Attitude to workers key to Pike Report

6 Nov

The Council of Trade Unions is calling on the Government to recognise that an overriding theme of the Pike River report released yesterday is that workers need rights and voice, protected by Government, through representation, good legislation and regulation and decent inspection and enforcement mechanisms, Helen Kelly, CTU President says.

“ The report highlights a wide range of issues that would have been avoided had labour protection been stronger – it outlines the added vulnerability faced by contractors in the mine – something that could be eliminated with decent employment law, it commented on the lack of worker voice and representation in health and safety – something that is being further weakened by proposed employment law changes, and it highlighted how the labour inspectorate naturally assumed Pike was a safe mine and good employer, regardless of the evidence otherwise or the interests the workers had in that not being the assumption”.

Helen Kelly said that the Government must recognise that a ‘business knows best’ approach which weakens not only regulation but the influence of workers and unions must cease.

“We see for instance the emphasis on having the new MBIE as a ‘business facing’ Ministry, the assumption that workers don’t need employment security in the first 90 days, the new proposals to remove protections for workers like cleaners when their work is being contracted, the provisions to weaken unions and collective bargaining particularly for new workers, reconfirms this deference to employers regardless that workers have rights to be safe and be treated fairly”.

Helen Kelly said that “the Government needs to strengthen workers’ rights across the board, including easier access to basic human rights such as Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining which can provide voice, protection and balance. Workers without security are reluctant to raise health and safety concerns. Workers working long hours for low wages will make mistakes and hurt themselves, workers operating as small independent contractors are often ignored in health and safety systems. We are in contact with families of workers killed in other workplaces in New Zealand and the over-riding theme is a lack of voice, representation and decent work standards. This should change – it is in the countries long term interest and the Pike report highlights this”.

The CTU welcomes the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement that provisions for worker check inspectors will be implemented following the review but ask him to acknowledge that his Government’s weakening of employment security and other employment rights will lead to more contracting, less ability to raise serious issues, reduced wages leading to risk taking and over work and that unless a systematic response is taken to the experiences and realities of working people, health and safety will be compromised.

“The report calls for the re-regulation of work – the message is clear – the balance is wrong – it needs to be rebalanced in mining and across the NZ economy”.

ENDS

For further information please contact Helen Kelly on 021 776 741.

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