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Workers lives and safety threatened by Dr. Brash

Monday 5 September 2005

Maritime workers lives and safety threatened by Dr. Brash

The Maritime Union says a return to 1990s style anti-worker policies under a National Government would almost certainly mean more deaths and serious injuries in the maritime industry.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the waterfront is a hazardous and unforgiving environment where there is no room for error, and where strong laws and regulations are vital to ensure safety.

He says the 1990s savaged the industry with a lack of strong health and safety laws, the casualization of the workforce, and a "scared silent" attitude amongst workers in dangerous situations who would not speak out for fear of losing their jobs.

Mr Hanson says even after recent progress with health and safety legislation, greater industry training and the more worker-friendly Employment Relations Act, there was still a long way to go in ensuring a safe working environment.

"There is no doubt in my mind that a return to 1990s style industrial laws would translate into more deaths and more serious injuries in the maritime industry as the more aggressive employers sought to maximize their profits by cutting corners."

He says that most people in the industry would privately agree with him, but the cut-throat competition meant that even reasonable employers would go against their better instincts in order to survive against "suitcase stevedores" and their casualized employees.

Mr Hanson says an unstable international situation including fuel supplies, environmental crises and the dangers of free trade leading to collapses in wages and conditions will provide challenges for whatever Government is elected.

"As we have seen recently in New Orleans, it is the poor, elderly, sick and working people who suffer the greatest burden when right- wing Government's abandon their responsibilities."

He says the Maritime Union will support a Government with a proven track record of providing for all New Zealanders across the board rather than a National Government who will only look after an elite minority.

ENDS

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