Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Minister softens over claims of rort in ACC workplace safety training

Judith Collins said the programme had 'all the hallmarks of a rort' which 'added very little for the money'. Photo / NZPA
Judith Collins said the programme had 'all the hallmarks of a rort' which 'added very little for the money'. Photo / NZPA

ACC Minister Judith Collins has eased off on suggestions workplace safety training run by the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) and Business NZ is a taxpayer rip-off, the union and employer organisations said yesterday.

ACC this week said it was ending a programme under which it pays $350 a head for the organisations to train employee representatives in health and safety practices.

The announcement came after the Taxpayers' Union highlighted the $19 million paid by ACC to the CTU, Business NZ and private provider Impac for the training since 2003 and said analysis found it was ineffective.

Ms Collins said the programme had "all the hallmarks of a rort" which "added very little for the money".

Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said his organisation "utterly rejects mistaken allegations made by lobbyist Jordan Williams since repeated by the ACC Minister".

"The Business NZ family's involvement has been completely ethical at all times."

The training part funded by ACC had been run according to the brief and was achieving the outcomes it was set up for, he said.

Business NZ had now received "assurances from the minister that she had not meant to impugn the integrity of the Business NZ family".

CTU President Helen Kelly said criticism of the training by Ms Collins was "essentially an anti-CTU attack to cover her cuts to training".

Pointing to the string of recent forestry industry fatalities, Ms Kelly said: "Because the Government's under pressure for their appalling health and safety record she tries to shoot the messenger".

However, she said Ms Collins had spoken to CTU Secretary Peter Conway and while she wouldn't apologise "she said she will no longer use the word rort".

Ms Collins last night confirmed she had spoken with Mr Conway and had agreed to try "not to use those words".

However she maintained the scheme had been "a complete waste of money and a disgrace".

- NZ Herald

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