Following an earlier briefing with Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little MP, the NZALPA Conference was addressed by Labour Transport and Health and Safety spokesperson, Sue Moroney MP.
Moroney briefed delegates that, while politicians are not experts in aviation, they should play a role in determining what policies need to be developed and when intervention is required on certain issues.
Moroney congratulated NZALPA on its action over its safety concerns regarding the proposed runway extension at Wellington International Airport. She shared her concerns about helicopter and general aviation safety. This followed a recent appearance at the Transport Select Committee by WorkSafe, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority, who together were asked about progress. Moroney believed a frightening number of aviation accidents still need to be addressed as well as the poor implementation of recommendations from other investigations. She increasingly saw her role as putting pressure on regulators to make sure these recommendations were adhered to.
A major reason for this was that Labour, which marks its centenary this year, was founded on protecting the health and safety of workers. For the party it was fundamental that the interests of workers and their safety came ahead of profits. This, Moroney said, was “hardwired” into their DNA as many workplace issues came back to the need for safety.
Unknown to many, she explained, was that it took until 2007, through Labour legislation, when finally the rights for workers to rest breaks entered the law. It later became a bargaining tool under the current government and she hopes this fundamental right, which is also crucial to worker and public safety, will be reinstated with her Private Member’s Bill.
She also spoke about Labour’s Future of Work Commission and its concern about the ‘uber-isation’ of employment models that operate without fixed employment agreements. While the party supports the maximisation of technology for increased productivity and other benefits, it does not support throwing safety “under the bus” in the process. This included a response to ‘red tape’ as a barrier to business, leading to too much deregulation, including to safety requirements.
She likened this to Labour’s attitude on Open Skies policy. While Labour appreciates the policy does create great opportunities, it can see concerns for employee rights and safety. For Labour, it would support the concept, but it would not be Open Skies at all costs and wants a much more considered approach to its implementation and assurance that good protections are in place. Moroney urged NZALPA to get more involved in the greater government and lobbying space so the organisation’s ‘voice’ and concerns could be better heard.
Overall, Moroney said, a more integrated transport policy is required, which is not just about building more roads. She proposed the need for more freight to travel by rail and air. Even though the government had collectively spent $9 billion on new roadways in recent years, vehicle congestion has reached the point where Auckland has almost become an unliveable city, she said.
Moroney was surprised to hear about the financial disadvantage of pilots while both training and potentially in unstable roles once working in general aviation. She felt that generally there needed to be stronger collective bargaining and industry standards in place to stop an aviation industry “race to the bottom”.
Having recently announced its tertiary policy assistance for students, which would see the government paying for the first three years of tertiary fees, Moroney will be taking back information on the aviation student loan funding cap she learned at the NZALPA Conference and see if a solution under Labour can be found.
Similarly, with Labour adding the final points to their transport and aviation policy, the issue of pilot supply and training was very topical. Comparing it with similar issues with healthcare professionals, Moroney believes the solutions must lie in both industry collaboration and working with government to develop a better approach to workforce planning. In this case, Moroney said, leaving it to the market was not going to address the issues and that there was a need for the Government to be brave enough to step up and regulate where there is an essential need.