SkyCity fire: Union offers support for apprentice reported to have caused blaze

Union E tū says if it's true a mistake by a teenage apprentice was the cause of last week's SkyCity blaze, they want to hear from them. 

"Anyone can make a mistake and people in construction work in hazardous environments," said negotiator Joe Gallagher. "The fire is a reminder of that. But it's been good to see the main conversation about the young guy so far has been one of concern."

It's been reported the apprentice - working for a subcontractor left a blowtorch on while taking a break. 

"The poor guy is in tatters ... he's completely shattered," a source told NZME

Gallagher says E tū is there to help. 

"There will be processes and investigations to navigate, and that's what we do. So, we're appealing for anyone who knows a young worker who might need this help to put them in touch with us. We believe we can help."

Construction has the highest suicide rate of any industry in New Zealand, Gallagher says.

"This industry is booming, and it should be healthy, with satisfied workers earning decent money. Instead, it's precarious, fragmented and uncertain. 

"That affects workers and if this campaign can encourage people to check on their workmates and ask 'are you OK?' then that's a great thing. We all need to be more supportive of each other."

Meanwhile, a union which represents casino employees has claimed dozens of members have come forward suffering health problems since the blaze at the under-construction International Convention Centre. 

Unite Union says it's heard from around 40 workers "with burning eyes, throats so sore that they can't swallow and dizzy spells" and three cases of fainting, organiser Joe Carolan told RNZ

"WorkSafe said that they didn't give the all-clear to this building - that's not what they do. So this building was re-opened by the company itself, forcing our cleaners back to work to clean this place up.

"And we are not satisfied; we have not seen a report, we have not been consulted by this company or given any quantifiable data as to the testing that they've done here."

Unite members protesting at SkyCity earlier this year.
Unite members protesting at SkyCity earlier this year. Photo credit: Unite/Facebook

SkyCity told RNZ their testing found the atmosphere was clean, but Carolan said they've provided no evidence, and are essentially being asked to trust a man "in the pay of the company".

Unite is urging members to lodge ACC claims, and is calling for an investigation into whether SkyCity and businesses located near the fire failed to protect their employees. 

"The alarm was raised about 1:47pm, and I got up there 20 minutes later," Carolan told Stuff on Friday. "On the sixth floor, it stunk of smoke. I got up to the gaming floor, and I couldn't believe it, people were still spinning the roulette wheel."