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Large NZ organisations letting lax labour providers shirk health & safety compliance - AWF chair

Wednesday 31st July 2019

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AWF Madison chair Ross Keenan says efforts to improve the nation's health and safety record is being undermined by large local organisations using labour providers who shirk their compliance obligations. 

Keenan said complying with the stricter health and safety rules is "very expensive but necessary", and that AWF's incident rate was very good by any measure.

At today's annual meeting in Auckland, he elaborated on comments in the company's annual report questioning whether the sector was being vigilant enough to ensure health and safety compliance, saying it was "staggering" that large New Zealand organisations are still using labour providers that go from one job to another without providing evidence of meeting the country's stringent rules. 

"As one who comes out of an industry where regulation and controls are mandatory and measured – not just taken as guidelines – this attitude by some of corporate NZ, is astonishing," he said. 

The labour contract firm said in its annual report that it supports the government's health and safety strategy to expand the view of work-related health risks to include mental health. 

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain-Lees Galloway this month released a discussion document seeking feedback on proposals to improve regulations for working with plant, structures, at heights, and on excavation work.

In a cabinet paper on the issue, Lees-Galloway said the 2015 legislation helped improve the country's health and safety performance, but more recent data indicated complacency was setting in. 

Keenan was less supportive of the government's immigration policy - for which Lees-Galloway is also responsible - saying it has turned into "a nightmare of inflexibility and uncertainty" over the last two years and created a "wasted opportunity" at a time when New Zealand firms are struggling to hire skilled staff. 

"We have a backlog of workers waiting in countries of origin to be approved for travel by NZ Immigration; and as a board, we struggle to understand the reasoning behind the process."

In its annual report, the company noted the heightened global competition for migrant workers and said New Zealand employers still need to work harder to create a level playing field for filling permanent vacancies with foreign hires. 

AWF chief executive Simon Bennett told shareholders that the company had a disappointing year in the 12 months through March and was working to stabilise revenue and position it for conservative growth. 

That's included the acquisition of JacksonStone & Partners in May, which added executive recruitment to its white-and-blue-collar contract services. 

"The recruitment of a CEO will often lead to the opportunity to recruit other C-suite roles that a change in leadership may bring. Chief Executives drive business transformation, and with it, new programmes of work requiring new permanent and contingent resource - across the organisation the work can flow to Absolute IT, Madison and AWF potentially," he said. 

"Knowledge and input into these workflows gives us much better opportunity to gain future work."

AWF shares rose 1.1 percent to $1.77, and are up 8.6 percent so far this year. 


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