Pike River families disappointed as workplace law debate pushed back

Families of the 29 men who died in the Pike River Mine disaster will be disappointed they have come to Parliament today in the hopes of hearing politicians debate the health and safety law reform bill that was prompted by the 2010 workplace tragedy. 

Pike River families are travelling to Wellington for the final reading of health and safety reform bill. Source: Breakfast

The bill was originally set down in Tuesday’s Parliamentary order of business to be debated in what is known as the committee stage of the bill where politicians get to vote on each clause of the proposed legislation.

However, the bill has now been withdrawn from today’s business apparently so Work Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse can address some issues.

Pike River families spokesman Bernie Monk this morning said that, five years after Pike River, families are still fighting for tougher workplace laws.

"People deserve to come home from work and we've got to make sure that happens," he told TV ONE's Breakfast programme this morning. 

Pike River families have joined others in recording a video, begging MPs to not give small businesses a free ride on workplace safety. Source: 1 NEWS

"We're only talking about deaths today - but what about all the injuries?" 

The bill is set to introduce harsher penalties to companies liable for worker deaths, but Mr Monk said it was preferable to stop the incidents before they happen, rather than punish more harshly afterwards.

Labour leader, Andrew Little, says he is surprised the debate has been delayed and wonders if it is because Pike River families were planning to watch the debate in the House this afternoon.

Speaking to Breakfast this morning, he said the majority of workplace accidents were due to poor management.

"When you look at the least safe industries, the ones with the highest levels of fatalities for the size of the industry they are, they are industries full of small employers like forestry and farming," he said.

"They are the least safe ones. So why you would carve out conditions for them and continue to apply them to everyone else. It just doesn’t make sense. 

"We need a law that applies to everybody so everybody is treated fairly and properly.

"The vast majority of workplace accidents are the consequence of poor planning, poor resourcing, poor management and leaders. They’re the accidents that shouldn’t happen."

Labour had planned to introduce some amendments to the bill that had the support of the Maori Party. The party were hoping for United Future Leader Peter Dunne’s support so those amendments could pass, forcing change on the Government bill.

The Government’s been criticised over its proposed changes to workplace health and safety law with critics claiming the changes water down workplace protections; especially concerning small businesses in low risk industries which would not be required to have a health and safety representative on-site.

The vast majority of workplace accidents are the consequence of poor planning. - Labour leader Andrew Little

The families of the Pike river and forestry victims will be at Parliament all week and will still take part in an event hosted by Andrew Little tonight.