Following the attack by Judith Collins on the CTU and Business NZ Health and Safety Training we have had lots of interest in how the courses we run are recognised and funded etc.
The NZCTU has been running the courses on contract to ACC since 2003. Worker participation and Health and Safety Reps are a fundamental and vital component of the overall health and safety regulatory system as the 2012 Task Force acknowledged.
The training has been undertaken at considerable cost to the CTU in management and other costs. More than 30,000 HS Reps have been trained.
The CTU became involved in 2003 because the DOL took no steps, as the Government regulator responsible for the HSE Act, to promote, recognise or train the HS Reps introduced by the 2002 HSE Act amendment. To its credit the ACC agreed to a joint venture with the CTU to do so. Business NZ was added as a provider after the ACC/CTU training programme was successfully promoted and established.
The ACC/CTU training has had several very positive evaluative assessments . Managers and Supervisors have been welcomed to the training and have also been positive about the training.
In 2008 ACC decided to tender the training out and issued a Request for Proposals (RFP).
Of course with our history and interest we provided a tender proposal and participated in the process. The reality was those at ACC at the time had no commitment to Union lead health and safety training and the ideology at the time (still existent) was that somehow these representatives operated in a vacuum from the power relationships in a workplace that actually need support to overcome. The same panic we are seeing now in the Supermarket inquiry (will suppliers feel free to submit in the power imbalance between them and the supermarket chains?) applies at double strength to workers.
I remember we got through the first round tender process and then heard it was likely ACC would dump both BusNZ and CTU and go with a “neutral” third provider – still in the market – Impac Training. We voiced our concerns strongly, and it was recognised that unions actually provided training to a different group of workers than Business NZ or Impac would and that without tripartite participation in this important area of training, it was a “risk” to ACC to simply focus on one provider. Our other concern was that of the three providers – we were (and still are) the only provider that does not charge an additional charge on top of the ACC funds provided for the job. Our view was employers pay the leave, ACC pays the cost and we provide the training – it was a fair enough balance.
Eventually ACC also agreed that three providers was a safe way to go and the NZCTU had a legitimate role in providing training to workers who were elected as health and safety reps (and we subsequently have trained over 200 ACC reps on our programmes). The awarding of contracts to the three providers resulted in a collaboration between us all to deliver a high quality training programme that ensured sufficient capacity in the system to meet the demand for rep training, meant each of the three providers could play to its strengths and enabled some competition in the system (which ACC thought was an important part of having more than one provider).
Over the last few years the contracts have changed since that first tender including constant reductions in the numbers of trainees we are funded to train and a narrowing down of the industries where trainees can be trained from (forestry, construction, agriculture, trucking and manufacturing). The consequence we imagine, is that many workers now miss out on the training they need to use their powers in the Health and Safety Act (which requires attendance at a course approved by the Minister of Labour).
Our contract to train has been renewed for another year (see a previously released contract here – we are happy to release the new one which is very similar but with reduced numbers, but we need ACC agreement to do this). But there is also a process that started last year to develop an expanded and/or new model for health and safety rep training consistent with the legal changes coming down the line in the Government’s programme to strengthen health and safety. The CTU on behalf of workers given their vital interest in this has had numerous meetings with the Government last year and this year including WorkSafe about what scheme, under new health and safety law, is needed to ensure trained workers health and safety representatives across NZ industry are truly able to work in their workplaces to make them safe – that is a tricky question and requires a range of solutions in our view.
The Minister called our courses a rort and a scam despite us meeting our deliverables, ACC itself having put 200 reps through and the Minister of Labour approving and Gazetting the programme. We don’t expect it will be her last attack on us and her mate Jordan Williams does those 30,000 trained reps a great disservice by supporting her attacks. We have written to TVNZ about their liability broadcasting the Ministers defamation of us and this will either fuel the fire or they will do the thing any reasonable State Broadcaster would do and apologise. Time will tell.
We anticipate further attacks by those that don’t want workers to know their health and safety rights and this blog is intended to set out the issues clearly for when and if that occurs (so bear with me!)