A project is underway to lift the number of Maori Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) on worksites.
An initiative of our Runanga, Convenor Sharryn Barton says government figures show Maori are under-represented as HSRs.
“It’s very bad, given high Maori employment in health care, manufacturing, and other industries we represent,” says Sharryn. “Our people are being hurt and dying on the work site,” she says.
Sharryn says most Maori E tū members are women working in care and support, and public and commercial services. She says precarious work is now showing up as a big health and safety risk, particularly for mental health, with Waitangi Tribunal research revealing stress and anxiety are serious issues for these women.
“We had an example of a woman working in aged care and she was only getting five to 10 hours a week. She can’t go anywhere because she waits for the phone call to come in and work. She’s anxious all the time and she’s getting sick. It’s a health and safety issue but it’s also undermining of mana wahine,” says Sharryn.
IDEA Services HSR Fleur Jane, who is Maori, supports the drive for more Maori HSRs on worksites.
“I think it’s good to have Maori involved. Being Maori, they get a little bit shy and don’t say a lot about anything. It’s important to have someone to talk to and to help them if they want it and they tend to be more open with someone who’s Maori,” says Fleur.
She says New Zealand’s colonial history often means there are trust issues for Maori, who see the Pakeha way of doing things prevailing. However, she says things are improving, with another HSR joining her soon.
“Balance is a good thing. I’m the connection between management and staff for those sorts of things and hopefully things will start moving.”