14 Aug 2022

Gloriavale ordered to improve workplace safety standards

8:52 am on 14 August 2022

Gloriavale has been ordered to improve workplace safety standards again after a visit by inspectors, but no children were found working in the reclusive Christian community's commercial businesses.

A workplace safety regulator said Gloriavale was yet to address three of the nine improvement notices it had been issued with (file picture). Photo: Google Maps

WorkSafe assessors travelled to Gloriavale near Greymouth in May after a landmark Employment Court ruling that found three former members of the sect were employees from the age of six, working long hours on farms and in factories.

Inspectors issued nine improvement notices relating to the management of hazardous substances, machine guarding and traffic management at Haupiri.

The workplace safety regulator said Gloriavale had already complied with six notices, with the remaining three to be addressed by November.

WorkSafe did not say whether the inspectors notified Gloriavale of the May visit or arrived unannounced.

The workplace safety watchdog has now issued 19 improvement notices to four Gloriavale businesses since September 2020.

Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust manager Liz Gregory said she hoped the court ruling was a catalyst for better working conditions at the commune.

"Nine improvement notices means better safety conditions for a whole lot of workers in Gloriavale," she said.

The Employment Court found Levi Courage, Hosea Courage and Daniel Pilgrim did strenuous, difficult and sometimes dangerous work at Gloriavale, where children were hit, denied food or publicly shamed if they did not work hard or fast enough.

Six former Gloriavale women - Serenity Pilgrim, Anna Courage, Rose Standtrue, Crystal Loyal, Pearl Valour and Virginia Courage - have brought a second case to determine if they were employees or volunteers, to be heard over three weeks from 29 August.

Gregory told RNZ's Kim Hill Gloriavale leavers want protection and a better life for family members who remain there.

"Leavers aren't standing up and fighting because they feel sorry for themselves about what happened to them," she said.

"They're fighting for their families still living inside because they don't think they should have to put up with that."

Gloriavale's leaders issued an unprecedented public apology in May for failing to protect victims of labour exploitation and sexual abuse.

They said their current health and safety policy did not permit children to enter its commercial business sites and stated "categorically" that child labour was no longer used.

Chinese-owned Westland Milk announced in June that it would stop collections from three farms following the court ruling, prompting Gloriavale's Canaan Farming Dairy to seek a High Court injunction.

Westland agreed to continue collecting Canaan's milk until the court made a final ruling.

WorkSafe said it was planning follow-up assessments.

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