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291 workers dead since Pike River: where’s the law we were promised?

Written By: - Date published: 12:02 pm, July 26th, 2015 - 45 comments
Categories: health and safety, national, Unions - Tags: , , ,

National Party delegates were greeted at their conference today by a sea of crosses representing the 291 workers who have died on the job since the Pike River disaster, when John Key promised action on health and safety law.

Radio NZ:

Deborah McMillan has set up 291 white crosses outside the conference venue, Sky City, to represent the number of workers who have died at work since 2010, when the Prime Minister promised to make changes.

Her husband Shane was killed in 2009 when a branch fell on him while he was working in a forestry gang near Napier.

Their eight year-old daughter Skylar was three at the time.

Helen Kelly shared Shane’s story at The Standard back in 2013.

Labour Party statement:

Labour has heeded forestry widow Deborah McMillan’s protest outside National’s conference today and is stepping in to fix the government’s broken health and safety law, says Labour’s spokesperson for Labour issues, Iain Lees-Galloway

“We have amendments to the government’s bill up that will keep New Zealanders safe at work. These are small but critical changes that will help save New Zealanders’ lives and I’m calling on other parties to support them.

…“Mainstream business has called for changes to this law – National needs to realise they are siding with a fringe of bad employers against the well-being of working Kiwis,” says Iain Lees-Galloway

From Twitter:

45 comments on “291 workers dead since Pike River: where’s the law we were promised?”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    I suppose Key will call it a ‘rent-a-crowd’

  2. ianmac 2

    Sobering losses.
    (A young lad told me that it wasn’t his fault that a girl got punched in the face with his fist. She shouldn’t have put her face in the way. Sort of National way of blaming careless workers.)

  3. Chooky 3

    this proves that the Pike River disaster was the result of systemic Neolib ethos governmental behaviour

    …no one individual can be singled out

    …same with Cave Creek ( many DOC workers on the Coast were made redundant at the time of this disaster…massive unsafe work overloads for the remaining workers and lack of safety oversight)

    ….and nothing has changed

    …this Nact government is responsible and still criminally negligent

  4. Treetop 4

    The 291 crosses are from occupations which require additional safety measures/business practice regardless of there being two or 200 people employed.

    Sickening and negligent when profit is put before health and safety on the job.

    • greywarshark 4.1

      Why many very small businesses exist is because they have been split off from larger ones with the size, resources and volume of work to manage the risks and safety matters themselves. Instead it is loaded on the ex employees turned contractors’ shoulders to bear

      • Treetop 4.1.1

        Where there is a shift in health and saftey this is no excuse for not providing a safe working environment. I realise that it is hard for contractors to keep the cost down in some areas or it is passed on to the consumer.

        • greywarshark 4.1.1.1

          That’s my point Treetop. It was a deliberate move by the gummint and business to help business evade or weaken the safety measures that had been in place.
          It was deliberate and unconscionable to leave such matters to the whim of the market place.

  5. Paul 5

    Rebecca Macfie’s book
    Tragedy at Pike River Mine.

    The negligence shown was criminal.
    And no one was jailed.

    And nothing has been done since.

    New Zealand is a neo-liberal hellhole for anyone not in the Parnell bubble.

    http://www.awapress.com/stories/storyReader$841
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11158015

    • Karen 5.1

      ‘Tragedy at Pike River Mine’ is a brilliant book that should be required reading for everybody in NZ. That nothing was done to bring the various culpable people to account is criminal.

      That the Nats are happy to walk past this protest and continue refuse to support Health and Safety legislation that would reduce the number of people dying at work is also criminal IMO.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    An utterly brilliant, and sad protest. It seems like the only way to make an impact on our elites now is to get in their faces and force them to look at reality outside their luxurious self involved bubble.

    • adam 6.1

      I would say it’s not the only way.

    • mickysavage 6.2

      Yep it was a good protest. Simon Oosterman Beckers from the PSA and Strachan Crang from the EPMU deserve a lot of the praise along with some very hardworking and energetic cross constructors.

  7. 10 points to Deborah and her daughter.
    Maybe if there were 290 other grieving widows/widowers, it might not have been so easy to ignore ?
    The crosses aren’t enough for these bastards, they need to see decapitated bodies, orphans, etc to get the message.

  8. mary_a 8

    So many crosses, each one representing lives unnecessarily lost in the workplace! A sharp reminder of the failings of this corrupt, greedy and uncaring government!

    Good on you Deborah and Skylar for keeping this sad and tragic issue out in the open.

    I’m surprised the police haven’t been instructed to remove the crosses!

  9. Pike River was a terrible avoidable tragedy and the operators and managers should have received jail terms for what I reckon was gross and unbelievable negligence.

    But National’s new legislation is a complete disaster.

    It takes 6 people working full time for six months to deal with the compliance regulations, at least, before anyone can do any real work on any project.

    Is this good for business and workers?

    • Liberty 9.1

      Don’t forget the then Labour Government was also responsible for not insisting a road was build instead of an upwards slopping 2 km tunnel.
      The miners interfering with the Gaz detectors would also have been a factor.

    • mickysavage 9.2

      Citation please.

      Although the proposition that National has stuffed up the legislation would not surprise me.

      • Liberty 9.2.1

        It has been around the traps for years.

        • vto 9.2.1.1

          “Don’t forget the then Labour Government was also responsible for not insisting a road was build instead of an upwards slopping 2 km tunnel.”
          Bullshit. The mining company was responsible for its actions in not doing so.

          ” The miners interfering with the Gaz detectors would also have been a factor.”
          More ignorant bullshit Liberty… do you know why that may have been so? do you know what influences were brought to bear on the miners by the company that led to this? do you have any understanding of how those pressures came about?

          Without that context your statement is crappola

          • linda 9.2.1.1.1

            The minegranted consent under nationals watch

            • vto 9.2.1.1.1.1

              national labour pfffttt….

              the villain without doubt was the political philosophy known as neoliberalism. It was this approach that created the legislation, the regulations, the corporate structures, the management systems, the safety systems, the incentives, the incentives, the incentives……

              Neoliberalism killed the 29 men at Pike River.

              National still follows the neoliberal approach and refuses to recognise its failures – exposed by death at Pike River.

              National has its head in the sand, causing people to die.

          • liberty 9.2.1.1.2

            Found on the informed kiwi blog

            I get really sick of all this crap about work place accidents. Yes there are work place accidents and yes some are preventable, but there are also a large number of work place accidents that the employee could have prevented or taken themselves away from the risk.

            Section 19 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, states that every employee shall take all practicable steps to ensure (a) wearing of protective clothing and (b) that no action or inaction of the employee while at work causes harm to any other person.

            How often do we see where an employee has been held responsible for not following rules put in place and doing things they shouldn’t. We don’t. We only ever see the employer being charged failing to provide a safe work place.

            There are a couple of instance that come to mind and I am very familiar with one of them as I was involved in the enquiry and that is Pike River.

            Yes, the mine was unsafe and yes it should not have been operating like that, but then the employees (miners) put plastic bags over the gas sensors, they took contraband down into the mine, they did not follow rules that were the safety rules for the mine. And yet everyone is having a go at the mine bosses. Why have the miners not been criticised for what they got up to. The breaching of the safety rules was also the health and safety officers job. Why did he not stop the miners working in the mine. Oh yes, he got yelled at and felt intimidated. I know he lost a son, but then he was the safety officer. Why has he not been held accountable. He could have gone to the Labour Dept. They would have closed the mine, but then the miners wouldn’t get paid. So they took the chance and lost. I am so sick of all the bleating about Pike river.

            The miners are just as responsible for a safe work environment. They could have downed tools and said we are not working till the mine is made safe. But then they would have never worked in the mine again as it was never going to be safe and then they would have no work. It was their choice.

            This is exactly the same as other accidents that have occurred, especially at one of the ports in NZ. A port worker died when the machinery he was working toppled over. Surprise, surprise, he was so loaded with drugs (prescribed) he would never have been able to make a safe decision about his work environment. And of course, the Port Company has been charged. What about his culpability. Oh no. All the sympathy to the deceased. He should not have been working and or working around dangerous machinery.

            Please it is about time employees were held to account for working in unsafe conditions. I know people will be saying they would lose their jobs if the refuse to work because it was unsafe. I would suggest that if that happened the employer would be taken to task and prosecuted for that. At least they would still be alive.

            Employers are pleading guilty to Health and Safety charges because it is cheaper than defending it. This is wrong. It is about time there was fairness with this system

            http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2015/07/safer_at_work_than_home.html#comments

            • Colonial Viper 9.2.1.1.2.1

              Time to bring in corporate homicide charges. The entire Board of Pike River should have done prison time.

            • vto 9.2.1.1.2.2

              Liberty, all fine to have a good rant, go right ahead…. but you missed this main point that was put to you….

              “” The miners interfering with the Gaz detectors would also have been a factor.”
              More ignorant bullshit Liberty… do you know why that may have been so? do you know what influences were brought to bear on the miners by the company that led to this? do you have any understanding of how those pressures came about?”

              Got an answer to that? It goes to the heart of the issue. The issue that also rises in those other examples you mention too.

              Further, check how the Aussie safety systems in mines work and compare.

              I think you have a huge great gap in your understanding.

              • Colonial Viper

                Liberty is blaming dead victims

                • liberty

                  Maybe the victims need blaming.
                  Because at the end of the day. It was their choice to go into the mine.
                  It comes down to individual responsibility.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    wrong mate, not only is your ideology abhorrent and anti-human, it was the Company Directors’ choice to sign off on an unsafe mine with unsafe operations. And each of them should have spent prison time for corporate homicide.

                    Because at the end of the day. It was their choice to go into the mine.
                    It comes down to individual responsibility.

                    Dicks like you chant on about “individual responsibility” but you always exempt the ruling capitalist class from having to take responsibility.

                    Why is that?

            • McFlock 9.2.1.1.2.3

              You had me at “informed kiwi blog”.

              And then you got me with:

              How often do we see where an employee has been held responsible for not following rules put in place and doing things they shouldn’t. We don’t. We only ever see the employer being charged failing to provide a safe work place.

              Weren’t some farmers fined for not wearing helmets on their quad bikes just recently?

              And saying that workers should down tools in this work environment is stupid. Of course they would if they knew they or their colleagues were going to die, but with high unemployment and, of course, work & income stopping pay because they “quit”, how would they feed their families? You place that pressure on people, they’ll take risks. The directly-employed miners at pike river had no motive to sabotage the detectors, but the subbies who were only paid for their time actually down the mine were another story. And even then the employer should have addressed the systemic issues.

  10. Dave_1924 10

    Crosses after the event by EPMU. Why were EMPU not all over Pike River management when lads were heading into a dangerous pit? Because it was known to have issues before it ignited as documented in the commission of inquiries report.

    Why did the government from 1999 – 2008 not toughed up the mining inspectorate? They had ample opportunity to beef up the mining inspectorate

    Any legislation that protects miners better is a good thing in my mind. A number of rellies were in the coal mines in South Yorkshire and its a hazardous occupation….

    But just pointing the bone at National when this tragedy brewed for 20 plus years under governments of different hues is a bit much

    • Clemgeopin 10.1

      The buck stops with the management, not just with the government or the union.

      But you are missing the most important point of this protest today:
      291 workers are dead AFTER the Pike River disaster. Key has promised to change the law to make worker’s lives safer. Where’s the law we were promised?

      For that you can not blame anyone else but Key and his inept government. Do you understand that?

      • Dave_1924 10.1.1

        Clem – yes I understand that we have not had the required H&S update required. And I am no fan of dragging the chain on getting well balanced H&S legislation in place.

        BUT – unions are there to stop their members getting ripped off on wages and conditions plus ensuring work place safety is top notch. If a site is not safe then Union organisers should do their job and walk members off the site…. sometimes people wanting to take the cash home are too busy working to have a good look around for hazards, so union reps should be extra vigilant

        Just blaming the government is not good enough. You can pass all the legislation you want… but things can still be unsafe either through management or worker negligence. And as I used to read my dads engineers union newsletters back in the 70s and 80s I know its not always the management at fault. Some workers take stupid risks

        • Clemgeopin 10.1.1.1

          This post is about today’s protests. So, what are you saying?
          Should the protests not have taken place? Was it a good protest with a great message or not? Are the deaths of 291 workers too little? Saying that ‘Some workers take stupid risks’, a fruitful contribution for this post or is it made to diminish the importance of the message of this post? Are you a devil’s advocate?

          • Dave_1924 10.1.1.1.1

            I applaud the protest, people expressing dissatisfaction in peaceful way is great… but some comments here are pointing the bone firmly at government and also making it seem that legislation will fix everything.

            My point simply is Unions can’t escape their responsibility in ensuring safe work spaces. If its unsafe take workers out. So I see EMPU organising this when they could have done something about Pike River by being staunch on safety as a little hypocritical

            EDIT: Corrected some spelling errors

            • mickysavage 10.1.1.1.1.1

              You have to be joking. It was all the Union’s fault? Management did its best to ensure that there was no union presence, management stuffed up all the safety systems and it was the Union’s fault?

            • Colonial Viper 10.1.1.1.1.2

              Dave – don’t be so obtuse. If you want the unions to act more strongly with more freedom for the sake of worker safety, then come out and say that the Government should empower them to have more powers over work sites and over business management decisions.

              But that’s not what you want is it?

            • Clemgeopin 10.1.1.1.1.3

              Today M Boag said it was the union’s fault that the workers are getting low wages from their employers. Your framing is not much different from hers.

            • Rosie 10.1.1.1.1.4

              Dave, have you read “Tragedy at Pike River Mine” by Rebecca McFie?

              If you did you’ll know that as well as EPMU members working in that mine who died that day there were a good number of workers who were contractors. The Union didn’t carry the responsibility for those workers. Nor did they carry the responsibility for workplace safety, that was soley on management’s shoulders.

              And there were walk out’s. I think there were a couple, off the top of my head. I can’t refer to the exact number as I have loaned my copy out. You’ll probably be aware that workers can legally walk off the job if they feel their safety is at risk and their concerns about safety haven’t been addressed. This was one small thing the men could do in the face of overwhelming danger, but it would have never been enough to change the culture given the dysfunctional nature of management.

              Also from memory there was only one organiser in that district to cope with the multiple hazardous issues encountered by men on literally every shift, the bullying nature of management, including Peter Whittall who was a tyrant and the total disregard management had for safety. The pressure for the men to perform in an unsafe mine was immense.

              In such an environment there was only so much any one organiser could do to encourage the management to follow correct H&S procedures. Like shouting into the wind.

              And now, back to the point of the post, our government has just given small businesses, like the ones that contracted out to Pike River, a free pass to continue with the harm, with no responsibility to promote a culture of safety.

              Thats a massive fingers up to the dead and the grieving.

              The families of the 291 killed on the job since November 2010 have been betrayed by Key’s broken promise to make NZ workplaces safer.

  11. maui 11

    Great job. Hopefully some blue people who walked past that generated some human feelings and at least stopped and thought for a second.

  12. Greg 12

    A very good and effective protest. The government has had almost 5 years since the Pike river disaster to sort this out , and all they can come up with is a piece of watered down claptrap that won’t make one bit of difference.
    Good on the organisers, and the little girl and her mum for bringing it to the publics attention.

  13. Tricledrown 13

    In other countries when a disaster happens and deaths occur due to inept management ,the police arrest who ever is charge immediately then its up to that person to prove otherwise hear in this country no one is held accountable.
    Whittle should have been arrested .

  14. Observer (Tokoroa) 14

    Onya Parnell

    Lets kill more workers …. go for it …. and destroy their families.

    Why are National, Farrar, Slater, Hooton and Boag – so against the common man ! And why is that Bennett person deeply cruel of mind ?

    Why do the police let them away with their heinous mischief ?

    Parnell stench. Even little girls not safe there. What a poisonous godforsaken place Parnell is.

  15. Don't worry. Be happy 15

    The rich and the obscenely rich are not like the rest of humanity. They are mentally unbalanced with a deep spiritual sickness.

  16. vto 16

    291 people dead after Pike River…. John Key should be ashamed, but he is not. He is not ashamed of the appalling death record of NZ business.

    As for the excuses given by this NationalActUnited government – that it costs too much. Fuck off pricks.

    Peter Dunne, John Key and whoever the dumbarse is who leads Act have just bought the lives of dozens of working men over the next five years for sale to the lowest business bidder to do as they wish – like send them to work in dangerous places. All for money – nothing else.

    I have no respect for people who hold these values. They are the lowest scum.

  17. Phil 17

    http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/research/health-and-safety-data/workplace-fatalities-by-year

    Does anyone know where information on earlier years is available?
    Thus far, 2015 is shaping up to be a relatively good year.

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