This week on Thursday 3 December, the chair of the Board for Ports of Auckland Limited, Liz Coutts, was presented with an Deloitte Top 200 award for Chairperson of the Year in recognition of business excellence and leadership.
The following day, Friday 4 December, her company Ports of Auckland Limited was sentenced for their role in the death of a young employee in 2018 and fined over half a million dollars.
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 on 4 December at the Auckland District Court, Judge Evangelos Thomas fined POAL $540,000 and awarded $130,000 in reparations to Mr Dyer’s family.
Judge Thomas said the Worksafe investigation found Ports of Auckland had failed to train its staff, and in monitoring and enforcing safety plans, and noted ‘there was a systemic failure to install and maintain a culture of safety and compliance.’
Another worker lost their life in Ports of Auckland on 30 August this year.
Father of seven Palaamo Kalati, aged 31, died in the incident on a ship at the Fergusson Container Terminal.
That death resulted in the Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff announcing an inquiry into health and safety at the port due to his concern about the safety record of the council-owned company.
Two of New Zealand’s leading unions, representing thousands of transport workers, say the award to POAL Board Chairperson Ms Coutts must be returned.
Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says it is incomprehensible in the circumstances that such an award should be given, or accepted.
Mr Harrison says two families will be having Christmas without a father, partner or family member this year.
“This award is an insult to them and it shows the real attitude of some employers towards workers in our country.”
Rail and Maritime Transport Union Wayne Butson says the message given by the Award is a shocking one.
“Those at the top of businesses where workers die or are harmed should not be getting prizes at the same time they are being sentenced for exposing those workers to harm.”
Both Unions are calling for stronger enforcement of health and safety laws, including the prosecution of individual managers and Board chairs who fail in their duty of care towards their workers.