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Maritime workers under threat from slack industry regulation

23 November 2011

Workers under threat from slack regulation of industry standards

The Maritime Union is warning that New Zealand workers are under threat due to lack of regulation and enforcement of standards in industry.

Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says a lax attitude and a view that workers are expendable is present in industry and Government.

"The Prime Minister especially has worked hard to disconnect himself as being responsible for anything except appearing on the cover of magazines and radio chat shows."

Mr Fleetwood says the reality is that New Zealanders and overseas workers were being harmed in the workplace due to slack regulation.

He says there are three clear examples that should be making people ask questions.

"As the inquiry for the Pike River disaster goes on, we are seeing a picture of lack of regulation and lack of responsibility in key areas. Why are we not demanding accountability at the top level?"

"The Prime Minister has said the bodies of the workers would be recovered but this had not happened."

"The Prime Minister has stated that New Zealand mining regulations are inferior to Australia. What has he done about it, and what is he intending to do about it?"

Mr Fleetwood says the deaths of workers in the maritime industry included two as yet unexplained sinking of overseas fishing vessels working out of New Zealand ports, the Oyang 70 and the No 1 Insung.

"Once again, the poor standards that are permitted in this industry are likely to have been a contributing factor."

The recent grounding of the Rena should have been a further wake up call about the decline of standards in the maritime industry, but even this dramatic event had failed to cause lasting concern.

"The European Union is currently deciding whether it will even permit Filipino trained seafarers in their waters. This is not even an issue in New Zealand. Why not? Are we happy just to wait for the next incident?"

He says Maritime Union members work in the offshore oil and gas industry and would insist on high standards, but there was no confidence in the Government's attitude.

Mr Fleetwood says the reality is workers have to take the lead and make the workplace safe.

"In the current environment, profit comes first for many employers and that has a big impact. Unless we have strong unions on the job to defend health and safety, and legislation that is backed with some teeth, then we will see more and more preventable deaths and injuries."


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