Four hotels used as managed isolation and quarantine facilities have been issued with enforcement notices in areas considered critical to keeping Covid-19 out of New Zealand.
It has brought a call for the country to show support for workers at the hotels whose jobs "on the frontline" often come with minimum or low wages.
It has also seen National Party Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop urge the Government to get an independent audit of New Zealand's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system.
"We are going to have this [virus] with us for quite some time. These facilities are our first line of defence against Covid getting into our communities."
WorkSafe has revealed it took enforcement action for physical distancing issues, issues over training in putting on and taking off personal protective equipment, and for contractor management.
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The enforcement action took place in August after a nationwide review of facilities but has only been made public now after repeated questions to WorkSafe from the Herald.
It comes amid focus on the Pullman Auckland Hotel outbreak where three people have left managed isolation infected with the contagious South African Covid-19 strain even though they completed their two-week quarantine period.
The Pullman Auckland Hotel was not one of those that attracted WorkSafe's enforcement action.
Those facilities were the Naumi Hotel Auckland over physical distancing issues, the Grand Millennium Hotel Auckland and Rydges Hotel Auckland for issues around training in taking off and removing PPE, and the Grand Mercure Hotel Wellington for contractor management.
WorkSafe's head of general inspectorate, Jo Pugh, said the enforcement action was over "lower level matters" and the issues raised were promptly fixed by hotel management.
"This is an unprecedented time and businesses are adopting and implementing changes to their policies and procedures to ensure staff are kept safe.
"What we are seeing is a genuine desire and attempt from most businesses to take appropriate action to manage the risk associated with Covid-19."
WorkSafe gave notice it was planning checks at managed isolation facilities ahead of the August visits. The enforcement action at the four sites resulted in "sustained compliance letters", of which it issued 1287 in 2019. The letters put businesses on notice that failure to fix issues could result in prosecution.
A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman said 4000 people worked on "any given day" in New Zealand's 32 managed isolation facilities.
"They do a fantastic job. Every day they selflessly put themselves between us and this virus. Their safety and the safety of those staying in our facilities are our top priority."
Unite Union industrial organiser John Crocker said there had been only slow progress towards health and safety systems for workers at MIQ facilities.
Even so, he said only three MIQ staff had contracted Covid-19.
"It took months for worker engagement to come to the fore. Health and safety took a backseat."
Crocker said the delay reflected the pressure on the facilities and Government to develop a system as the pandemic took hold. He said he understood why there were short-term failings but "in a long-term sense, worker engagement is critical".
He said the principles of health and safety legislation should have been applied earlier, as they were now, with election to and organisation of staff committees. He said the main concern had been a lack of clarity around process.
"If something is slipping up or wrong and [staff] are not clear about process, they can't point it out."
Crocker said greater recognition was needed for those who worked at MIQ.
"They work very differently to us. They're right on the coal face and are our frontline protection."
The recognition should extend to paying a "living wage" to those workers on the minimum wage, he said. The current "living wage" was an hourly rate of $22.10, up from the minimum wage of $18.90 (increasing to $20 on April 1).
Crocker said he would also like to see communities embrace the work done by MIQ staff. He said he had been told of people being isolated by communities or groups of friends, and of workers trying to avoid telling others what they did for a job.
He said WorkSafe's review of MIQ facilities was positive but he urged the agency to be more proactive and to conduct more frequent reviews.
National's Bishop said it was disappointing WorkSafe had not made public the findings of its August review at the time. He said it fit a pattern of important information being released to the public later than the first opportunity to do so.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health confirmed yesterday there was just one new case of Covid-19 in managed isolation. But there were no new community cases.