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Community ‘March for Work’ in Greymouth tomorrow

Written By: - Date published: 12:21 pm, September 3rd, 2012 - 33 comments
Categories: activism, Mining, workers' rights - Tags: , , , , ,

From the EPMU: 

Spring Creek miners and their families will lead a community ‘March for Work’ in Greymouth on Tuesday calling on Solid Energy and the Government to secure the future of the town and ensure the mine stays open.

Solid Energy suspended operations at Spring Creek on Wednesday and is considering closing the mine – a decision that would put more than 200 people out of work and strike a devastating blow to a community still reeling from the Pike River tragedy.

The ‘March for Work’ is supported by the EPMU, Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn, West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor and Pike River families spokesperson Bernie Monk.

The EPMU’s West Coast organiser, Garth Elliott, says the march will show the strong community support for keeping Spring Creek open.

“Our community has been absolutely battered in recent years, first with the Pike River tragedy and now this. We’re marching together to say to Solid Energy and to the Government that they can’t just abandon Greymouth.

“Coal prices go up and down, but mining communities have to go on. We’re asking Solid Energy and the Government to take a real look at the damage that the closure of Spring Creek would do to the town and its people.

“This kind of short-term thinking from Solid Energy isn’t in the interests of the company and it definitely isn’t in the interests of the communities whose labour and whose commitment has built our mining industry.

“The community’s response so far has been really overwhelming, and we’re hoping for a good family event that shows what this community’s made of.”

Spring Creek miner Daryl Sweetman says he doesn’t know what he’d do if he lost his job. He has a mortgage and a young baby, and his wife is pregnant with one more.

“I was born on the Coast and it’s where I want to raise my family, but if the mine closes I won’t have much choice but to move the family to Australia to find work.

“There are hundreds of families here in the same situation, not just miners but people working in all kinds of businesses that rely on the mine: the laundry, the engineering firms, the local shops, pubs and restaurants. Losing the mine will just rip the guts out of the local economy.

“This march is about more than jobs, it’s about saving our community.”

The ‘March for Work’ will assemble at the Greymouth skate park near the Regent Theatre in Mackay Street at 12 noon on Tuesday, September 4, and make its way to the clocktower for speeches at 1pm.

33 comments on “Community ‘March for Work’ in Greymouth tomorrow ”

  1. Richard 1

    Coal is evil, but so is shutting down coal mines. Right.

    Also, the fact that people are trying to put political pressure on the Government to run Solid Energy inefficiently to save jobs is exactly why Solid Energy needs to be privatised. Taking tax from the poorest NZers to save economically non-viable jobs is extremely odious policy.

    • Lanthanide 1.1

      Yes, effectively what they’re wanting here is me as a tax-payer to subsidise their jobs.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        Like we subsidise your education? Get off your academic ass and add something to our economy with some real work please.

        • Lanthanide

          I work for a company that brings in a lot of export revenue for NZ. I am quite highly valued by this company. I think I am doing ‘real work’.

          • Colonial Viper

            And at the next down turn your company experiences, would you expect them to show some modicum of loyalty to you or would you expect them to lay you and your mates off ASAP?

            You wouldn’t want your work colleagues or the company’s shareholders to be “subsidising” you right?

      • blue leopard 1.1.2

        I suggest that subsidising people to remain active and productive has far more prospect of creating positive flow on effects for all of NZ than creating policies that continue to lead to the subsidising of ever increasing amounts of people with no and low paid jobs.

        Dear Mr Key,

        SHOW US THE JOBS!!

      • Coaster 1.1.3

        No… they’re saying don’t turn the community that’s built your industry into a ghost town the second the price of coal drops and you need to quickly bolster your balance sheet for a sale. This is about taking a long term view of the business and the communities that support it.

        Coal prices will come back up, but the experienced miners at Spring Creek won’t come back from Australia. That means the company will have to find a whole new workforce. They’ll be inexperienced and that’ll be a health and safety risk like we saw at Spring Creek.

        • Lanthanide

          Assuming the price of coal goes back up any time soon. What if it’s 1 year? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?

          • Coaster

            Solid Energy’s predicting around two years from what I’ve heard on the radio. They’ve been through ups and downs before, that’s what coal mining is about. But they’ve just shouldered the troughs with the peaks and they’ve carried on.

            The difference here is they’re busy trying to make their books look good for a sale. It’s classic business short-termism that’s frankly beneath a state owned enterprise. But we all know the current Solid Energy board are cheerleaders for privatisation, so it should come as no surprise.

            When did our country become so in thrall to the market that we were willing to throw whole communities under the bus in pursuit of short-term profits? What do you suggest the people of Greymouth do? Just pack up the town and all move to Australia? I like to think we’re a better country than that.

          • Colonial Viper

            Assuming the price of coal goes back up any time soon. What if it’s 1 year? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?

            So what if its 3 years. Companies must be expected to do the right thing by their employees not hire and fire as is convenient for their bottom line.

            In fact if you look back at Solid Energy press releases in Nove / Dec / Jan / Feb they were crowing about how good coal prices were and how much profits they were making.

            Well use some of those goddam profits from the good times and carry your workers for a bit through the bad times, OK.

      • vto 1.1.4

        Lanthanide, that argument no longer holds any water as every sector gets government favouritism and taxpayer largesse.

        Let’s see – the banking and finance sector got into trouble and the taxpayer saved them from going bankrupt (imagine that – all banks bankrupt). Oh, and then the farming sector – subsidised for irrigation and of course the roading which carries their goods to port. And even that 100% pure bastion of free market and enterprise is about to get the biggest ever taxpayers subsidies thanks to the placing of taxayer electricity companies on their slate.

        It is a fucking joke. Doling out subsidies to every manner of big business but the instant the worker needs same it’s “oh no sorry, we believe in the free market”

        Bullshit on your argument.

        • Draco T Bastard


          There is no free-market – just rich people who are subsidised by the rest of us and the rest of us are kept in poverty.

    • Colonial Viper 1.2

      Richard: your short term free market view of NZ is completely at odds with the long term wellbeing of NZ communities. Selling off Solid Energy can be achieved because it is an excellent commercial and strategic long term proposition. One that NZ needs to keep Government owned.

      By the way in case you’ve been asleep last couple of years, the Government is better at running coal mines efficiently and safely than the private sector.

      Taking tax from the poorest NZers to save economically non-viable jobs is extremely odious policy.

      Don’t be a lying hypocrite. You’ve just proposed putting hundreds of families on to the breadline, when the true non-viable jobs in this country belong to the elite parasitic 5%. They are the ones who need to be deposed from their unearned privilege ASAP.

  2. Tiger Mountain 2

    Richard–you can piss off right now.
    Lanthanide–you can have some benefit of the doubt as a regular here as to whether you are serious.

    Unions were virtually excluded from a meaningful role at the Pike River memorial, ShonKey got all the photo ops and look how he has treated the recovery exercise. Peter Whitall what a dodgy bastard, in his blue work shirt day after day like some Jackie Kennedy in her bloodied dress, as the police floundered.

    Well the truth has come out during the enquiry and the last thing the area needs is Solid Energy to close too. If it needs reorganising fine. But not a wholesale sacking of the workforce.

  3. vto 3

    Who remembers how little Solid Energy paid for Pike River just a few weeks ago? About $7 million all up.

    So how does Spring Creek value up on a same similar basis? If it is shutting down then it makes no money and must have pretty much a negligible value.

    The Pike River families complained that they would have bought Pike River for $7 million if they had known. So how about the local populace buying Spring Creek, or rather, Solid Energy and this government manning up and offering it for sale to the locals.

    Then, with no value or silly accounting balance sheets costs and rules, and with coal still selling, albeit for a lower price, there will be livings there to be had. (don’t forget my 2% commission tho).

    • Te Reo Putake 3.1

      The local populace already owns Spring Creek, as indeed do you and I. The insanly disproportionate salaries at the top of Solid Energy are the real problem, combined with the same people’s underperformance and/or incompetence.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        The insanly disproportionate salaries at the top of Solid Energy are the real problem,

        Yep, been thinking lately that public servants salaries need to be capped at ~$200k/annum. If we did that I suspect we’ll find we’ll get good, competent people in there who are there to do the best that they can for everyone rather just make the most for themselves.

  4. New Zealand has 8 billion tonnes of recoverable coal reserves. 83% of this however is low value lignite which currently only makes up 6-7% of coal mined in New Zealand by weight.

    The two mines that have been shut down are underground mines that are much more expensive to run than opencast mines. Coal prices have fallen every week this year. Excessive management salaries aside, there are certain realities with running a business that have to be taken into account.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      China PMI at another 3 year low. Expect coal price falls to continue.

      • That’s exactly it.

        Chinese economic growth has slowed the last six quarters to a three year low of 7.6%. This is not a collapse but persistent weakness. That is not to say collapse isn’t coming. Export growth also more than halved in the first six months of 2012 compared to 2011.

        China GDP figures


        The other thing to watch is that overdue loans have risen 27% in the first six months of 2012 for the five largest Chinese banks. This is especially concerning if this trend continues to accelerate. ICBC is the world’s largest lender by market value and if an increasing number of clients cannot repay their loans we could see another 2008 style financial collapse.

      • fnjckg 4.1.2

        spoilsport. i felt that PMI figure DROP was the most relevant piece of “news” i saw today,

        along with the 5000, yes 5000, thats FIVE THOUSAND, deaths in the Syrian conflict for August.

        we often hear the laboured breathing of underground miners

  5. MrSmith 5

    So the short sighted coast mentality if it stands up cut it down, if it moves shoot it and if it doesn’t stand up or move dig it up has back fired again and now they are all crying in their Beer Boo Hu Hu.

    Get used to it fools the coal will be staying in the ground but there’s always dirty dairying I suppose.

  6. Jenny 6

    Spring Creek miners and their families will lead a community ‘March for Work’ in Greymouth on Tuesday calling on Solid Energy and the Government to secure the future of the town and ensure the mine stays open.


    To “secure the future of the town and ensure the mine stays open” are not the same thing.

    Saving the town is not the same thing as saving the mine, those who insist they are, are guilty of conflating the two.

    Coal is finished. If it isn’t, then we are.

    The community and the union should use this opportunity to demand that the departing coal company coughs up, to pay for decent redundancy packages for the miners that don’t leave families destitute and stranded, and training that doesn’t leave these workers unemployed in a post coal economy.

    If the company won’t, then the government must. The future of Greymouth depends on it.

    We need to keep these workers here.

    The highly skilled workers of the coal mining industry should be redeployed, the engineers, the fitters, the machinists, the drivers, the electrical and electronics workers, the IT experts, the planners, the managers and supervisors.

    WWS will need all these workers and more, that is if we are to have any hope of saving the climate. For them go to Aussie to find work mining more coal will be a tragedy. For them and for us.

    • Coaster 6.1

      Yeah, I’m sure it’d be nice if there were suddenly 230 new jobs in clean, green technologies for miners to go to, but there aren’t and there won’t be under this government. These mining families have to live in the real world, and in the real world the only decent jobs going are in the coal mine. By all means keep campaigning for green alternatives, but don’t expect people on the Coast to sit back and watch their jobs disappear while they wait for your fantasy economy to materialise.

  7. Jenny 7

    …. I’m sure it’d be nice if there were suddenly 230 new jobs in clean, green technologies for miners to go to, but there aren’t and there won’t be under this government.


    For a government that wasted a billion dollars, gifted to millionaires who had made a bad bet in South Canterbury Finance, how much would it cost them to create permanent sustainable jobs for 230 skilled workers?

    Yes Coaster you are right, as long as we have gutless politicians of both Labour and National who refuse to act to create the jobs that could get us out of the coal business and counter climate change, probably the most important work that ever needed to be done but isn’t.

  8. Jenny 8

    Spring Creek miner Daryl Sweetman says he doesn’t know what he’d do if he lost his job. He has a mortgage and a young baby, and his wife is pregnant with one more.

    “I was born on the Coast and it’s where I want to raise my family, but if the mine closes I won’t have much choice but to move the family to Australia to find work.

    That this local working man can’t raise his family in the land that he loves. If this isn’t criminal, then I don’t know what is.

    When the mine goes his property will be devalued and he will find it hard to sell. With no permanent job and overmortgaged he will be unable to get his hard worked for equity out. The choice to be trapped in a dying town with no work and no future or give up his hard worked for equity in his house to surrender it to the banksters.

    Will the politicians act on behalf of working men like Daryl Sweetman?

    Not unless they are forced to.

    • blue leopard 8.1

      “Not unless they are forced to”

      …and the question arises…how do we “force them” to do anything that provides a brighter future for ordinary NZers?

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1

        Only need to get together about 10,000 people and about $250,000

        • blue leopard

          funny innit?

          …and here I was thinking I live in a democracy, where our representative politicians were required to be working with the best interests of NZers uppermost on their agenda…yet to get them to do anything that resembles “our” best interests we have to collect quarter of a million dollars and motivate 10,000 people out of the trusting slumber that they appear to be in?

          The irony is is not lost on me when our country continues to join forces with the big USofA ostensibly fighting for “democracy and freedom”….I guess neither of these concepts come for free anymore..

          Is the $250,000 for an unbinding referendum, or to bribe someone to do what they are paid to do? Ah! is it to buy the mine, no, must be more expensive than that…

  9. Jenny 9

    From the Greymouth Community ‘March for Work’ today.

    Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn publicly called for the Government to step in and fund $70 million profit shortfall at the Spring Creek mine until the coal market improves.

    According to Kokshoorn, “Coal mining on the coast has a bright future”

    In contrast to Kokshoorn’s claim of a bright future for coal mining, most of the signs held by those on march emphasised the insecurity of the coal mining industry.

    “Solid Ya Right”

    “Our town our future”

    “My Dad needs his job”

    “Save our town”

    “From coal to dole”

    “Save Daddy’s job”

    Not one sign that specifically mentions Spring Creek mine.

    One sign alluded to the coal industry’s unconcern for the miners and their grieving loved ones.

    “Situation Vacant Pike Body recovery”

    Spring Creek union site convener Trevor Bolderson carried on the theme of the unpredictability of the mining industry recounting that; Only three weeks earlier, a new intake of workers had started at the mine.
    Some had left great jobs in anticipation of a promised bright future at Spring Creek, only to be left in the lurch, he said.

    ”It’s like waiting to be bloody hung.”

    Trevor Bolderson

    But my favourite protest sign from the march asks us to all to consider:

    “What would Jesus do?”


    If Jesus had $70 million to spend on helping these workers and their families, and this community, I am sure that he would not spend it on propping up an industry that is destroying his creation.

    “We are not seeking divine intervention, we’re seeking Government intervention.”

    Trevor Bolderson

    But should government intervention in Greymouth be used to prop up this failing climate destroying sunset industry? Or used to invest in creating future proofed permanent jobs in the renewable sector for the Grey District?

    At this point the most likely outcome is that the government will do nothing either way.


  10. xtasy 10

    All about NZ coal and CO2 emissions – country comparisons:


    As much as I am for “greener” energy policies and support the Greens in many of their policies, there will also in future be a place for coal mining and use in NZ.

    But like with oil, NZ seems to be exporting a heck of a lot of it, about close to half of all coal mined here, to ship it overseas.

    Much else goes to power the Glenbrook steel mill and Huntly power station.

    Domestic use for heating is declining, which is good, as most home heating caused serious emmissions and health problems.

    Yet with the high tech filter systems now in use in well developed countries, emissions can be reduced substantially for coal power plants and the likes.

    This situation in Greymouth affects one underground mine, yet others keep operating.

    The present drop in prices will not last forever, as energy demand is expected to increase worldwide again, and with present technology only so much can be met through using regenerative, sustainable solar, wind or tidal energy generation.

    Like the US – New Zealand has high motorisation and high use of motor vehicles. That is where emissions need to be reduced before anything else. So build more and better transport systems in the cities and larger towns.

    Surely, there will be jobs for the miners, whether back in mining in future, or alternatively through retraining.

    • Jenny 10.1

      What’s your point?

      And how will it help the people of Greymouth?

      • xtasy 10.1.1

        Of course, there may not be quick answers and solutions.

        What one should perhaps question is, whether Solid Energy is not just trying some scare tactics to possibly try to get new employment terms negotiated, in order to push down “costs”.

        That would be disgusting, but how come not so long ago there was so much “hype” about the prospects of mining coal and whatever, and within months all that changes radically?

        If there is no future in Spring Creek for some years to come, then the government and Solid Energy should consider a plan to offer the mine workers and other contractors and so forth some jobs or retraining in other areas. This is what is done in many other “developed” countries.

        I had to “re-orientate” myself and kind of “retrain” a few times in my life.

        NZ will need more value added production than shipping off milk powder, logs, raw fish, coal and so forth, hence economic planning should provide for use of some coal in NZ for powering such production plants. But that is where hands off Key will not offer much.

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