Worker immunity critical to safety in Meat Industry

Thursday, 27 November 2014, 3:37 pm

The Meat Workers Union has today urged the Select Committee hearing submissions on the Health & Safety Reform bill to strengthen provisions that protect the rights of workers to be involved and speak out, saying that it’s becoming increasingly unsafe to raise health and safety concerns in some companies.

In its submission to the committee, the union said the industry is one of New Zealand’s most dangerous, with a history of high injury rates and disease.

“In just the past few months, we've seen a worker with a hook through his scalp, another with a serious cut to his arm being left for three hours trying to find someone to take him to hospital and another group of workers exposed to fumigation chemicals” says Graham Cooke, National Secretary.

“The good work done in the past in the industry is being undermined by increased casualisation, deliberate attempts to de-unionise workers and growing numbers of migrant workers who are fearful about speaking out.

“There are some companies that actively resist worker involvement and punish those who speak out by not re-employing them in the next season. Some of the distrust and paranoia about workers being involved in their own health and safety has been reflected in submissions from the Meat Industry, but it is workers who end up paying the price, with injuries or long term disease and loss of their employment.

The Meat Workers Union says immunity for health and safety representatives and committees so workers are able to speak out without fear of consequences to their employment is essential.

“The bill must also provide a default system for health and safety committees where agreement cannot be reached, and there must be minimum, and enforceable requirements for training of worker health and safety representatives.

“Health and Safety in our Meat Works needs close attention, or this important export Industry runs the risk of becoming the next poster child for New Zealand’s appalling health and safety record.

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