After ongoing health and safety breaches at Pan Pac Mill in Napier, workers from the lumber division have issued a health and safety strike notice effective from 10am today.
“Our members are fed up with repeated health and safety issues with the company’s new TMT kiln,” says FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid.
“The kiln was introduced in April 2014, but a year later workers and the neighbouring community reported outbreaks of rashes, breathing problems and other ailments that they feared were linked to emissions from the kiln. WorkSafe issued Pan Pac with a prohibition notice and the kiln was shut down for testing,” explains Reid.
“WorkSafe eventually lifted the prohibition notice, but problems have continued. On February 23 the kiln malfunctioned and emitted toxic fumes that hospitalised four workers, one worker even became unconscious.”
“This is a very serious health and safety issue. Every worker deserves to arrive at work knowing they’ll be safe. Workers should knock off work knowing they aren’t taking dangerous chemical residue home,” says Reid.
“Workers have made their concerns known to the company and to WorkSafe on countless occasions,” says FIRST Union organiser Mike McNab.
“This is not the first time a serious health and safety breach has happened and workers fear it won’t be the last. They need to have some control over not working in unsafe conditions, the health and safety strike gives them this.”
Although the offending kiln is currently under lockdown pending an investigation, union members have lost all confidence that the kiln can be operated safely, says McNab.
“The health and safety strike action will only be lifted when members are confident that their workplace is safe and vote to lift it.”
PanPac is owned by the Japanese company Oji Paper.