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Wellington workers

Written By: - Date published: 6:52 am, July 23rd, 2013 - 28 comments
Categories: business, health and safety, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

Amidst all the quake related news yesterday it would have been easy to miss this piece:

Confusion over worker pay after quake

Wellington CBD workers have been urged to defy bosses ordering them into the office today against Civil Defence warnings.

At least one person claims to have refused a request from their manager to travel into work in the quake-rattled CBD this morning.

The woman, who declined to be named, said her office was in a known quake-prone building in the city but her manager told her that customers came first.”My own safety comes first,” was her response.

That’s the only sensible response. Any employer applying pressure on Wellington workers to work in unsafe conditions – obviously including the observation of all official warnings – any such employer should be named and shamed.

But while workers have been told to stay away there is disagreement over exactly where they stand with their employer in an emergency.

The Council of Trade Unions argues workers should stay home in line with Civil Defence advice and their employer is obligated to pay them like any other day.

However the Employers and Manufacturers Association disagrees, claiming that while safety comes first, employers do not legally have to pay workers who do not work, even in the wake of a natural disaster.

Council of Trade Unions secretary Peter Conway said … ”In these situations, 99.5 per cent of employers do pay and look after their employees but we do get the odd one that doesn’t.”

Employers and Manufacturers Association spokesman Gilbert Peterson said … ”Technically employers don’t have to pay but that would be pretty unreasonable. If authorities are saying stay away then employers do need to consider that.”

Smaller / non-unionised workforces are most at risk, and it would be helpful to have a statement from government urging employers to do the right thing.

28 comments on “Wellington workers”

  1. Dem Young Sconies 1

    It’s just not yesterday that workers should be worried about. There are hundreds of buildings listed on the Wellington City Council’s website, as being likely to collapse in a moderate earthquake, causing death.

    (From the Building Act 2004)
    122Meaning of earthquake-prone building
    (1)A building is earthquake prone for the purposes of this Act if, having regard to its condition and to the ground on which it is built, and because of its construction, the building—
    (a)will have its ultimate capacity exceeded in a moderate earthquake (as defined in the regulations); and
    (b)would be likely to collapse causing—
    (i)injury or death to persons in the building or to persons on any other property;

    So remember, we are just talking about an event around the same size as Sunday’s. Another event of this size could see most of these buildings collapse catastrophically, killing potentially thousands of people. These peoples lives have been given no value. Landowners have decided that their profits are worth more than ensuring their buildings are safe to inhabit.

    These “yellow stickered” buildings are literally death traps, yet employers are more than happy to continue to put employees lives at risk, and residential landlords are also more than happy to put profits before the lives of tenants. Please, I implore everyone who is based in Wellington to check the councils website for their list of these buildings that are likely to collapse in a moderate earthquake. Don’t work or live in these death-traps. We need to put pressure on council to immediately red-sticker all the buildings that are currently on the earthquake prone register. Human life is too important for it to be considered reasonable to risk probable death in a moderate earthquake like Sunday’s event.

  2. Santi 2

    These “yellow stickered” buildings are literally death traps, yet employers are more than happy to continue to put employees lives at risk, and residential landlords are also more than happy to put profits before the lives of tenants.

    An incredible statement to make accusing employers and landlords. Give us the facts behind your injurious words, please.

    • TheContrarian 2.1

      My wife works in a red stickered building and her employer is very unhappy with it and is working with the landlord to either break the lease or improve the building. Your overly general statement I just that. Overly general and rubbish.

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.1.1

        “These yellow stickered buildings are literally death traps”

        Clearly your wife and her employer are in broad agreement with that statement.

      • Molly 2.1.2

        “My wife works in a red stickered building and her employer is very unhappy with it and is working with the landlord to either break the lease or improve the building.” so… what you are saying is that your wife (despite being unhappy) will continue to work in a council designated unsafe building.

        Why? Until someone signs a paper that cancels out another signed paper so that the business can relocate?

        Those flimsy bits of paper are not going to provide physical protection for her personally in the event of an earthquake. They provide only financial protection for the landlord and employer.

        This is the true dilemma that faces you and your wife. Not a discussion on generalities.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.2

      It’s called hyperbole, Santi. Shall we hold your frequent injurious comments to the same standard?

      • Santi 2.2.1

        Injurious to whom? Facts, please.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.2.1.1

          Let’s hold you to that standard too, shall we? Looking forward to well-sourced comments made in good faith from Santi.

          And then I woke up.

          • Santi 2.2.1.1.1

            You have lost the argument now.
            Even your fellow Dem Young Sconies says you’re deeply mistaken: It’s not hyperbole.

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.2.1.1.1.1

              You change your spots pretty quickly, don’t you, wormtongue?

      • Dem Young Sconies 2.2.2

        It’s not hyperbole. These are the words spelt out in government legislation, based on the expert advice of scientists and engineers. Collapse is likely for yellow-stickered buildings in a moderate event, and will result in the death of those building’s occupants. The only reason these buildings haven’t been strengthened is that profit has been put before people’s lives. End of story.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.2.2.1

          No: in many cases solvency, not wealth, has been put before safety.

          • Dem Young Sconies 2.2.2.1.1

            Personally I value human life over corporate solvency. I suppose we can’t expect the land-owning classes to act ethically, but it’s alarming that the government and council thinks it’s acceptable that a mere moderate shake is likely (i.e. a greater than 50% change) to level 1000 or so buildings in a city that has a high seismic risk. Acceptable enough to allow people to occupy these at risk structures. It is lunacy, and something I would have hoped a Green mayor would have been on top of, rather than her sounding like an apologist for earthquake prone building owners.

            • Dem Young Sconies 2.2.2.1.1.1

              and if any of the buildings on the list collapse, the building owners should be held personally responsible for the deaths. It’s not just corporate manslaughter (which should be on the legislative books), it’s murder when you know that your actions (or in this case inaction) has caused the death of others.

            • Colonial Viper 2.2.2.1.1.2

              The Crown should just spend the money into existence to subsidise the refurbishment of those buildings by say, 50%.

              Any building owners who still resist can have a 50% share of the building’s ownership forfeited to the Crown and the Crown can bring them fully up to standard.

              • Dem Young Sconies

                Well something has to be done, and although I favour it – compulsory government acquisition of quake prone buildings is unlikely to be a policy while neo-liberaalism reigns.

                I don’t favour a straight handout, but a government loan to building owners at favourable interest rates (better than the banks offer) would be an acceptable trade-off to bring the stock up to standard. Remember that building owners will get close to half of what they invest back as a tax deduction anyway (15% GST & they will expense the cost of the strengthening), so they shouldn’t need the government to give them more money on top of that!.

                I do endorse government money going into heritage buildings though – where strengthening needs to be done without diminishing heritage value.

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.2.2.1.1.3

              I agree that it is a community problem, that requires a community solution, despite the fact that that might result in some corporate welfare.

              Putting the whole risk onto building and business owners is unrealistic.

              • Draco T Bastard

                The building owners got the risk when they bought the buildings. What you’re actually saying is that expecting to pay for repairs is unrealistic despite the fact that that’s what they signed up for when they bought the buildings.

                This is nothing but an excuse for corporate welfare.

              • Murray Olsen

                If they happily shared their profits by way of paying their taxes instead of avoiding them, I’d feel a bit more inclined to help them. Part of why they claim profits is because they say they take risks. If they want the profits, let them keep the risks as well.

                • Dem Young Sconies

                  Yeah – on reflection, agree with you and Draco re: no help for the tax evading property owners. Just finished watching Campbell Live, and it underlined the calibre of the land owning scum in this country.

                  Something needs to be done now though before we have massive loss of life. I really think we should be pushing for compulsory acquisition by the State for the public good. Here’s how it could work:

                  (1) The government uses the public works act to acquire all earthquake prone buildings. Building owners are paid land value, minus the cost of demolition.

                  (2) All non-heritage buildings are immediately demolished, and the bare land used for new State housing, parks, public sector offices etc.

                  (3) All heritage buildings are faithfully restored and made 100% compliant with the current building code.

                  Of course nothing that would happen under the current government, but the sort of bold policy that would be popular with an electorate with public safety concerns. It would also be an opportunity for the government to create many new public spaces within the city and surrounding suburbs.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    It would be hugely popular.

                    Many property owners would also back it as a chance to get rid of old properties which are now uneconomic liabilities.

                    The NZ government would have to look at unorthodox funding schemes to pay for it however (up to and including issuing national currency)…buying and sorting out several billion dollars worth of buildings…

    • bad12 2.3

      Which bit of ‘Dem Young Sconies’ comment does your wee pea brain not understand, it seems as clear as hell that you would have to have some form of intellectual disability to not grasp the full meaning of the contents,

      (a),Council has list of buildings, both commercial and residential that have been assessed by engineers as in danger of collapse in a moderate to heavy earthquake,

      (b),Owners of these buildings who do not close these buildings and either bring them up to standard or demolish them are knowingly putting at risk the lives of anyone that uses these buildings…

  3. Molly 3

    Just had a quick look, 611 buildings as at 11th July 2013: PDF from Wellington City Council.

    • Veutoviper 3.1

      Thanks for that list, Molly – a bit of an eye opener indeed. And a useful resource as to where to avoid!

    • muzza 3.2

      Auckland Council are refusing to make the building list public, up here!

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