Workplace safety planning at managed isolation facilities is taking months to roll out by government officials. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has been in charge since July but health and safety committees have only just been established. A unionist says she had been 'terrified' for the low-paid cleaners and other quarantine workers early on, when PPE was lacking, but that now, at last, government officials are meeting their legal obligations to provide an official health and safety structure. More than four thousand staff work in managed Isolation and Quarantine, across 32 hotels, looking after 6,000 returnees at any one time. Unite's hotel organiser Shanna Reeder, whose 400 members mostly work in the 32 hotels, told RNZ investigative reporter Phil Pennington it's been a relief.
MBIE provided the following statement from a spokesperson for Managed Isolation and Quarantine:
"The safety of our staff in our managed isolation and quarantine facilities is critical to ultimately ensure the safety of our community.
"For this reason, our workers are trained in infection prevention controls, have daily health checks and regular testing. These safety protocols are in place to manage the risks for all our workers, as well as their families and communities.
"This agreement between MIQ and unions to work together is an important milestone and reflects both our commitment to creating a robust MIQ system to keep COVID-19 out of New Zealand and the importance of excellence in wellbeing, health and safety in the workplace for all of its workers.
"We look forward to working together in 2021 for the benefit of all staff to promote and support the systems and processes that enhance workers’ wellbeing, health and safety.
"The effective participation of workers and their unions across the entire workforce, whether directly employed or contracted, will assist in protecting the health and safety of the workforce and the health of the wider public.
"These workers are on the frontline of our defence against COVID-19 and we thank them for their hard work and commitment in protecting New Zealanders during this global pandemic," the spokesperson said.