CTU tells select committee: you have the power to make workplaces safer

7 Nov

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New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Media Release (6/11/14)

The CTU today spoke to Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Committee on its submission about the Health and Safety Reform Bill.

CTU Vice-President Richard Wagstaff said “New Zealand workers deserve the best law possible. The Government has now instituted or supported three thorough inquiries in to the state of workplace health and safety. These reviews are have been unanimous in their recommendations for change and the Government must now stay the course and respect their findings.”

The Health and Safety Reform Bill contains several important measures such as stronger duties on directors of companies, shared responsibilities for companies that share a workplace, greater powers for health and safety representatives and stronger enforcement measures.

“We are concerned that some employers are trying to undermine the recommendations of these Inquiries by weakening the Bill. The arguments for doing so rest on flimsy evidence and we call on the Committee to challenge scaremongering and weak evidence by submitters.” Wagstaff said.

“For example, Port companies have complained that the expanded duties in the bill are too onerous in their industry given the widespread use of contractors. Their own record is an illustration of why these expanded duties are absolutely essential. Seven deaths and 133 serious accidents since 2011 for a total ports workforce of 4,000 shows why the status quo is unacceptable. The reprehensible attempt by Lyttelton Port Company to duck responsibility for three deaths at the Port in the last year by saying two of the workers who died were not their employees simply confirms the importance of them taking responsibility for a complex employment structure from which they benefit and which they exercise considerable control over.” Wagstaff said.

The CTU sees changes to worker participation as a crucial weak link in the Bill. Many weaknesses in worker participation were identified by the Independent Taskforce and some changes from their recommendations in the Bill are a backwards step. The CTU says that a default system of worker participation should be retained and Health and Safety Committees must be strengthened.

“There is much that is good in the Bill. We urged the Select Committee to ensure that its weaknesses are remedied as a vital step towards making New Zealand’s workplaces ‘among the best places in the world for people to go to work each day and come home safe and sound’ as the Independent Taskforce envisioned.” said Wagstaff.

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

CTU Vice President, Richard Wagstaff – 027 277 8131

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