The Council of Trade Unions is calling on the government to use the Pike River Report as a springboard for changing New Zealand’s health and safety legislation and culture.
Workers need rights and voice, protected by Government, through representation, good legislation and regulation and decent inspection and enforcement mechanisms, Helen Kelly, CTU president said in response to the report.
TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs would like to see greater opportunity for the people who teach job skills to give future workers the skills they need to stand up for their health and safety.
“There’s no doubt,” said Sharn Riggs, “that New Zealand needs a new generation of workers who not only have new rights to protect their own health and safety but also have a greater awareness of how to enforce those rights, even when their employer rejects their concerns.”
The CTU says the government now needs to strengthen workers’ rights across the board, including easier access to basic human rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining, which can provide voice, protection and balance. Workers without security are reluctant to raise health and safety concerns. It is inevitable that people working long hours for low wages will make mistakes and this means workplace injuries. Health and safety systems often ignore workers operating as small independent contractors.
Sharn Riggs says that staff working in tertiary institutions want their students when they leave to be safe and healthy, as well as employed.
“They want their students to go into dignified jobs with good working conditions and well-respected regulations that keep them safe. They don’t want to push students through their courses quickly and possibly unprepared. They want to teach comprehensively all the skills of their job, including the industry’s best practice health and safety requirements.”
The CTU’s representative on the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety, Bill Rosenberg, will be addressing TEU’s Annual Conference next week.