The Government has missed its opportunity to put in place a world’s best practice health and safety regime as it sends its Bill to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Pike River back to Parliament, says Andrew Little, Labour’s spokesperson on labour issues.
“A slightly amended Bill will go back to the House, but the changes limit the role of industry health and safety representatives to underground coal mines only and the board of the new organisation overseeing health and safety, Worksafe New Zealand, does not guarantee independent worker representation.
“The report of the Royal Commission on Pike River was damning of New Zealand’s workplace health and safety culture, much of which it put down to weak enforcement and poor attitudes by employers.
“Culture change starts at the top which is why it was crucial to have strong, independent voices of both workers and employers on the governing board of Worksafe. Unfortunately the Bill will prevent that from happening.
“And confining the role of the new beefed up industry health and safety reps to underground coal-mining when the same hazards are present in tunnelling and quarries shows this Government has capitulated to pressure from those sectors.
“We’ve only just seen the aftermath of one of the worst tunnelling accidents in the country – described by one lawyer as the employment-related disaster of a generation – played out in court.
“Now the Government is saying that work deserves no special attention in spite of that horrific event.
“Labour thinks otherwise. We are planning to draft some of our own amendments to see if we can get this legislation looking like something fit for this century, not last.”