Wharves Close Nationwide In Honour Of Fallen Comrade

Wharves stop nationwide for waterside workers to remember tragic death of a mate - call for urgent safety action


-       Family asks the Prime Minister to prevent more deaths by addressing the deregulation of safety on our wharves


Dock workers in every port across Australia will stop work for 1 hour today as they mourn the tragic death of Nick Fanos a 49-year old worker employed by Patrick Stevedores at Port Botany - crushed to death while loading containers.

To honour their friend and fellow worker 4 busloads of workers from the Port Botany wharves will attend Nick's funeral at St Stephanos Greek Orthodox Church at Hurlstone Park at 10am.

At the same time as the funeral service - from 10am to 11am - branches of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) across the country will hold meetings to move a resolution for the Government to lead a National Stevedoring Safety Taskforce, leading to the earliest introduction of a regulated National Stevedoring Safety Code of Practice.

On behalf of the grieving family, Nick Fanos' nephew Spiro Tzouganatos yesterday wrote to the Prime Minister calling for the Government to prevent a further waste of lives on the waterfront by urgently implementing the Code of Practice.

"However, in a modern workplace, the incident that killed my uncle should not happen. There should be a code of practice and mechanisms in place that make this horrific situation practically impossible. While it is too late for my uncle, the safety of other dock workers needs to addressed as a matter of urgency. I am aware of other recent fatalities of dock workers during the course of their work on the waterfront", said Mr Tzouganatos in his letter to Mr Rudd.

"On behalf of our family and dock workers across our country I respectfully ask that you establish a National Stevedoring Safety Taskforce, leading to the earliest introduction of a National Stevedoring Safety Code of Practice", he wrote.

 "The death of Nick has naturally shocked his family and friends. We are extending to Nick's family any support they may require to secure them through this terrible time", said Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of the MUA.

"The wharves are still mourning the death of Brad Gray in a stevedoring accident in Brisbane a month ago and it is obvious we have a serious deficit in OH&S practices on our wharves. The latest tragedy shows that deregulated performance based arrangements are clearly not working. Everyone acknowledges the importance of our wharves to the national economic interest. You shouldn't be killed when you go there if we are getting things right in this country.

"The union is now calling on Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese to jointly back a high level meeting with the major stevedoring companies and the union to establish a National Stevedoring Safety Task Force, to commence work on the changes in stevedoring safety management that are now so urgently required", Crumlin said.

"Everyone has grieving to do here as they come to grips with such an unnecessary death. I commend all Maritime Union officials, committee members and rank and file for their long hours in managing the difficult workplace environment following the fatality.

"There is naturally much anger and frustration following the accident. Some of Nick's co-workers either saw the accident or the aftermath.  A Work Cover investigation and Coronial and other inquiries are underway.  This was a death that could have been avoided with a better safety culture and application of safe working practices and guidelines nationally with full enforceability", said Crumlin.

"What is required is a genuinely national and properly regulated approach to stevedoring safety to make and sustain the cultural shift required to achieve safe workplaces in the Australian container and break bulk stevedoring industry.

 "We need to achieve proper coordination and clear responsibilities between State and federal jurisdictions", said Crumlin.

Crumlin has written to the major stevedoring companies seeking their participation in this process.

Nick Fanos was loading containers onto the container ship Vega Gotland, a Flag of Convenience vessel.

The Port Botany death is the fifth fatality in little over three and a half years and the sixth since June 2003. Recent waterfront workplace fatalities include:

  • Jeff Grey, Appleton Dock, Melbourne, June 2003
  • Dean Robinson, Port Adelaide, June 2006
  • Peter Ross, Appleton Dock, January 2007
  • Bob Cumberlidge, Westernport, March 2007
  • Brad Gray, Brisbane, February 2010

Media Contact: Paddy Crumlin 0418 379660

Michael Meagher: 0410 482367

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