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Unions will pick up the Forest Safety challenge

Date of Release: 
Friday, October 31, 2014

“The report of the Independent Forest Safety Review Panel is a wake-up call for all stakeholders in the forest industry, including unions,” said Robert Reid, General Secretary of FIRST Union.

“Together with the Council of Trade Unions, FIRST Union has been vigorously campaigning over the last three years to make New Zealand forests a safe place to work.

“The Forest Safety report pulls no punches and puts the responsibility on all forestry stakeholders including workers and unions to work together to bring a sea change of safety improvements in the industry.

“As the wood sector union, FIRST Union is willing to play a full role in the creation of the tripartite Forest Leaders Action Group (FLAG) that the report recommends be established over the next three months.

FLAG’s role is to develop a Forest Sector Health and Safety Plan and deliver the recommendations that arise from the review.

“FIRST Union is also willing to play its role in developing the network of worker health and safety representatives that is called for in the report.  FIRST Union and the CTU have wide and deep experience in developing and training workplace health and safety representatives in other parts of the wood industry and in other sectors over the last couple of decades.

“For far too long there has been an antipathy against worker representatives and unions in the forest sector.  Only two years ago, the forest contractors and MBIE locked the union out of a series of Health and Safety briefings for forestry workers.  The tragedy was that a year later in 2013 we saw the worst ever fatality rate in the forests of 10 deaths.

“We are wanting to learn from these dark years but also put them behind us.  Just last week FIRST Union reached an agreement with one of New Zealand’s biggest forest management companies to facilitate our union to meet up with and talk to all forestry workers in the crews contracting to it.  We hope this is indicative of a more collaborative approach through the whole industry; an approach called for by the Independent Forest Safety Review report,” said Robert Reid.

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