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Unions’ legal action against forestry companies

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) in New Zealand is taking legal action against two forestry companies over the deaths of workers. Source: Radio New Zealand, TVNZ

A series of coronial inquests was due to begin in May this year into eight recent deaths in the logging industry, but some of those hearings are now on hold to allow for possible court action.

The CTU said there have been 32 forestry deaths since 2008.

While WorkSafe NZ could not attribute the death of Tokoroa forestry worker Charles Finlay on his employer, the CTU believes there is culpability.

Ona De Roy from WorkSafe New Zealand said she could not comment on why the regulator didn’t prosecute.

She said that since the organisation started a campaign on forestry safety in August last year, at least 25 crews have been told to stop work immediately because of concerns.

Ms De Roy said WorkSafe is concerned by the level of non-compliance throughout the country.

A lawyer specialising in workplace safety said WorkSafe has been afraid to take risks and needs to take more prosecutions against companies who breach safety legislation.

The CTU has sought leave from the court to prosecute Finlay’s employer, M & A Cross Ltd, as well as Whakatane’s Puketi Logging, which employed 19-year-old Eramiha Pairama, who was killed by a falling tree last January.

CTU president Helen Kelly expects the “unusual” move will become more common in the forestry industry.

Once leave was granted, the CTU is to conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether a prosecution could be successful.