29 June 2015
A couple of weeks ago the media revealed that 1284 Talley’s workers were injured on the job in 2014 alone. Over the last three years ACC has paid out a whopping $8 million to nearly 5000 Talley’s workers, including one man who was impaled from behind with a 10cm meat hook. Despite obvious issues in the health and safety arena, Talley’s is vigorously campaigning for laxer health and safety laws.
Now there are reports that their seasonal workers are being told that if they don’t sign individual contracts, they shouldn’t bother coming back to work. Talley’s is currently in talks with the Meat Workers Union, but an email to 3News from their management dismissed these claims as “union propaganda” that doesn’t need to be taken seriously.
To make matters worse, last week’s proposed first world health and safety legislation was narrowly voted down in Parliament – 60 to 61. Come on, Talley’s – and the New Zealand government, stop playing politics. There are Kiwis’ lives at risk here.
Think back a moment to the 20’s & 30’s when unionism expanded rapidly in workplaces. It was the beginning of the modern Industrial Age, the rise of commercialism – and the subsequent rise of work-related injuries and deaths. The establishment of unions increased workplace health and safety awareness, and reduced the number of workplace deaths.
Unions were life-saving. Employees and their families revelled in their new-found job security and safety, while employers enjoyed profit – and the ability to sleep easy at night.
From where we stand it seems that Talley’s wants to take Kiwi workers back to the dark ages, where they will be exploited for commercial gain and valued far less than the meat they are processing.
New Zealand urgently needs stricter health and safety legislation passed to protect the lives of our people – but Parliament has denied them this basic human right. This is despite our friends across the ditch enforcing the same legislation two years ago – and two years down the track they’re seeing great success – and undoubtedly far fewer injuries and deaths.
Companies tend to get the unions they deserve. Talley’s might think that the Meat Workers Union is just stirring, but the numbers aren’t wrong. Whether their management likes it or not, they will always have to deal with the unions – that’s the kind of industry they work in. This is a classic example of all unions, not just the Meat Workers Union, banding together to force the hand of a company that is, quite frankly, taking advantage of Kiwi workers.
It doesn’t matter how much you try to break them, the unions will only become stronger and more aggressive – because it seems like they’re the only ones who actually care about your staff.
And the more you fight them, the more you actually prove the point of unions existing in the first place.
Workplace injuries cost money. A safe workplace spends less on workers’ compensation and enjoys better productivity and better quality. Workplace safety is not a zero sum game– everybody wins when safety is improved. But it is the employer who has to take the first step – and that first step is simply the recognition that all injuries are preventable.
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