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Workers Denied Access to Information

Written By: - Date published: 11:10 am, January 25th, 2014 - 29 comments
Categories: articles, health and safety, Media, Unions, workers' rights, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , ,

There is a magazine in NZ for logging.  The  NZ Logger magazine .

It has published attack after attack on us in its monthly editions since about August of last year.  You have to read them to believe them.  Industry players and Editorials suggesting we are the problem in forestry safety!  One even suggested UNIONS were exploiting workers in the industry through our safety campaign.

I contacted the Editor to ask for a right of reply.  His initial response to a simple request was a no and included:

We have moved away from the politics and the finger-pointing and I’ve asked those who supply material to us, including FICA, to take this on board, otherwise we risk turning off the very people we want to engage with, in order to make their workplaces much safer.

I suggested I could write an article without “politics and finger-pointing” and did so!

The Editor made some minor changes, sent them to me to approve (which I did), and I expected it to run this month.

Yesterday I get an email saying:

Just a quick note to let you know that I am unable to use your article in the February issue. Space was one problem, but also with the changes to the Terms of Reference, it became quickly outdated and that’s always a problem for a monthly magazine. The other point raised by my publisher was that it seemed the article was intended to drive people to the FIRST website, not to the actual Terms of Reference page. The forest is under huge pressure right now and that in itself is creating safety issues with so much attention focused on everyone and our aim is to try and provide practical steps for them to keep themselves safe on a day-to-day basis.

I wrote back saying they should run the article and it was still up-to-date.  It was made clear they would not and probably never will and included:

The fact that my publisher believed the main purpose of the article was to drive people to tour the website was his opinion, but nowhere near being the governing factor as it could have been amended. I am waiting to see what happens over the coming weeks and how to reflect that in a magazine that has information written up to 4 weeks before it hits the news stands (sometimes more for feature articles). It is quite different from a daily or hourly news outlet. Against that, I have to balance what the aims of the magazine are and take into account our long-term partnerships with key organisations in the industry.

There are a lot of good things that happen in this industry and those people, many of whom are ordinary workers, not bosses or forest owners, are very hurt by some of the things that are being said. If we are not careful we are going to throw the baby out with the bath water and destroy a great industry that provides jobs for thousands. Yes we all want to see people rewarded better for what they do and many, in fact, are benefitting from more enlightened employers who do pay above average and provide a lot of other compensations that outsiders seems to overlook (personal work vehicles, transport to and from home to their place of work, clothing, insurance, paying for driving tests, and more). Yes more can and should be done on the wages front and it will happen. But people don’t respond positively to threats and I am one of those.

You can read the article yourself and I hope you will circulate it as well.  Not because it is a brilliant article (it is not!) but because workers are entitled to information and without a union, they are completely reliant on the communication made available to them.  If they are to genuinely participate and have a voice in this industry and to join the campaign for safe work, then they need to be able to get past the rhetoric and scare mongering of a magazine like this and access real information about it.

 

29 comments on “Workers Denied Access to Information ”

  1. gem 1

    Disgraceful. This is thuggish behaviour by the industry mag. Thanks for writing it up, and keep up the good work.

  2. adam 2

    Bloody Hell Helen, can you bend over any more, can you be any more moderate, indeed, can you be any nicer. See your in the wrong again by wanting people not to die in the workplace, you’re getting in the way of profits.

    OK sarcasm aside, this is an industry that don’t give a damn about workers or their safety. They know the problem and the chose to ignore it – I thought that was called criminal neglect, but hey I’m just a dumb lefty. I also thought if a publication actively promoted dangerous workplace practices, that led to a death, then are they not libal also?

    Oh wait, that right – this is New Zealand, land of corporate rights and screw anyone who gives a damn about a safe workplace.

  3. xtasy 3

    You did not seriously think they would take you that serious and offer you a voice in a publication that is the ONLY one catering for the “logging industry” and that is part of a privately run ‘Alled Publications Ltd’ business, that “works closely with the various “industry business sectors””? Did you, Helen?

    See this from their “about us” page:
    http://www.nzlogger.co.nz/about-us.html

    “Allied Publications Ltd works closely with these various industry business sectors to ensure that all our publications are strong, relevant and accurate.

    NZ Logger is an integrated media brand delivering local and global information.

    NZ Logger Magazine is the only magazine currently in the Logging Industry. NZ Logger aims to keep you more up to date more often with the most current news and information in this area, under scored by the development of our digital platform including this website and Forest Talk.”

    They will be living from not just sales of the magazines, but also off ADVERTISING, right? And who will be paying for their advertising? The businesses that work in the industry!!!

    So Helen, wakey, wakey, same to all unionists, the “nice” and friendly “talk about it” approach may need to be seen as an outdated approach of the past. Have workers not seen and experienced what happened over the last two and a half decades? This is exactly where the Minister as one other smart alec, greasy operator fits in, he wants to pull unions over the table, so to say, only talk with them on his and National’s terms, which again is more interested in yet more logs cut, loaded and shipped offshore to China and other places, than in bringing in more regulation to ensure better working conditions and safety.

    Sadly though, we have so much contracting of individual small operators into various single contracts and sub-contracts, it is a bit like the courier delivery industry, is it not? Many individuals fighting for their own survival and competing with each other, all too scared to bite the hand that feeds them.

    Time to bring back industrial employment legislation that sees to it that unions can organise and will also have to be given access and a voice, to gain members. Time for the workers involved to question what goes on, and to pressure the government and Labour, as the party supposed to look after them, to bring in new systems, where workers may not be exposed to modern day slave conditions. Enough is enough, I’d say.

    And bring back decent, well resourced, more balanced public broadcasting (with web services also), offering INFORMATION and news, we no longer seem to be getting. Hence all this crap cheer-leading of our greasy, cunning “leader” John Key. Is this still a “democracy”, or is only some selected information tolerated these days, that is favouring the government and industry business lobbies?

  4. Helen, short of shutting every logging site down and calling a collective meeting, I thought using an in-house magazine would have been the most logical way to address issues without inciting your members.
    It’s bloody obvious we’ve got huge problems here in New Zealand in the forestry industry. Pretending they don’t exist is doing no one any favours. Any munter with half a brain would be saying, what can we do to improve things, otherwise people will stop showing up on the door-step looking for jobs.
    Still with Simon Bridges as the Minister of Labour, what hope is there for any sanity?

  5. bad12 5

    NICE, what the editor of this logging magazine seems to be saying is that if everyone just goes away, forgetting that ‘the industry’ is in effect murdering it’s workers the deaths will stop,

    As of this week the number of ‘operations’ in the forest closed down for safety reasons is what, 13 or 30 i actually forget, along with the vast array of ‘notices’ issued against individual contractors working the forest this simply screams ‘unsafe’,

    It appears that the deaths are occurring across the spectrum of workers, both experienced and inexperienced, but, it might be educative to have a look at this to see if any pattern exists,

    Having done a bit of pruning and thinning as part of a ‘work trust’ another life time ago i know that the amount of training any of us received was zero and there is probably scant regard given to any robust training of new recruits in today’s forestry industry,

    i have a long held belief that at a certain point of (low) income all workers should be compulsorily unionized and as this gold rush in the forestry industry has continued unabated my belief has extended to there being a mechanism by which the Government or relevant employment court should have the ability to declare any industry,(or part of one), to be a dangerous industry requiring compulsory union membership of all it’s employees…

  6. RedBaronCV 6

    A worthwhile government would shut the industry down entirely at this point until the owners could prove they are doing it right.
    And as they shut it down they would enable workers in the industry to take a lien over enough trees to ensure that they are paid.
    And then pay out to the workers the amount they would have earned.
    Then when the trees are safely logged the amount can be paid back into government coffers.

    BTW where is ACC – owner premiums should be through the roof or they should have declared the owners uninsurable by now.

    • millsy 6.1

      I wouldnt be suprised if ACC own some of the forests now. They seem to have their sticky fingers in everything — dodgy rental income deal, private prisons, toll roads you name it…

  7. PapaMike 7

    Surely some control of the Logging Industry is necessary to prevent further deaths.
    This can only be achieved by some form of central organisation – one Logging employer, which would be able to undertake strict operational controls, which appear to be non existent at present.

  8. KJT 8

    This is nothing new.

    Back in the 70’s the CTU’s predecessor prepared material for schools on workers rights and responsibilities, credit and banking, and a few other things that all children entering the work force should know. Straight out factual stuff, nothing doctrinaire.

    It was scotched by employers unions, banks and the Government.

    Apparently knowing you could join a union, have a right to correct pay and the high costs of short term credit, was not something workers are supposed to know.

    Official history is still very silent on the social and economic advances due to the Labour movement.

    How many people know how Labour Day came about.
    And that collective action for a 40 hour week, such as Sam Parnell’s, would be illegal today.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      Apparently knowing you could join a union, have a right to correct pay and the high costs of short term credit, was not something workers are supposed to know.

      People having the full information will cause the people to demand that the system be changed. I believe that this is especially true of the banking system. But that information is slowly getting out there and, IMO, will eventually bring about the necessary changes so that the banking system no longer rips us off. The banksters will try to prevent that of course.

      • AmaKiwi 8.1.1

        When were bankers ever NOT in the business of ripping us off?

        Their only purpose is to sell us a highly addictive drug: credit.

        If they can’t convince you to acquire something you can’t afford, you don’t borrow and they don’t collect interest.

        How will I get high today? Alcohol? Drugs? Gambling? Shopping?

        • AmaKiwi 8.1.1.1

          The world economy is an accelerating train wreck because since WW II countries, corporations, and individuals have borrowed more money than we can ever possibly re-pay.

          For more information read about what happened before WW II. It’s called the Great Depression.

        • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1.2

          When were bankers ever NOT in the business of ripping us off?

          That’s not the problem preventing the necessary changes. the problem is that people don’t realise, due to lack of information, that the banks are ripping us off.

          The world economy is an accelerating train wreck because since WW II countries, corporations, and individuals have borrowed more money than we can ever possibly re-pay.

          Yep, quite aware of that too and, again, that information needs to be widely circulated.

          • AmaKiwi 8.1.1.2.1

            “The problem is that people don’t realise, due to lack of information, that the banks are ripping us off.”

            Do we want to know? Do we want to know NZ has not had a positive balance of payments in over 30 years? That can only happen with easy credit. Cut off all the credit, let us buy only what our exports can pay for, and our NZ lifestyle would be that of 30 or 40 years ago. Who will agree to that?

            As for information about the dangers inherent in today’s economy, my experience is people do NOT want to know. I warned people in 2007. I said sell what you don’t need (yacht, second home, fancy car) and get out of debt. Deafness. No one wanted to know.

            We convince ourselves we make rational decisions. I have my doubts. I think we are closer to being a flock of sheep than we realise.

            • Xtasy 8.1.1.2.1.1

              And Argentina, plus a few other countries, are just once again learning that lesson, a painful one. Simply printing more money will not solve the problems, if you depend on exports and imports, and thus are exposed to the IMF, the World Bank, the trading and investment banks, the rating agencies and more.

              http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/25/world/americas/argentina-eases-currency-controls-but-citizens-are-not-reassured.html?_r=0

              This is just a glimpse, of more to come, and it is happening in many places, the BRIC countries are slowly having to “re-adjust”, the global financial system is facing another crisis, and China and India will be playing a big part in all this too, in the coming months.

              Hey, keep on “trusting” John Key and his crap talk, the whole world is heading into “uncharted territory”, so prepare for a real dipper in the economic outlook rather soon. It may even help Labour?!

            • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1.2.1.2

              Most people do, as a matter of fact, want to know that they’re being ripped off. They may not believe it at first, it has been happening for centuries and nobody’s said anything before, but just keep putting the evidence out there and eventually they will come to believe.

    • bad12 8.2

      KJT, how true that is, how many people in today’s vast New Zealand middle class even realize that they arrived in such a privileged position because of compulsory unionism and the fight those unions and their members continued over decades to raise the wages and working conditions of their members…

  9. Xtasy 9

    Here is an interesting article by Brian Gaynor in the NZ Herald today:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11191633

    I know, he is one of the share-market players and investment consultant, but he has a profound knowledge of the NZ business sectors, and here he describes the dilemma New Zealand faces with lack of investment in value added production, using forestry as an example.

    It is typical of the short term thinking in much of New Zealand economic planning, and for decades New Zealanders have had to pay the price for an economy that is more focused on delivering commodities for use and value adding overseas, rather than do more here. And in forestry so much is now foreign owned and controlled, leaving it for the Kiwi workers to just do the dangerous, basic work, to cut, transport and ship the logs off.

    He is warning that the dairy sector could face the same the forestry sector has gone through, if dairy will not develop and invest in value added production.

    There is mention of the pressures on contractors and workers in his article, which I must recommend for reading.

    • geoff 9.1

      Value-added economics is pointless if the increased profits go straight into the pockets of people like Brian Gaynor, ie the already wealthy.

      Of much greater importance is the resuscitation of workers’ rights in NZ so that we may have the bargaining power to claim our rightful share of the profits.

      • Xtasy 9.1.1

        We certainly need both, added value production of more sophisticated, quality products AND better working conditions and wages, they can certainly go hand in hand, and one does not need to rule out the other!

        And a fairer taxation regime, that will see to it that the ones like share investors and other owners, pay their share towards a better functioning society.

        • geoff 9.1.1.1

          That’s fine but I so often see those on the right use the ‘value-added’, ‘increased productivity’ arguments to imply that addressing those problems alone, and nothing else, would solve the low wage problem in New Zealand.

          Which, as you clearly understand, is complete bullshit.

  10. thechangeling 10

    Helen I thought your article was a very moderate, plain, clear, simple and down to earth critique of what the problems are and what needs to be done to address them.
    I think the forestry owners and industry (the defacto owners of the magazine) are extremely afraid of having their power, control and profits reduced in any way and will furiously resist any incremental regulative change from coming their way (which is what the article articulates via debate and discussion).
    I don’t think serious and enduring change will occur in the forestry industry until Labour/Greens get back into Government later this year or in 2017 because National will ‘talk the talk’ in order to appear as if something is being done, but behind the scenes will oppose any type of real regulation from being implemented in support of the very close links and vested interests their MPs have with business (Business Roundtable, EMA etc) all around New Zealand.

  11. RedLogix 11

    The truckies were pretty much the same – an industry riddled with macho cowboys boofheads who’d take whatever risks in order to cut costs and corners. Until the cops came down hard with specialised units whose sole task was to curb the worst excesses and ensure some level of compliance with basic regulation.

    Forestry will remain the same until the a comparable level of policing is introduced. Or a serious corporate manslaughter law.

  12. saarbo 12

    Keep up the great work Helen (also the brave work you are doing for farm workers!). Real cowboy stuff from this Industry Mag….disgusting. Money comes before workers lives for these arseholes. Take the gloves off.

  13. millsy 13

    I blame the dismantling of the NZ Forest Service and the privatisation of forests (via the sale of cutting rights) by its SOE successor for where we are now.

  14. Xtasy 14

    Logger, slogger, working for the slave flogger, I suppose, that is what it has come to.

  15. martin 15

    I load out ban on forestry product might make them clean up their act.

    • Malcolm 15.1

      It would be in defiance of the law though. Secondary action is illegal under the ERA.

      Will a new Labour government make secondary industrial action legal again?

      A question I’m sure Labour politicians are falling over themselves to answer!!!

      Andrew Little? Darien Fenton?

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