Simon Bridges pays lip service | The Jackal

8 Aug 2013

Simon Bridges pays lip service

Today, the government released its blueprint for health & safety at work (PDF), in which the Minister for Labour, Simon Bridges, makes a number of statements about increasing workplace safety. It's good to see the John Key clone accepting there is a major problem, but whether that translates into actual improvements is yet to be seen.

The reports introduction states:

Too many people are being harmed and killed while at work in New Zealand. Our serious injury, fatality and occupational disease rates are unacceptably high. In addition, they are not showing significant improvement in contrast to other countries we like to compare ourselves to, such as the United Kingdom and Australia. In these countries, their approach to the issues is producing significant decreases to their rates of workplace harm.

Each year about 75 people are killed at work and there are conservative estimates of 600 to 900 deaths from work-related diseases such as asbestosis and various cancers.Around 1 in 10 workers are harmed each year, with about 200,000 claims being made to the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) for costs associated with work-related injuries and illnesses.

That's a terrible indictment on how New Zealand workers are treated by their employers and the government. The statement is also somewhat misleading, as it's only been since 2008 that the rate of fatal injuries has started to increase again. Under the previous Labour government it had declined dramatically clearly indicating that National's policy changes have contributed to the problem.
The issue here is that National's fundamental policy direction of deregulation and cost cutting is leading to more work place deaths. They're also determined to make employees work harder for less, which increases stress and sleeplessness.

Only by ensuring workers are being paid a living wage, implementing proper rules, oversight and regulations can the government hope to reduce the number of workplace fatalities in New Zealand. However, such worthwhile measures are diametrically opposite to the current governments laissez-faire ideology.

That fact alone makes it unlikely that National will implement policy to help reduce the number of workplace fatalities, which makes Simon Bridges concerned hyperbole mean little to nothing. He's simply paying lip service in order to appear to be doing something, when really National is doing nothing at all.