Workers need a safety voice - CTU

Last updated 08:16 07/11/2012

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Unions are calling for learnings of the Pike River to effect change in other high-risk industries. But those in the forestry and agriculture industries said efforts were already being made.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said the overriding theme of the Royal Commission report into the Pike River tragedy was the need for workers to have rights and a voice.

"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."

The Government must ensure that labour protections were stronger and protected through good legislation and enforcement mechanisms, she said.

And proposed employment law changes would further weaken worker representation in health and safety.

"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."

The 'business knows best' approach should be stopped, Kelly said.

"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."

The Forest Owners Association said attempts to improve workplace safety had been underway for some time.

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