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UF seeks significant changes in workplace law

For immediate release

Tuesday, 19 November 2002

United Future seeks significant changes in workplace law

United Future New Zealand's Parliamentary caucus today announced details of the changes the party will be seeking in the controversial Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill, currently before Parliament.

When the Bill is debated in detail during the committee stages just before Christmas, United Future leader, Peter Dunne, will move a Supplementary Order Paper seeking substantial amendment. These will include removal of any mention of volunteers from the legislation; the removal of any mention of "stress" and "fatigue" from being included as workplace hazards; and removing the proposal to prohibit employers from taking out insurance to cover them against Occupational Health and Safety fines or infringement fees.

Commenting on the SOP, Mr Dunne said "The Government has already indicated it has heeded community concerns by proposing to remove volunteers from the ambit of the Bill, but my caucus believes it will still be useful to keep this change in front of us as a safeguard against any backsliding.

"We believe the reference to work-related stress is a charter for work-shy slackers and money-hungry lawyers. There aren't even any definitions of "stress" or "fatigue" in the Bill, yet employers are supposed to be able to recognise it when it occurs and deal with it, lest they are driven out of business by grossly inflated fines. We believe this appalling piece of legislation, with its intangible and complex language, will lead to business failure and a massive increase in litigation."

Mr Dunne, referring to the proposal in the Bill to remove employers' current right to take out insurance against OSH penalties while at the same time increasing penalties five-fold from $100,000 to $500,000, also said "There have been suggestions that this section of the Bill is alright because it has been modified so that a company's ability to pay is taken into account.

"This is wrong and muddleheaded because it would effectively allow a company on the verge of bankruptcy to continue to endanger its employees without facing significant fines, thus defeating the Bill's stated purpose of improving workplace safety.

"If the Government cannot accept these changes, then United Future will oppose the Bill in its entirety," said Mr Dunne.


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