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In memoriam . . . A memorial to all workers killed on the job was unveiled on Sunday at the corner of Port Loop and Marine Pde. PHOTOS: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

Workers killed on the job were remembered in Timaru over the weekend, as a memorial stone was unveiled.

The Workers’ Memorial Day event was held on Sunday at the corner of Port Loop and Marine Pde where the stone has been placed.

Rail and Maritime Transport Union South Island organiser John Kerr said the memorial had been a collaborative project between the union, PrimePort Timaru, Quality Marshalling Timaru and KiwiRail.

The memorial plaque

More than 20 New Zealanders have died on the job in the first three months of this year, WorkSafe New Zealand records show.

The organisation recorded 22 fatal work-related incidents in the three months of 2019 ending March 31, however these exclude road crashes, along with deaths in the maritime or aviation sectors.

The latter two are recorded and investigated by Maritime New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority, respectively.

WorkSafe recorded 42 work-related fatalities in 2018, but Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff estimated 55 working Kiwis died at work last year.

“We challenge employers to do more to keep those they employ safe at work,” Mr Wagstaff said.

Mr Kerr said work deaths, whether it was an accident at a port, in a factory or on the farm, always had a big impact on those that knew the person.

“The ripples that go out into a community . . . they’re enormous.”

Mr Kerr said he was “really pleased” with the turnout of about 15 people, including Timaru’s deputy mayor Richard Lyons, union members and other workers, along with representatives from PrimePort, KiwiRail and Quality Marshalling.

“The ripples that go out into a community . . . they’re enormous.”

While it was a “small start” he was “absolutely delighted” by the initial turnout, particularly as the union had started a similar event in Napier about a decade ago.

The first event had drawn about 20 attendees but now attracted more than 300 people for the annual event, he said.

Mr Kerr said while praise from “an unionist” towards a company was rare, he gave “full credit” to the management of the companies involved with the memorial.

The union had been talking about the memorial for several years, but the “catalyst” had been during union negotiations with the companies, he said.