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ACT Launches E-Campaign Against OSH Bill

ACT Launches E-Campaign Against Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill

Wednesday 21 Nov 2001 Richard Prebble Press Releases -- Employment -- Stop the OSH Bill Campaign

The ACT Party has launched what it describes as an e-campaign against the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill that makes stress an occupational hazard with fines up to $500,000 and two years jail for employers.

"ACT is organising opposition to the bill using the internet. This week, using email, faxes and the web, we will contact 130,000 of New Zealand's small businesses," ACT leader Richard Prebble said.

"ACT is alerting business to the harsh penalties in the government's latest anti-business law which will:

* make stress an occupational hazard

* increase penalties five fold

* ban companies from insuring against OSH prosecutions

* allow unions to bring prosecutions against employers

* permit employees to issue hazard notices against their firm.

"Ninety-nine percent of New Zealand businesses are small companies. An OSH fine would bankrupt many firms. Companies won't be able to insure against fines, so those Mum and Dad firms that are financed by a mortgage on the family home could be ruined.

"OSH prosecutions today are very harsh. Most prosecutions result from negligence by the employee, not the employer.

Here are some current examples -

1. An employee cut himself and did not report the minor cut. It became infected. Ten days later he reported the incident. The firm reported to OSH which is prosecuting the firm for the 10- day delay.

2. A building firm hired an experienced rigging contractor. The rigger was injured when he fell off his own rigging. The building firm is being prosecuted. Under this bill it is liable for a $500,000 fine. The firm contacted the rigger because they have no knowledge of rigging.

"The bill imposes absurdly inflated fines: * $500,000 for causing stress - a complaint that experts say is not medically defined; * $250,000 for refusing to allow trade unions to set up health and safety committees; * $4,000 instant fines by OSH inspectors.

"As a comparison, the fine for causing death by dangerous driving is $20,000. The maximum instant speeding fine is $630.

"This is a bill designed for big business. The government has just copied some provisions in Australia and justifies it by using British examples. Maybe a huge multi-national company could pay a large fine and set up health and safety committees. The provisions are totally unsuitable for New Zealand, a nation of small businesses.

"ACT is using the internet to encourage small businesses to fight back and put in a submission. ACT has pioneered the use of e-politics.

"ACT's emails will alert business to the provisions of the bill and direct them to ACT's website - www.act.org.nz (http://www.act.org.nz) .

"On the site, ACT has put all the information and tools to make a do-it-yourself submission to the select committee on the bill. ACT has posted:

* the bill

* the Parliamentary Library's commentary on the bill

* press statements - including the government's on the bill

* advice on how to make a submission

* a model submission.

"Parliament's rules still don't allow an electronic submission by e-mail, so ACT has set up an electronic address and ACT will deliver the submission to the select committee.

"Why bother? Hasn't this government previously ignored hundreds of submissions on the Employment Relations Bill and the ACC re-nationalisation?

"This is true. However, ACT achieved significant amendments to both bills. On the Employment Relations Bill there were over 100 amendments and dozens to the ACC Bill.

"The ACT Party actually saved the coalition - for example, under the original bill Christine Rankin would have won her court case.

"As the party representing New Zealand's small businesses, ACT sees it as part of our role to be an effective opposition. I predict this campaign will generate hundreds of submissions and we will achieve
significant amendments to the bill.

"All thanks to the power of e-politics," Mr Prebble said.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.


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