The scale of the unsafe building practices revealed in a recent clampdown raises serious questions about why Maurice Williamson and his National-ACT Government have continued with such a nonchalant approach for so long.
The NZ Herald reported on November 2nd that since July, more than 400 actions have been taken against 760 construction sites for not complying with guidelines on safe working at height. Inspectors shut down 215 of the sites, and issued more than 160 written warnings requiring immediate remedial action.
While Building & Construction Minister Maurice Williamson finally admits there is a problem, this Government has had four years in office, and in the meantime, we’ve had an average of 100 deaths a year, with workplace injuries and fatalities reportedly costing New Zealand about $3.5 billion annually.
Translate that into the devastation caused to builders and their families, the lost productivity and the additional costs to ACC; these are not the standards we would expect of a developed nation. Why should we accept that our construction workers are twice as likely to be killed or injured on the job, compared to workers on a site in the United Kingdom?
At the heart of the problem is this ‘hands off’ approach by a Government that imagines the market will sort somehow out its own problems.
It hasn’t worked in the mining industry, and it’s not working in the construction industry.
Labour believes we have to get back to having equal opportunities for all Kiwis; we do not accept that lowering our health and safety performance for some sectors is necessary for economic recovery.
With the Christchurch rebuild starting and the Government now at least talking about the Auckland housing crisis, keeping workers safe must become a recognised priority for all parties involved.