Remember lessons of Pike River, say unions

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 09:09 07/11/2012
Helen Kelly
MAARTEN HOLL/Dominion Post
HELEN KELLY: Says workers in dangerous professions need a voice.

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Unions are calling for learnings of the Pike River to impact 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 over-riding 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, Ms 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 under way for some time.

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