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Minister misleads Select Committee about forestry safety - CTU

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

CTU President Helen Kelly has today written to the Chair of the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee, Hon. David Bennett, to express concern that the Committee received a misleading report from the Minister of Labour in regards a visit she accompanied him on to meet with forest workers in Rotorua.

"On 6 June the Minister appeared before the Select Committee and publically discussed the visit. He told the committee that to his surprise, the workers in the forest that he met, ‘universally, loudly and clearly’ told him that the code of practice is working. Also that, in his view, based on this, there is no need for the inquiry."

"This statement from the Minster certainly does not reflect the very concerning discussion we had with the forest workers at the worksite. The workers told us that they believed many workers in the region were working in very dangerous conditions. I was so alarmed by some of what we heard that day that I sent an immediate follow up letter to the Minister and PF Olsen regarding the information the workers gave us." Helen Kelly said.

"These workers, while stipulating that their employer had good terms and conditions for them at work, told us that they believed many workers in the region were working in very dangerous conditions. They talked of workers working in the dark, long hours and without sufficient support. They agreed with the proposition that it was poor employment conditions that were causing the accidents".

"These workers confirmed that some of the contractors being discussed could be working for PF Olsens. Even the employer we visited, handpicked by PF Olsen for the Minister to view, did not appear to have an Employee participation system in place as required by law."

"Yet, the Minister told the Committee that they gave him solid feedback about what the code is doing to change the way they do tree felling and some of these things. He said in Committee that he got the sense there was progress being made. This was very misleading given the very real concerns the workers raised and the apparent non-compliance with the law, even with the good company we visited."

"The discussions in Rotorua were clearly not what the Minister expected to hear and it was very encouraging to see these workers speaking out even in front of the forest owner and labour inspectors who were also on the visit".

"At the end of the visit, I made it clear the everyone was now on notice - the inspectors had not systematically inspected for compliance with the law - instead fixated with the new regulations which are faulty and do not include the legal requirement to have an employee participation system, PF Olsen for now having direct information that there were employment conditions operating in the region that the workers considered dangerous, and the Minister who had heard first hand that dangerous work is continuing in the area."

Helen Kelly was advised that the trip was private and there would be no media or statements made and that this was also an expectation of her accompanying the Minister.

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