Exclusive: Worker pressured to lie after breaking back on the job

Source: 1News

A demolition worker who broke his back in several places in a work accident last year has revealed how the company involved tried to influence a WorkSafe investigation.

On September 29, 2021, Mosese Foketi was working at AUT Tower as part of a demolition team, when he was buried under two concrete walls.

He broke his back in multiple places, bones in his foot and shoulder, along with other injuries.

"I thought I would die or something, hurting so bad because I don't have energy or air to say something," Foketi said.

1News has now uncovered evidence over the tactics used by the demolition company, Mac Group, and its sub-contractor, including asking the worker to lie about his employment after WorkSafe launched an investigation into the incident.

After he was discharged from hospital, Foketi was visited by Mac Group boss Angus McDonald and a colleague.

They wanted him to tell WorkSafe he wasn't involved in the demolition.

"If they do come and have a chat, you know what to say and its basically that you are only there to load the waste out and you pulled on a piece of wood and that was it," McDonald was filmed saying by Foketi.

Foketi believes he was given wrong instructions on how to take the wall down.

"We know that the method was stupid," McDonald told Foketi.

"For whatever reason the boys did it but I don't want to sit here and keep blaming. We have gone through the process, we are spending so much time on this problem. The main thing is that we can get out of it."

Speaking to 1News, Foketi said he felt like McDonald didn't care about his safety. But it didn't end there.

"It's your choice but I think it's going to escalate again," McDonald said.

"It doesn't help anyone anyway," his colleague said. "All that's going to happen is WorkSafe is going to give us s*** and we might get a big fine but you don't get anything out of it."

In a statement to 1News, Mac Group said it was "a reputable and certified company and the WorkSafe investigation was closed in November".

WorkSafe recommended a duty holder review run by the Mac Group itself and JNP Construction - the labour contractor who hired Foketi.

WorkSafe told 1News Foketi wasn't interviewed - the two businesses decided that.

An action plan was put in place to address identified safety gaps.

Foketi is from Tonga and was hired under the table as he was on a visitors visa trapped in New Zealand when Covid hit. He also didn't have site safety certification.

JNP Construction's Sioeli Muli said he didn't tell Mac Group Foketi didn't have the certification as there were "too many of them on site", but felt sorry for what had happened.

But it's Foketi's family who are suffering. He's now an overstayer and living in continuous pain, while his New Zealand resident partner is on unpaid leave to take care of him and their eight-month-old daughter.

"Family is everything to me, honestly it's really tough," a tearful Foketi said.

"I pray every day because they don't know about the struggle and stuff I've been through every day."

It's a miracle he can walk but he's determined to stand on his own two feet as he seeks answers.