towards changing unfair legislation.

The story Grocon not responsible for 'killing workers' - ACTU secretary first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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