Hillside exposes contempt

Last updated 07:35 01/05/2012

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OPINION: The decision to sell KiwiRail's Hillside workshops is a blow to the south and shows the contempt with which this Government views our rail engineering capacity and Dunedin, writes Clare Curran (Labour) in From the Beehive.

It shows how hollow the Government's pledge to retain majority ownership and control of state assets is. National has ignored the community, who petitioned in their thousands for the workshops to be retained, and without any public consultation, decided to sell another asset.

I believe that a deliberate campaign to make the workshops commercially defunct has resulted in the proposed sale of this valuable national asset.

National talks of prioritising jobs when costly convention centres in Auckland are at stake, but highly skilled railway workers in Dunedin have never been courted in the same way. The decision to sell will also affect more than 130 jobs, and about 75 Dunedin engineering businesses clustered around Hillside.

A strong industry base is of benefit to the whole of the South Island. I'd like to see us working together across our electorate and regional boundaries to make the South Island economy stronger.

As I've said before, we're going to have to do it for ourselves.

Workers' rights are important, and while we fight for the living, I would like to remind you of International Workers' Memorial Day, which is held on April 28 to honour those New Zealanders who die every year as a result of accidents or injuries at work.

We need to work harder to minimise harm at work. Those who die or are disabled in workplace injuries should be remembered.

Many of these deaths and injuries are easily preventable, but some employers see workplace health and safety as a compliance cost – one at best to be tolerated, and at worst circumvented.

Then we have a Government more dedicated to selling our world-class ACC scheme to private business than investing in the prevention of more deaths and injuries at work.

Keeping workers healthy and safe at work is about taking care of the people we work with, and the people who help create the wealth of our country. It's about family and friends, not about the bottom line.

International Workers' Memorial Day is the day to renew our determination to work together to prevent the human and social cost of work-related deaths, injuries and illness.

The fight for safer workplaces must go on. If we don't stand up for the workers, who will?

» Clare Curran is the MP for Dunedin South.

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