Unions want dismissal of stevedoring firm from charges challenged

'We are struggling to understand the logic behind the decision of the court''

Unions want dismissal of stevedoring firm from charges challenged

Port unions in New Zealand have made known that they want the court decision that dismissed a stevedoring company from health and safety charges to be challenged by the nation's industry regulator.

The case stems from an incident in 2018 that saw six workers whose lives were put in danger after they were trapped in a fume-filled toxic ship's hold, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Maritime New Zealand, the industry regulator, took the port logistics company that employed the workers to court for exposing their staff to the risk of serious illness or death.

It charged the firm for reportedly violating the Section 48 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

But last week, the Napier District Court dismissed the charges and let the company walk free - a decision the unions lambasted in a joint statement.

Craig Harrison, national secretary of the Maritime Union of New Zealand, said in a statement that the dismissal of the charges is an "error," and they are trying to understand the decision.

"It was a miracle that none of the workers involved died and there could have been multiple fatalities. We are struggling to understand the logic behind the decision of the court," said Harrison.

He further stressed that the decision sends a "bad message to the industry - that employers will not be held accountable for worker safety."

Read more: Employee falls to death at Ports of Auckland

In the same statement, Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson called the decision "unbelievable" given several employees were put in danger.

"It seems unbelievable this employer has walked away when a number of their workers were put in lethal danger due to what we see as multiple health and safety errors," said Butson.

According to the official, they want to see maritime NZ to appeal the decision made by the district court.

The nation's maritime industry was just under public and government scrutiny after two recent port fatalities back in April.

Butson said the port unions have been working with the Council of Trade Unions to improve the health and safety in the ports industry.

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