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Labour Votes Down Worker Safety Amendments

Labour Votes Down Amendments to Protect Worker and Public Safety
Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party
Wednesday 22 November

Amendments proposed by Dr Pita Sharples to the Energy Safety Amendment Bill were voted down last night by all parties except the Maori Party and the Green Party.

The Energy Safety Amendment Bill sought to revamp the issuing of employer licences, which allows employers to hold practicing licences on behalf of their workers.

“The amendment we put forward was suggested by the Engineers, Printers and Manufacturers Union (EPMU) in their submission to the Commerce Commission. It is their view that employer licences have the potential to compromise the safety of both workers and the public, and should be disallowed” said Dr Sharples.

The EPMU is New Zealand’s largest trade union, representing some 50,000 workers in ten industries, including 2500 working in the electrical industry.

“We listened to the advice offered by EPMU and suggested an amendment to remove the ability of the Electrical Workers Licensing Board to issue practicing licences to employers” said Dr Sharples.

“We agreed with them, that it is essential that the electrical workforce is comprised of highly trained people that fellow workers can absolutely rely on” said Dr Sharples.
“It gives workers confidence to know that their colleagues are properly trained and able to hold their own individual practicing licence rather than the licence being held by the employer”.

“We also shared the concern of EPMU that business costs and skills shortages may result in employers choosing to opt for less trained or experienced workers, therefore putting other workers and the public at risk”.

"As with Dr Mapp's Probationary Employment Bill, the crux of the issue is about ensuring frameworks for adequate employer investment into the training and skill development of workers. I find it difficult to reconcile the government's defence of worker rights in rejecting Dr Mapp's Bill, but then not acting to protect these same workers’ rights in the Energy Safety Review Bill".

“Furthermore, given the Bill's intent to address safety concerns, we cannot understand why Labour would choose to vote against the advice, and particularly that of such a key stakeholder as EPMU – other than, of course, their practice being not to demonstrate support to proposals put forward by the Maori Party”.

The Labour Government has voted down every amendment that has ever been presented by the Maori Party during the course of the 48th Parliament.


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