Workers at World Expo allege safety issues at New Zealand pavilion

Source: 1News

Some workers at New Zealand's pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai have described their first few months of employment as a "big let-down".

They also allege health and safety issues with the $62m pavilion, something management say is "minor".

"I took the role in confidence that I would be well looked after and cared for by a government entity from my own country and left a professional job back home," one worker told 1NEWS, on the condition of remaining anonymous.

They said they left a professional job in New Zealand for the "opportunity of a lifetime to represent New Zealand at a global event."

"We quickly realised the reality and extent of the role was only to stand stationary for eight hours a day, six days a week in impractical uniforms, open and close doors and smile and say "Kia ora", while constantly rotating between the cold air-conditioned interior and the extreme humidity of the outside 40-degree weather."

One worker said they had to quit their job for health reasons and scramble to find another job.

"I did not experience practical support and a basic duty of care as I tried to juggle the pain, doctors, insurance and multiple hospital visits on my own in a foreign country on top of many other issues."

Some had issues with the uniforms, which were described as "thick pants, winter rugby shirts and woollen" and "inappropriate" for the desert.

Concerns also with the pavilion's elaborate water features, which they say resulted in dozens of slips.

"This is a hazard many staff expressed to be anxious of prior to the event," another worker said.

"Issues are ignored or deflected."

Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand Commissioner-General to Expo 2020 sat down with 1NEWS for an interview about the worker's concerns, admitting he was surprised to hear about them.

"We're very close to the team we've built, we've got a team of about 143 staff that are operating the pavilion," he said.

"I totally understand that people are going to have concerns, especially with an intense six-month event that's going for seven days a week."

He said he believes the uniforms are fit for purpose and had ensured the workers were cycled out of heat regularly.

In terms of the health and safety issues at pavilion, Mr Kimpton said there were some "minor incidents".

"We've had no injuries; we've had 23 slips and trips and 162 near misses and what I mean by a near miss is a guest service ambassador has had to reach and say, "don't step back in the water" - in the context of 320 thousand visitors, this is a manageable number of near miss incidents.

"What we have done is put ropes and polls right around the river while we install grates that will cover that," he said.

"We're working really hard to make sure the team have an awesome time, and certainly the staff I'm talking to on a daily basis are having an awesome time."