Working people will bear the brunt of WorkSafe’s proposal for a deep and wide restructuring that was announced today said the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.
“Reducing WorkSafe’s capacity and capability is the wrong thing to be undertaking when New Zealand’s poor health and safety record is costing so many lives of working people,” said NZCTU President Richard Wagstaff.
Between June 2022 and June 2023, 71 New Zealanders died from a result of an injury at work. In addition, estimates suggest that another 750-900 workers die each year from work-related occupational diseases such as asbestosis and cancers.
“More funding is needed right now to ensure WorkSafe’s valuable mahi can continue to help ensure working New Zealanders can return home safe and healthy from work.”
While the NZCTU agrees with the intention to prioritise maintaining the existing frontline inspectorate numbers, this needs to be understood within the context of an already understaffed resource, and now the frontline inspectorate will operate with even less organisational support.
In addition, WorkSafe have an array of core legislative functions which are beyond simply ensuring compliance with minimum standards, such as establishing codes of practice and best practice guidance on how work safely, data analysis and providing research and education.
Following the Pike River Mine tragedy, the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety called for a regulator that had both the mandate and resources to be a visible and effective best practice regulator.
“Reducing WorkSafe’s capacity now risks going back to how things were in the lead up to Pike.
“These proposed cuts will only make it much harder for New Zealand to make real progress in turning around its poor health and safety record,” said Wagstaff.
“What is really worrying is that National and Act are threatening to make even more cuts at WorkSafe and across the public service to fund their tax cuts for landlords and others.
“When cuts are made to public services, there are real consequences as this exercise at WorkSafe shows. The scale of cuts demanded by National and ACT would have a huge impact on public services New Zealanders rely on – there is no doubt that hospitals, schools, and many other services are at risk.
“You just can’t cut public services and expect better results – WorkSafe’s proposals for restructuring are a clear warning of the consequences of that,” said Wagstaff.