New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations


New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations
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New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations
Volume 42  Number 2

In the latest New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations the following topics are covered. If you wish to read the full articles or download the entire NZJER issue you need to subscribe to the NZJER.

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Occupational Health & Safety: introduction to the collection
Fiona Edgar, Ian McAndrew, Alan Geare and Paula O'Kane
University of Otago

At 3.44 in the afternoon of Friday November 19, 2010, an explosion in the Pike River Mine on the West Coast of Aotearoa New Zealand’s South Island trapped 29 men underground. Following three additional explosions over the next 10 days, police accepted that the men could not be alive and attention turned from rescue to an unsuccessful effort at recovery. The disaster remains on the public consciousness seven years later, as families of the victims continue to press authorities for the mine to be entered and the bodies of their lost men finally recovered.

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015: Intention, Implementation and Outcomes in the Hill Country Livestock Farming Industry
Bronwyn Neal*


The recently enacted Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 applies across all New Zealand industries. The unique workplace environment and industry culture of the hill country livestock farming sector makes application, implementation and enforcement of the Act in this context uniquely challenging. In contrast to other industries, hill country livestock farming has an uncontained workplace complicated by family and public involvement. WorkSafe, as a “fair, consistent and engaged” regulator, seeks to establish health and safety as one of the industry’s key cornerstones, alongside lifestyle, profit and sustainability. Results to date have been undermined by WorkSafe’s conflicting enforcement, engagement and education functions. There is a perceived misplaced focus on enforcement of low probability, peripheral hazards rather than the key risks that cause accidents. This paper explains the implications of significant changes under the Act for the industry. It also recommends legislative adaptations to address the inadequacies of the farming exception in s 37. An alternative WorkSafe strategy that focuses on effecting compliance through supply chain demand and economic drivers rather than enforcement is outlined.

* Bronwyn Neal, LLBHONS/BCOM student at Victoria University of Wellington. This is an abridged version of the paper submitted for LAWS489 Honours Research Essay

Managerial attitudes toward the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015): An exploratory study of the Construction Sector
Taylor Sizemore*


The purpose of this research is to conduct an exploratory, qualitative study to examine the attitudes that managers in New Zealand’s construction industry have towards occupational health and safety and the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015). Additionally, this study aims to assess whether managers believe that the increases in managerial commitment and worker involvement required by the new legislation will improve the safety culture and performance within the construction industry. Method: Eight semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior or frontline managers of construction companies that were responsible for overseeing the health and safety function within their organisations. Results: This study suggests that the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) has forced managers within the construction industry to increase their commitment and employee involvement in occupational health and safety. Additionally it seems that the new legislation is beginning to create positive changes to the safety culture within the industry. Conclusion: The study has helped verify the government’s goal to utilise the new legislation to drive positive changes to New Zealand’s occupational safety culture to increase national safety performance. However managers highlight a number of barriers that may inhibit their ability to improve the safety performance within their organisations.

* Taylor Sizemore, Postgraduate student, University of Otago Business School

Under Pressure: OHS of Vulnerable Workers in the Construction Industry
Felicity Lamm*, Dave Moore**, Swati Nagar***, Erling Rasmussen**** and Malcolm Sargeant*****

The New Zealand construction industry provides a good illustration of the changing nature of work and the impact this has had on the occupational health and safety (OHS) of sub-contracted construction workers. In particular, we examine the vulnerability of workers in the context of the construction industry post-2010 Canterbury earthquakes. In doing so, we apply Quinlan and Bohle’s (2004; 2009) ‘Pressures, Disorganization and Regulatory Failure’ (PDR) model to frame the changing nature and organisation of work and the impact this has had on the OHS of sub-contracted construction workers. Finally, we discuss what can be done going forward in terms of creating a more effective regulatory regime and a safer and healthier industry.

* Assoc Prof Felicity Lamm, Centre for OHS Research AUT
** Dr Dave Moore, Centre for OHS Research AUT
*** Dr Swati Nagar, Centre for OHS Research AUT
**** Prof Erling Rasmussen, Department of Management, AUT
***** Prof Malcolm Sargeant, Department of Leadership, Work & Organisations, Middlesex University

The reasonably practicable test and work health and safety-related risk assessments
Christophen Peace*


The test of “so far as is reasonably practicable” (SFAIRP) arose from the mid-1800s in English common law to determine if a duty of care for work health and safety had been met. It was arguably most famously summarised in the case of Edwards v National Coal Board 1949, but has since been used in the UK Health and Safety at Work Act that has, in turn, given rise to similar legislation in other jurisdictions. Internationally, the SFAIRP test has been the subject of many common law and criminal law cases to determine if all that could reasonably be done had, in fact, been done. However, a literature search carried out as part of wider research found no discussion of the implied requirement in the test that a risk assessment be carried out as part of demonstrating that SFAIRP requirements had been met. This has become of some significance in New Zealand and Australia due to the passage of recent legislation founded on SFAIRP.

This article addresses this gap and then reviews what a risk assessment might include. Risk assessment processes and techniques (derived from international standards) that might satisfy a regulatory agency or the courts are then outlined and their use in practice is indicated from the findings of an online survey and related field work. These findings suggest a knowledge or practice gap that may reduce the effectiveness and acceptability of risk assessments. Some options for closing that gap are described.

The paper concludes with a discussion of some of the implications of ineffective risk assessments for the courts, directors, employers and workers.

* PhD student, School of Management, Victoria Business School Orauariki, Victoria University of Wellington

Discipline, Dismissal, and the Demon Drink: An Explosive Social Cocktail
Ian McAndrew*, Fiona Edgar**, and Trudy Sullivan***


Social drinking in the workplace forms an important part of our organisational identity. Considered a social lubricant, alcohol has become part of New Zealand’s social fabric. In the workplace, however, alcohol can often become the demon, responsible for behavioural impropriety. This over-indulgence often leads to embarrassment, but sometimes it extends to the more severe outcomes of discipline and even dismissal. It is also increasingly a focus of occupational health and safety regulation. Adopting a conversational yet serious stance, our paper explores the views and experiences of employers and employees as they relate to workplace social occasions. By cataloguing contemporary attitudes and profiling the pitfalls and the problems that arise when things go wrong, our paper concludes by proposing some sage advice for both parties.  

* Assoc Prof Dr Ian McAndrew, Department of Management, University of Otago
** Dr Fiona Edgar, Department of Management, University of Otago
*** Dr Trudy Sullivan, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago

Employment relations and the 2017 general election.
Erling Rasmussen

It has been a long tradition that this Journal presents an overview of the political parties’ employment relations policies when there is a general election. This issue contains two articles where the first article discusses the employment relations policies of the National Party and the Labour Party and the second article overviews the minor parties’ policies participating in this election: ACT Party, Green Party, Maori, NZ First, Mana Party, The Opportunities Party (TOP). Both articles highlight that this has been a rather unusual election campaign with a new Prime Minister (after PM John Key’s resignation in December 2016), and, over the last month, a new leader of the Labour Party, a leadership change in the Green Party and United Future not contesting the election.

The major parties: National’s and Labour’s employment relations policies
Barry Foster* and Erling Rasmussen**


This has already been an unusual election campaign with the two major parties sporting new leaders and a growing diversity in the two parties’ employment relations policies. There seems to be no major employment relations changes planned by the National Party and instead the National-led government’s recent reactive legislative interventions are overviewed. The Labour Party will support collective bargaining but its approach is short on practical details. It also plans more interventions and funding to support low paid workers and combat youth unemployment. An apparently dysfunctional labour market has highlighted immigration dependency, skill shortages, limited wage movements and youth unemployment and these issues will be confronting any new government after this general election.

* Barry Foster is a Lecturer in the School of Management, Massey University
** Erling Rasmussen is a Professor of Work and Employment at Auckland University of Technology

New Zealand’s minor parties and ER policy after 2017
Peter Skilling* and Julienne Molineaux**


Since New Zealand adopted a proportional representation electoral system in 1996, neither of the major parties have been able to form a government without the support of one or more of the minor parties. As such, understanding the likely trajectory of employment relations (ER) policy after this year’s election requires an understanding of the policy positions, the political priorities, and the potential power of the minor parties. In this article, we provide an overview of the positions of six minor parties contesting this year’s election who have a realistic chance of achieving seats in parliament. September 23 is shaping up to be the most interesting and unpredictable election night for many years. Leading the polls since 2006, and comfortably ahead of Labour just two months out from the election, many expected the National Party to be the largest party after the 2017 election. The question, at that stage, was whether National could form a government with their existing minor party partners, or whether they would need to rely on New Zealand First to gain a majority. Instead, Labour has been resurgent following a change of leader on August 1, just seven weeks from election day. Labour’s resurgence has closed the gap with National – some polls putting Labour ahead – and led to a corresponding drop in poll ratings for the two largest minor parties, the Greens and New Zealand First. We explore the opportunities and challenges that this uncertain and dynamic environment generates for the minor parties.

* Department of Management, Auckland University of Technology
** Policy Observatory, Auckland University of Technology

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