Port workers are welcoming the announcement by the Government of a range of actions to fix health and safety problems in New Zealand ports, following two deaths in ports over the last two weeks.
The Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood says an investigation will be held by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) into recent port fatalities.
Port companies are being asked to review their operations, and industry and worker representatives will be asked if regulatory changes are required.
The announcement comes just before International Workers’ Memorial Day (28 April 2022), when workers will gather throughout New Zealand to remember colleagues, friends and family members who have died while working.
Unions have made a joint statement to express their unity and determination to prevent any more unnecessary deaths in New Zealand ports, and have stated their willingness to work with the Government’s initiatives.
In the last two weeks, there have two work place deaths in New Zealand ports – 26 year old Atiroa Tuaiti died in Auckland on 19 April, and a Lyttelton port worker died on 25 April, both while at work on ships in port.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson says many of the workers who have died in New Zealand ports in recent years have been young people.
All were fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and had families and friends and workmates who have been left devastated by their loss, he says.
“Workers have a right to come home safely. These workers are carrying out essential work that our nation depends on. They have been failed by the system.”
Mr Butson says there are common systemic issues in the industry including staffing levels, fatigue due to excessive hours and shift work, productivity pressures, and failures around training and a safety culture.
Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says both port workers killed on the job in the last fortnight were Maritime Union members.
Mr Harrison is attending a Workers’ Memorial Day service this Thursday 28 April at Ports of Lyttelton inside the port gates, where workmates of the man killed on Monday 25 April will gather.
He says after attending a service on the wharf for Atiroa Tuaiti in Ports of Auckland last week it was hard to see the effect on the workmates and loved ones.
“The human cost of these deaths is enormous and it has been painful to see the great hurt and grief of family and workmates.”
Mr Harrison says the Unions have been speaking with the Government, employers and the Council of Trade Unions over the last few days and there is a recognition that change is needed now.
He says it is positive the leadership of Ports of Auckland and Port of Lyttelton are supporting the new health and safety initiatives.