SYDNEY — Chanting “Killer stone — Ban it now!” thousands of construction workers, members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, marched here Oct. 26 and rallied outside the New South Wales state Parliament.
The protest was called by the union to demand the end of the use of engineered stone, popularly used for kitchen and bathroom countertops. Dust from cutting the stone causes silicosis, a deadly lung disease.
More than half a million workers in Australia are currently exposed to silica dust on the job. The union estimates 103,000 people will contract silicosis in their lifetime, and 10,000 will develop lung cancer, unless production of engineered stone is banned now.
Safe Work Australia released a report Oct. 27 backing the union’s call for a complete ban. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has backed a ban on all stone entering worksites beginning in July 2024.
But state governments refuse to take any action until they meet with the federal government to decide on a “national” response later this year.
The union’s Victorian state secretary, John Setka, called on members to “keep up the fight until the death stone is banned.”