Unions Otago secretary Malcolm Deans (front left) reads a list of people who have died recently from workplace accidents in Otago-Southland. Photo by Craig Baxter.
The ''people power'' that has resulted in legal highs being
banned can also help cut this country's unacceptably high
workplace death toll, Dunedin South MP Clare Curran says.
She was commenting in an address to about 35 people at the
Otago Workers Memorial in the Market Reserve, Dunedin,
yesterday, during a commemorative function to mark
International Workers Memorial Day.
During the event, the names of 54 people who had died in
workplace accidents in Otago-Southland since the early 1990s
were read out, and a small white cross was placed in the
ground to mark each death.
Ms Curran, in an interview, said the campaign to ban legal
highs, also known as party pills, had shown the effectiveness
of people power and family power, the latter involving the
relatives of people who had been adversely affected by taking
Those concerned relatives had refused to be discouraged and
had continued to campaign for legal highs to be banned, she
The same kind of people power, and the same determined
approach from the relatives of people who had been killed at
work, could also play a crucial role in helping to improve
New Zealand's poor workplace safety record.
All workplace deaths were, ultimately, avoidable.
But more action was needed to ''join the dots'' and to
develop a more comprehensive and well co-ordinated government
policy approach to workplace safety, she said.
The key to making improvements was to keep working together
and to maintain the focus on the long hours and unsafe
working conditions, low pay and an over-dominant management
approach in forestry and some other industries, she said.
Kris Smith, who is a member of the Unions Otago executive,
also spoke and noted that in Wellington on Sunday, the
Council of Trade Unions had observed International Workers
Memorial Day with more than 100 family members of forestry
workers killed at work.
The 54 deaths in the forestry sector over the past 10 years
had ultimately resulted from the ''deregulation of the
sector'' and the ''wholesale cuts to terms and conditions of
work'' that had hit the forestry sector particularly hard.
Forests used to be largely state-owned and workers were once
Now there were more than 15,000 forest owners and ''an
absolute plethora'' of contractors, subcontractors and forest
Subcontractors were under pressure and the wages of ordinary
workers as a share of profits had fallen from about 70% in
the 1980s to about 20% today.
''Very experienced forestry workers are earning between $16
and $17 an hour with no penal rates and poor provision of
breaks,'' she said.