Aussie workers' union call for review of 'carcinogenic' night shif

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Sydney, Jan 8 (UNI) Alarmed by a UN report that people who work night shifts have a higher risk of contracting cancer, one of Australia's biggest workers' unions has called for a review of working hours.

''We've been concerned about this for years, and our union has for many years strongly and publicly warned our members that there are calculated risks in 12-hour shifts,'' national secretary of the Australian Workers' Union Paul Howes was quoted by Sydney Morning Herald as saying.

''It is a difficult issue because 12-hour shifts have been available for about 20 years, and most of our blue-collar workers are on them, but if we have to change shift patterns we will,'' he added.

He called for further research on the topic and said they would urge the Federal Government to initiate measures to prevent incidence of cancer induced by working hours.

The union's national health and safety officer, Yossi Berger, said about 25 to 30 per cent of the union's members were shift workers, and it was difficult to advise against night work when the shifts paid a much higher wage than day shifts.

''You can earn a lot more money working these shifts but you may find yourself using the money on a designer oxygen tent. At the end of the day shift work is very, very costly,'' he said.

The AWU covers members employed in the aviation, agriculture, health and manufacturing industries.

The study, published in The Lancet and endorsed by the World Health Organisation, found that night shifts were carcinogenic because workers were exposed to light at night, disrupting their circadian rhythms.

The study found that nurses who worked at night and flight attendants who continually crossed time zones had a higher risk of breast cancer than women who did not have their circadian rhythms disrupted, and that constant light, dim light at night, or simulated chronic jet lag could substantially increase tumour development.


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