CTU Media Release
16 May 2011
Government funding cuts lead to cuts to Health and Safety experts in Department of Labour
At the height of one of our worst periods for workplace accidents, we’re seeing a predicted cut of 18.1% to the Department of Labour budget for front lines services. This predicted cut has directly lead to a proposal from the Department to cut the three crucial Health and Safety and employment relationship positions of Chief advisor in Health and Safety, Chief Advisor Occupational Health and Chief Advisor in Workplace Relationships, replacing them instead by junior information officer positions in its call centre.
“The impact of the cuts to public sector funding, including a “zero” budget this week, have been made starkly clear in a consultation document being circulated by the Department of Labour, which highlights the impact of the cuts in that department” Helen Kelly, President of the CTU said “We have been concerned at the very minimal resource currently dedicated to these areas and now these cuts remove a huge chunk of resource making the situation even worse.”
“The Department is being forced to reduce its role in health and safety and is placing blind hope on industry co-operation and self regulation to improve the situation. We have seen the disastrous impact of industry failure in health and safety last year not only with the explosion at Pike River and the audit of mines which showed a systematic problem in the industry but also in areas like construction which largely self regulate and have three times the annual fatality rate of other industries. Self regulation means no regulation and without a decent inspectorate and enforcement resource, New Zealanders will continue to be harmed at work” said Kelly.
“At a time when the Department is noting the growing demand of Department services including a growth in the number of small workplaces, increasing numbers of employment disputes, growing use of contractor labour, increasing use of new substances and equipment, and increasing casualisation – the dramatic decreases in funding it is facing and the cutting or core expert staff is a sign of where the Minister of Labours priorities lie in regards to the safety of New Zealanders at work. The Minister surely can’t consider, at this time, health and safety expertise, as a “nice to have” for the New Zealand people” concludes Kelly