INDEPENDENT NEWS

More WorkSafe Cuts Will Put Workers’ Health And Safety At Risk

Published: Mon 15 Apr 2024 03:03 PM
Moves by WorkSafe to start planning for further job cuts risks making New Zealand workplaces less safe, and New Zealand’s already poor worker safety record even worse, the PSA says.
In November 2023 WorkSafe disestablished 113 roles, putting the regulator under pressure to do more with less.
WorkSafe has, so far, been excluded from the Government’s current demands for cuts to public services. Nevertheless, interim WorkSafe Chief Executive Steve Haszard met with staff earlier this month to discuss planning for further cuts.
Senior leaders appear to believe that WorkSafe will be instructed to make the cuts required by the Government, so they should start planning now.
"The threat of further cuts is very real given the Government’s reckless pursuit of cost savings to public and community services to pay for tax relief for landlords," said Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi National Secretary Duane Leo.
"We already have a poor health and safety record in this country with a fatality rate double that of Australia - on average one or two workers a week dies at work. Another 15-18 die from illnesses caused by their work," Leo said.
The PSA’s concerns about the direction of health and safety under the present government were amplified by a recent interview of Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Brooke van Velden on TVNZ’s Q programme.
The Minister said she didn’t agree that New Zealand needs more workplace safety inspectors, a statement which flies in the face of international experience, Leo said.
The Minister also made comments about the level of understanding of businesses about their health and safety obligations, based on anecdotal evidence.
This reliance on such subjective opinion rather than evidence-based policy is deeply worrying for the PSA.
"The Minister’s obvious lack of understanding of health and safety law, the history of our legislation, how the system works, and associated data are likely to lead to a watered-down Health & Safety Act and a resulting escalation of serious harm, death, and occupational illness associated with unsafe workplace practices," Leo said.
"With the rate of workplace deaths and injuries in Aotearoa so staggeringly high, we must have a strong organisation that has the resources to properly regulate and educate. That’s what will help ensure workers are coming home safely at the end of the day.
"Gutting WorkSafe was dangerous when it happened under the last government - it would be even more dangerous to make further cuts now. It would show the Government has no vision for safer work in this country.
"How many more injuries and deaths will it take for them to start putting human lives over bottom lines?"
The Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi will keep advocating hard for our members at WorkSafe and the vital work they do for workers, their families and their communities.

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