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Workplace Safety To Create Classes Of Incapacity

Wednesday, April 10th, 2002

Workplace Safety Bill To Create Classes Of Incapacity, Bounty Hunters

The Health and Safety Amendment Bill would open up wide disparities between different classes of incapacity for work, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) told the Select Committee hearing on the Bill today in Auckland.

EMA's Manager of Advisory Services Peter Tritt told the Committee that people unable to work would be compensated at widely different levels depending whether they were sick, or suffering from injury and under ACC, or found to be suffering from illness due to stress.

"People with a stress related condition could get a million dollars while

someone crippled by a road accident might only get $100,000," Mr Tritt said.

"What equity is there in that? People off work through illness could have a lifelong condition but only qualify for a sickness benefit.

"The huge new levels of fines proposed would see the courts doors thrown wide open for bounty hunters and contingency fee seeking lawyers seeking a share of the new prize pool of employment lotto.

"Only OSH should be the prosecutor for unsafe workplaces, as it is currently.

"The Bill is prescriptive and punitive and won't stop one extra workplace accident.

"But many vexatious personal grievance claims will spring up under the Bill, with a raft of legal disputes developing seeking to benefit by employer liability claims.

"Boosting litigation like this is the opposite of what Labour Minister Margaret Wilson claims she wants for employment relations."

Mr Tritt said EMA's submission to the committee was reached after 49 meetings with 2045 members throughout the upper half of the North Island.

"The meetings were virtually unanimous in backing the Associations' call for the removal of the following nine points:

* Extending coverage to the undefinable concepts of stress and mental fatigue

* Opening prosecutions to the realm of contingency fee lawyers

* Prescriptive rules and a mandatory role for elected safety representatives

* Extra paid leave for safety representatives in every workplace

* Safety representatives being able to issue hazard notices against their employers

* Huge new fines that would put most New Zealand businesses under

* Making insurance against these fines, which are essentially to cover liability offences, unlawful."

Mr Tritt pointed out that 92 per cent of businesses employ less than 10 people and many now can't find the time to comply with all their legal obligations: "the Bill would simply bring the law further into disrepute as many more employers had no option but to ignore it."


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