In Harm's Way: A case study of Pacific Workers in Manukau Manufacturing
The research utilised a mixed-method approach. In summary, the key research activities included:
- qualitative interviewing of Pacific workers, which involved interviewing 40 staff members of major manufacturing companies in the Manukau area
- qualitative interviewing of a range of employers (generally from the companies that provided staff members for the research)
- a literature review, covering occupational health for migrant and ethnic minority communities
- thematic analysis of the responses to the qualitative interviewing; nVivo software was used where possible, and coding for the analysis was based on the question structure
- statistical analysis of injury claims using ACC data and denominated by Household Labour Force Survey data, which was used to establish claim rates for Pacific people and other ethnic comparator groups.
3.1 Research with Pacific People
Given the focus of the research, engagement with Pacific communities was considered key in this project. The majority of Pacific representatives in the research were from Samoa, and this influenced the method and structure of the data collection. Worker interviews were conducted by a Samoan researcher, which meant the 30 Samoan workers were able, if they chose, to conduct their interview in Samoan. Ideally, a researcher from each country would have been employed, but given the limited resourcing for the study this was not possible. The Samoan researcher was expected to ensure that his practices with the remaining 10 workers interviewed were culturally appropriate and sensitive to any applicable protocols.
The research was developed in collaboration with Pacific researchers and other stakeholders. This involved:
- Pacific representation on the project management team
- the establishment of a reference group to provide the project team with advice and guidance; the Reference Group consisted of Pacific and non-Pacific researchers, health and safety field staff, and union representatives (Pacific worker representatives also contributed to the Reference Group)
- consultation with Department of Labour internal stakeholders, the Labour Pacific Advisory Group, ACC, and Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union (EPMU) operational staff and their management
- consultation with the Clinical Director, Pacific (Ministry of Health); health professionals in Manukau; and Pacific and non-Pacific academics
- contracting an emerging Pacific researcher (Moses Faleolo, a PhD candidate at the time of the research) to carry out and analyse the worker interviews (some emphasis was placed on the researcher's ability to understand or speak a Pacific language)
- incorporation of the guidelines for research with Pacific peoples published by Ministry of Social Development's Social Policy Evaluation and Research Committee into the research process, which cover respect, integrity, responsiveness, competency, and reciprocity.
3.2 Project Objectives and Questions
The project was established to develop an understanding of the causal influences on the injury rate experienced by Pacific workers in the manufacturing sector. It did this by considering such variables as:
- the attitudes of Pacific workers to health and safety
- relationships with employers
- power differentials
- cultural values
- literacy proficiency
- migration influences on health and safety.
The findings from the research were intended to better inform operational policies and the development of health and safety interventions, including:
- recommendations that could assist in the development of a best practice model of working with Pacific people in health and safety
- information that would better inform health and safety policies and workplace practices as they applied to Pacific people.
To provide a framework for the development of specific questions, two key objectives were established. They are oriented towards building an evidence-based understanding of the factors that influence Pacific worker workplace behaviour and, with an awareness of those factors, gaining information that will contribute to injury-reduction policies and interventions. The objectives and specific research questions are set out below.
Key objective 1: To understand the causal influences on the injury rate experienced by Pacific people in an applied setting
Specific research questions
- Do Pacific people experience a higher rate of injury than their exposure to risk would indicate? How does claiming behaviour affect the estimate of harm?
- Is the injury profile of Pacific people (in terms of seriousness) different from other ethnicities?
- What are the influences of English-language proficiency and literacy on health and safety practices in the workplace?
- How do power differentials affect positive health and safety behaviours in the workplace?
- To what extent do Pacific cultural values and attitudes (for example, respect for authority/hierarchy) contribute to their likelihood of being injured at work?
- What is the attitude of Pacific workers to health and safety practices? Why are they how they are?
- What can other research with Pacific people tell us about the cultural and behavioural overlays that may affect health and safety practices?
- How does the style of communication between employers and employees affect health and safety behaviours?
- Does the union membership status of a work site affect health and safety practice? If so, how?
- Do recent migrants show different patterns of health and safety behaviours and beliefs?
Key objective 2: To help enable the informed development of appropriate health and safety interventions to reduce the accident rate experienced by Pacific people
Specific research questions
• What channels are likely to be the most effective to communicate with Pacific workers?
• What messages are most likely to be the most effective?
• What changes, if any, would workplaces need to incorporate into their workplace practices in order to reduce the likelihood of Pacific people being injured at work?
• What type of information provision has been effective in working with Pacific people in other sectors?
3.3 Questionnaire Development and Approach
A preliminary exercise was undertaken to map research questions against the major research areas. The major areas of interest in relation to employees were:
- demographic information
- the nature of the Pacific worker's job
- workplace and worker culture
- company organisation of health and safety
- transmission of health and safety messages.
The employer categories were similar to the employee categories set out above. They included:
- company demographics
- health and safety climate
- health and safety organisation
- the Pacific worker
- transmission of messages to Pacific workers
A questionnaire checklist was drawn up containing the items of information that would need to be covered in the interviewing. A first run of the detailed questions was made, which formed the basis for the development of the interview questions. These were subjected to a critical review. The final questions (see Appendix A) were used in a semi-structured way in the worker and employer interviews.
3.4 Sample Selection
After getting recommendations from health and safety staff in the Manukau offices of the Department of Labour, ACC, and the EPMU about suitable companies to contact to seek approval to interview staff and managers about Pacific worker health and safety matters, we approached five companies (a sixth was added later), all of which agreed to become involved in the project.
A letter from the Reference Group was sent to each company (see Appendix B), which explained that the reasons for the relatively high Pacific worker injury rate were not well understood and that we were carrying out a programme of research to try to shed some light on 'this very serious issue'. It also stressed that the findings from the research would not only be of benefit to policy makers but, importantly, to the companies that employed Pacific workers and the workers themselves.
The letter indicated that we wanted to interview around six employees and at least two managers from each company. A team member also visited each of the companies and explained the purpose of the research. It was stressed that the interviews with Pacific staff would be undertaken by a Samoan researcher (Moses Faleolo) and that we were looking for a range of characteristics in the workers to be interviewed. These characteristics included:
- a range of English proficiencies (interviews would be carried out in the worker's first language where possible)
- workers with different length-of-service records and with different relations with managers
- good and poor health and safety knowledge and practice
- a range of ages.
For the management interviewees, we were interested in talking to a supervisory-level (of Pacific workers) manager and a health and safety manager.
A separate letter was included with the company letter, addressed to Pacific workers and stressing the significance of the research. We also indicated that we would give each interviewee a $20 voucher in appreciation of the worker's time. The letter was translated into Samoan.
Six firms were approached in total, all in the manufacturing industry in Manukau. The type of manufacturing varied to try to incorporate as many product types as possible.
The firms that agreed to participate in the research were a mix of private and public companies and were involved in both manufacturing and distribution. They were, in general, international companies and would be classified as large employers, all employing over 100 staff.
Employer interviews were conducted with managers or health and safety officers within each business. Interviewees were from different ethnic backgrounds, and included male and female representatives.
|Place of birth|
|Pacific Island nation||35|
|Arrival in New Zealand|
|Highest educational achievement|
This research had very specific research questions, which limit its application to the wider population. Although it gives an in-depth understanding of the situation for Pacific workers in Manukau manufacturing, there are three key limitations of the study, which are discussed below.
In particular, the research does not include data on any other ethnic groups, so it cannot be said whether any findings are specific to Pacific workers in the manufacturing industry in Manukau or can be applied more generally. It does, however, provide information on what Pacific workers and their employers have reported as being the situation with health and safety practices in Manukau manufacturing.
A second limitation of the method is that the businesses interviewed were selected by the panel as being those more willing to participate, and they probably had some of the better health and safety practices within the manufacturing industry. This means that any potential issues that Pacific workers face working in businesses that are not as proactive with health and safety have not been included in this study. This is another future research direction that would benefit this area of knowledge.
Finally, this research was undertaken in Manukau, an area that has an established higher proportion of Pacific workers than other areas in New Zealand. This limits the generalisability of the findings because it is not known whether injury rates and health and safety behaviour are the same in other areas with fewer Pacific workers employed.
 The Reference Group included research staff from the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, operational staff representatives from ACC and the Department of Labour, and representatives from the EPMU. Meetings were attended by project team members from the Department. Two of the Pacific interviewees provided guidance to the Group when the content and findings in the project report were reviewed.