Missed target for workplace inspections lets workers down

A sudden drop in the number of workplace interventions by the Labour Inspectorate suggests that the Government isn’t doing enough to support the basic rights of people at work, the Green Party said today.

Interventions to ensure compliance with minimum workplace relations standards fell 25 percent from 2,500 last year to just 1,851 this year, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s annual report. This year’s unmet target was 2,500-3,000 interventions.

“Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse needs to explain why suddenly his Labour Inspectors aren’t intervening to fix unfair working conditions, underpayment, and other problems as often as they’re supposed to,” Green Party workplace relations and safety spokesperson Denise Roche said.

“I’ve heard that unless there are big numbers of staff affected, the inspectors often don’t intervene.

“Every working person should be able to have faith that if their employer is breaking the rules, underpaying them, or refusing to write them a contract then the Government will step in and uphold their work rights.

“New Zealand has just one Labour Inspector for every 56,800 people, whereas Australia has one for every 19,390 people.

“It’s really important that the Government targets dodgy employers who are breaking the rules on a large scale, but individual working people also need to have confidence that the Labour Inspectors have got their backs.

“When 171,000 people don’t even have a written contract and exploitation of migrant workers is so often in the headlines, it’s unbelievable that the Government seems to have cut back on enforcing employment laws.

“With declining union membership, workers are left vulnerable without the protection of a union or the Labour Inspectorate.

“Labour Inspectors need to be proactive and intervene when the law’s being broken,” said Ms Roche.

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