Maritime Union demands tougher penalties for reckless managers

The Maritime Union wants managers and board chairs held individually accountable for workplace deaths.

Maritime Union National Secretary Craig Harrison says tougher penalties were needed following the sentencing of Ports of Auckland Limited (POAL) today for their role in the death of a young worker and father.

On 27 August 2018, 23-year old Laboom Dyer died at the Ports of Auckland after the Straddle Carrier he was operating tipped over during night shift.

Earlier this year, POAL admitted being guilty of failing to comply with a duty that exposes an individual to risk of death or serious injury or serious illness under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

At a sentencing today at the Auckland District Court, Judge Evangelos Thomas fined POAL $540,000 and awarded $130,000 in reparations to Mr Dyer’s family.

Mr Harrison says senior managers and board chairs need to be held individually accountable for recklessness under current laws.

Corporate fines were simply a business cost, and managers who created unsafe work environments were not being held accountable, he says.

It is the rate payers of Auckland who are paying for the failures of management, says Mr Harrison.

“Until those managers who have a duty of care to their workforce are prosecuted for recklessness under the Health and Safety at Work Act, we will continue to see a culture of profit before safety.”

Mr Harrison says a productivity bonus system opposed by the union had contributed to the culture at Ports of Auckland which has led to the sentencing today.

He says the Maritime Union had raised concerns over the driving culture and management had been aware of the problem before the death of Mr Dyer.

Mr Harrison says management were well aware of how the Straddle Carriers were operating in the port as the Straddle Carriers automatically reported safety incidents.

It was only after this incident that management took steps to change the culture.

There have been numerous preventable deaths on the New Zealand waterfront and another had occurred in 2020 at Ports of Auckland, says Mr Harrison.

The Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff had recently ordered an inquiry into health and safety at Ports of Auckland, which is owned by Auckland City through its business arm.

Mr Harrison says the Government must widen this inquiry to a national level and look at how productivity pressures and fatigue were killing workers.

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