Unions: Pike River Report Slams the Company and Government over Shameful Tragedy

Pike

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union and the Council of Trade Unions have have called the Pike River Report a damning indictment of both the company and weak regulation of health and safety by Government.

Pike River Report Slams the Company and Government over Shameful Tragedy

The Council of Trade Unions says that the Pike River Report is a damning indictment of both the company and weak regulation of health and safety by Government and brings shame to this country that now must be addressed.

Helen Kelly, CTU President, says that the tragedy of Pike River is that this shocking accident was preventable. These 29 men lost their lives in a terrifying ordeal that has been devastating for their families, workmates and community.

“This should never have happened”.

“It is time we put workers in a position to have a genuine and forceful say over their own health and safety at work”.

Helen Kelly says “this is a very comprehensive report. It provides further evidence of the reckless behaviour of this employer towards the health and safety of their workers and makes forceful recommendations. The Government must ensure that such strong recommendations are implemented and also contribute to the final outcomes of the Independent Health and Safety Taskforce”.

The Royal Commission findings are damning.

They have stated that ‘the drive for coal production before the mine was ready created the circumstances within which the tragedy occurred’ and that ‘warnings were not heeded’.

The Royal Commission has also found that the Labour Department should have prohibited Pike from operating the mine until its health and safety systems were adequate.

Helen Kelly said that it is appropriate that the Minister of Labour has resigned in all the circumstances.

But there are many who must accept responsibility.

“The Directors of Pike River and its CEO should now be charged”, she said. “It is not viable for them to have sat at the decision making table as this mine was developed and operated in these circumstances and not now take responsibility under the law of this country for the deaths of these men”.

The CTU supports the overall thrust of the recommendations and will study the huge report carefully.

The acknowledgement of the vital role of health and safety representatives and of unions is vindication of the huge priority we place on health and safety.

We welcome for instance the proposal to create a new Crown agent but want further details. We believe that such a Crown agent should have a tripartite board as in the UK.

Helen Kelly said that the Prime Minister has said that now there is a period where the Government will consider detailed design and implementation issues in relation to the recommendations. Helen Kelly says that they could have already re regulated mining without this report and they must now make up for this delay.

“It has been two years since the deaths and no one in the country is arguing against strong regulations for this sector – but still there are none” she said.

“Unions must be involved in the development of these regulations and all aspects of implementation and this must be done urgently”.

The CTU submission to the Royal Commission argued for a specialist health and safety agency, a review of penalties and introduction of corporate manslaughter, and much greater worker participation in health and safety including check inspectors in mines and other high hazard sectors. The CTU also submitted that the existing tripartite Workplace Health and Safety Council be reconstituted as a statutory body, and properly resourced, to undertake a review and advisory role, engage in the process of standard-setting and recommending changes to OHS standards, and promoting of OHS education and training, and to supervise the work of tripartite industry committees.

EPMU welcomes Pike River report

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union welcomes the Pike River Royal Commission report and is encouraging the Government to implement the changes as soon as possible.

EPMU assistant national secretary Ged O'Connell says the report should mark a turning point for mine safety in New Zealand.

"This report is a damning indictment of New Zealand's deregulated health and safety regime. Pike River Coal Ltd should never have been allowed to operate in the way it did, and in other countries it wouldn't have been allowed to.

"The report makes clear that the tragic loss of life at Pike River could have been prevented with stronger regulations, an independent and well-resourced mine safety inspectorate and genuine worker involvement in health and safety.

"We hope the failings exposed in this report spell the end of the deregulated health and safety regime of the last 20 years. This vindicates the union's repeated calls for improvements in mine safety and for the reintroduction of check inspectors."

Mr O'Connell says the union supports the Royal Commission's recommendations.

"The recommendations in this report are exactly what our union has been calling for. If implemented, they will bring New Zealand's mine safety regime up to international standards.

"We are particularly pleased so see the re-introduction of worker-elected check inspectors, a strong focus on strengthening mine safety regulations and the creation of a new Crown agency to monitor health and safety.

"We hope the Government will implement the report's recommendations as soon as possible. If the 29 men who lie in the mine are not to have died in vain then these recommendations must be implemented without delay and without reservation."

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For an alternative view of the EPMUs involvement in the Pike River mine issue, read this one. http://nzagainstthecurrent.blogspot.co.nz/2012/11/how-modern-unionism-failed-pike-river.html

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