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Hearing 'exposes health risks for vulnerable workers'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The health risks of insecure work have been exposed during Select Committee submissions today on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill.

The Chairperson of the Hutt Union and Community Health Service, Muriel Tunoho told the Education and Workplace Select Committee that restoring meal breaks and protections for vulnerable workers is crucial to their health and wellbeing.

"At our service, we regularly see patients whose health has suffered because they are vulnerable workers, in industries where work is precarious," says Ms Tunoho.

Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act protects the jobs of vulnerable workers, such as cleaners and catering assistants, where retendering results in a change of contractor.

However, five years ago, an exemption was made for firms with fewer than 20 workers, resulting in many cleaners losing their jobs, while others have seen cuts to working hours, pay and conditions.

"One of our patients recently lost most of his cleaning job when some of the facilities he cleaned were tendered and awarded to a small contractor," says Ms Tunoho.

"His weekly pay dropped from $640.00 a week to $252.00 a week. He was struggling on his old income. His new income was impossible," she said.

Ms Tunoho says the Service welcomes the fact the bill puts all contractors on the same footing but said it would like security guards added to the list of vulnerable workers.

E tū will be making more submissions on Part 6A, given the havoc wrought by the exemption.

The union also supports the Tramways Union’s call this morning for bus drivers to be covered by Part 6A, following a tender process set to cost hundreds of bus drivers their jobs.

One driver told the Select Committee the stress of possibly losing her job, or having her hours cut was causing her headaches, insomnia and depression.

"The drivers are subject to the same retendering and contracting model which has resulted in such precarious conditions for many of our own members," says Jill Ovens, E tū Industry Coordinator.

"Often it is local and central government entities such as schools, police and councils which are the worst offenders," says Jill.

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