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Labour’s awesome mining policy

Written By: - Date published: 11:48 am, August 22nd, 2011 - 43 comments
Categories: labour, Mining, workers' rights - Tags:

Pike River had lax safety systems. Profits came first. The workforce was highly casualised to weaken the bargaining power of the union. The boss, Peter Whittall, will end up getting the blame. Labour says it will restore miners’ power over their safety by bringing back check inspectors.It’s now up to the Nats to explain why they won’t.

In the speech to the CTU on Friday that got so many plaudits, and so little coverage, Goff said:

* We will also act quickly to make meaningful changes to beef up mining safety.

We know enough now not to have to wait till 2013 for the Royal Commission into the Pike River mining disaster to do what needs to be done.

The need to strengthen the capacity for independent government inspectors to monitor safety in our mines was obvious, but by itself it’s not enough.

Labour will also reinstate check inspectors.

Check inspectors are senior miners responsible for the safety of workers, with the decision-making ability – along with others – to order the immediate withdrawal of miners in dangerous conditions. National scrapped them in 1992. It’s now time to bring them back. Labour will.

Labour is also committed to strengthening the mining industry’s regulations.

The model we will follow is Queensland’s.

Their regulations are comprehensive and include the requirement for an underground mine to have a principal hazard management plan.

They also cover provisions for emergencies, rescue and communication, electrical equipment and installations, explosives, power tools, gas monitoring, mine design, mining operations and ventilation.

Labour will work in consultation with the miners’ union, the miners and the industry to take from Queensland what we need to ensure a safer environment here.

Great stuff. It’s basically everything the miners want on safety. Their union has lauded the policy.

Other parties now have to explain if they will give miners the safety standards they want and, if not, why not.

43 comments on “Labour’s awesome mining policy”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Gutsy and timely. Thank you Phil.

    National on the other hand will delay and delay and delay, making going down into a mine more risky and dangerous for workers than it should be.

    • Blue 1.1

      9 years of inaction under Labour and only now they have a policy to protect miners? Come on CV you know they talked and talked this issue for 9 years and didn’t deem it important enough to change laws or enact any policy during that time. Hows that for “delay, delay, delay” ? The siege mentality the left find themselves in, is testament to this sudden ‘burst’ of action, which is clearly some years overdue. Why weren’t you moaning then? Although given your tendency to whine rather than act, its not surprising. Words without action are just noise. See Goff for a reference.

      • Peter nickle 1.1.1

        Maybe because they were Feral Inbreeds on the West Coast.
        9 years is along time to do nothing, amazing how Pike River is Nationals fault on this site.

        • The Voice of Reason

          It’s National’s failure to respond adequately that is the issue, Peter. And Labour did actually start to address the issue before they lost office, but don’t let historical fact slow ya down.

        • Frank Macskasy

          Yes, it is National’s fault, Peter. Quite clearly, their dismantling of the mines’ inspectorate led to unsafe working conditions until the inevitable happened.

          So please, advise us, as to how the responsibility for this disaster cannot be sheeted home to the government of the day?

          If not National, who? McGillicudy Serious?!

          Y’know, Peter, I thought that National (and their little buddies in ACT) were big on Personal Responsibility. We seem to have had precious little of that, thus far.

          Perhaps THIS is appropriate: http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/3-things-we-will-never-see-in-our-lifetime/

  2. TightyRighty 2

    The safest and most productive mines are no mines according to the greens and labour. So while their mine safety policy might be queenslands, their mining policy is la la lands

    • RedLogix 2.1

      In your world TR the decision to mine pivots solely on whether the owner of it can make a profit. In my world the wider impact of the mine, and the total lifetime cost to the nation as a whole must be considered as well.

      So we can talk all we like about mining policy all we like… it will be nothing but shouting past each other.

      On the other hand once the decision to mine is undertaken… on whatever basis… mine safety policy is an entirely different thing. In that case I insist on implementing the best practise and codes available.

      What standard would you accept?

      • TightyRighty 2.1.1

        No, My mining and oil preference would be for the owner to make a profit yes, but only if they can satisfy having the government as a 40% partner in the business without stumping up any cash as that is the rate royalties should be on the minerals extracted from the ground. Then of course the company tax at 28% on profits. If they can then lure workers from the mining industry in Australia to work in New Zealand and turn a profit on all of that, then they have my blessing to open a mine.

        I doubt the workers will come here if the mine safety standards aren’t up to scratch anyway.

        • RedLogix

          I doubt the workers will come here if the mine safety standards aren’t up to scratch anyway.

          No that really is not an adequate answer. The Pike River Mine is the perfect example of why not. There were men working in that mine … but it was not safe. There can be no arguing that.

          Besides, men desperate for work will take risks. When faced with the choice of certain unemployment today or the off-chance of being dead in a few months time… well you know what happens.

          All very well to say that they went into it with their eyes open, but that’s not how their families feel about that devil’s bargin today.

          We know that leaving safety up to any kind of ‘market’ simply never works. Pretty much all progress in workplace safety has been driven by regulation.

        • Deano

          “I doubt the workers will come here if the mine safety standards aren’t up to scratch anyway.”

          You’re seriously arguing that the market supplies adequate safety standards by itself?

          • TightyRighty

            good lord. I’m not. I actually support increased mining safety standards and do not oppose this policy of labours. I just it amusing that they can simultaneously pretend to be looking out for the interests of the mining sector while at the same time keep it as small as possible.

            • Colonial Viper

              Labour’s looking out for the interests of the worker s; National looks out for the interests of the mining sector (had you not noticed).

        • Colonial Viper

          28% tax on company profits?

          Mining operations are set up like dairy farms. To make as little apparent profit as possible. Don’t you know that.

    • Blighty 2.2

      labour isn’t shutting down mines. just not allowing them on schedule 4 land.

      Now, please explain why you oppose check inspectors.

      • TightyRighty 2.2.1

        Where did i say i oppose it? Blighty, do you really want to be added to the list of people with substandard comprehension skills? Just pointing out the inconsistencies between the policies is all.

        • Blighty

          what’s the inconsistency?

          1) mining is allowed as long as it’s environmentally-responsible and not on schedule 4 land
          2) mining must be safe for the workers.

          Honestly, what’s inconsistent? They seem to be coming from the same place, actually.

        • bbfloyd

          no tr… you didn’t actually say anything at all. just another sneer from the cheap seats… you must be taking your cue from “mr say nothing in 200 slurs or more”….

          • TightyRighty

            The cheap seats are somewhere I would never sit. and obviously you wouldn’t either being of the sneering wannabee-intelligentsia. so much for representing the working people of this country

    • mik e 2.3

      Tighty Fisty How productive is pike river the damage it has done to the mining industry .speaks for itself its probably ended any new mining on the coast.Blue labour started an inquiry into mining safety 2004 national canned it within 1 month of coming into office because it would have imposed to many costs on miners. same reason in canned mining inspectors in1992.Lassez fair

  3. RedLogix 3

    I have a specific professional interest in some aspects of mine safety. When I read the other day that a ‘deputy had been sacked for allowing a deadman switch to be fixed open with a cable tie’ .. my eyes watered.

    In this day and age such a basic breach of protocol should be unthinkable. This incident alone tells us something had already gone badly wrong at this mine way before the big explosion.

    Peter Whittall must be a very unhappy man right now. He isn’t a bad person, just a man who made decisions in a context that was all wrong. Part of me feels some sympathy for him, because he’s going to be made the fall guy to protect others.

    Ultimately the entire investigation MUST speak to the wider political acts that led step by step, inexorably to these 29 unecessary deaths. The details of the disaster (and I have my suspicions) will be compelling and interesting… but the vital requirement that must not be missed is the opportunity to prevent it from happening again.

  4. Afewknowthetruth 4

    The only truly awesome policy would be to leave coal where it is, under the ground.

    I can’t see that happening when policiticians are hostage to the bankers Ponzi scheme and the general public are so grossly uninformed.

    • TightyRighty 4.1

      It must be so depressing being you, walking around all day in a fug of self-importance because only you know.

      • bbfloyd 4.1.1

        cheap shots like that will only improve your standing t.r… god knows you’ve got nothing else… i fail to understand why anyone bothers to try to engage you… pity maybe…

        • TightyRighty

          what is it with you and cheap today? big weekend? feeling the pinch on the credit card and taking it out on me? If you pity me, I’ll take it. Your so full of yourself anyway you won’t see the irony. I only wonder if your pity is worth anything? probably not as it’s value will be closely related to the absolute value of the pitier. in this case someone who i would ascribe a value close to insignificant.

          • Afewknowthetruth

            I don’t know whether you have children, nephews or nieces, grandchildren etc. but one thing is very clear: if you do, you are quite happy to destroy their futures in the basis of your ignorance, greed and stupidity. And you are all too quick to throw insults at those who do speak the truth and do care about people other than themsleves.

            You should be come a politician, you seem to possess all prerequisites: ignorance, greed, stupidity and a complete disregard for the future.

            And yes, it is depressing being surrounded by uninformed fuckwits. Even as I write, the US is in the midst of the worst drought in recorded history, the Arctic ice is close to a record low and the West Antarctic ice sheet is in the early stages of collapse…. which will result in a sea level rise of several metres, probably this century.

            Keep burning the planet. After all, it’s not you who is going to have to live with the consequences -unless you are under the age of 60.

            • johnm

              Hi AFKTT
              Here is a very clear, easy to read explanation of the World economy’s umbilical dependency on oil and other fossil fuels.When oil supply stops growing growth stops, (Exception is China’s growth based on massive coal consumption also due for terminal decline)(Revenues from same manufacturing enables China to pay high fuel prices)when oil supply declines growth goes into contraction. The link with our fiat interest bearing debt based money system also explained. Lots of powerpoint graphics illustrate this presentation making it light work to understand this critically important issue . by Gail Tverberg.

              “The End of Growth: Peak Oil, Recessions, And The End of The Fossil Fuel Economy, By Gail Tverber”

              refer link: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/The-End-of-Growth-Peak-Oil-Recessions-and-the-End-of-the-Fossil-Fuel-Economy.html

              Recommended for the standard readers who want a quick easy to assimilate understanding of why peak oil gives us peak debt and credit and with the end of growth no chance of paying that debt off.
              Yes the coal should be left in the ground but we’re like a drug addict though digging it up and burning it will help kill us like a smoker with their fags we’d rather die earlier than give up our habit! Also the tragedy of the commons: so long as I’m alright jack! I’m not worried about future generations or people over the horizon.

              • Afewknowthetruth

                Hi johnm.

                Yes, that is a useful link to get help get the uninformed out of denial but I do find Gail T too optimistic! She doesn’t seem top be up with teh paly on environmental issues.

                I have written a new book which covers all that Gail says, and more. Currently sold out, which might be a good sign???

  5. Nick C 5

    “Pike River had lax safety systems. Profits came first.”

    Yeah because Pike River has made so much profit from the mine exploding. I bet their investors are rolling in it now.

    Oh, wait: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/4452912/Pike-River-Coal-in-receivership

    • McFlock 5.1

      That’s right, Nick – companies would never sell hazardous goods, endanger their workers or run ships aground – even if the risk of it offers greater returns. No manager would ever countenance such a risk, consciously or subconsciously.

      • Nick C 5.1.1

        There are going to be accidents like this with horrible consequences under any system. Consider the Chenobyl accident, which happened due to poor saftety measures, despite the opperators of the plant having no profit motive. Thats simply because people are imperfect. My only point is that capitalism doesn’t create an incentive to have lax saftey standards. You make more profit if you can maximise saftey, as this accident clearly shows.

        Perhaps we should be looking at government programs which remove the incentive to increase saftey such as ACC. Without ACC the workers could directly sue the owners of the mine, increasing the incentive to improve saftey measures.

        • Colonial Viper

          You make more profit if you can maximise saftey, as this accident clearly shows.

          Only if you think in the long term, which private sector shareholders often do not.

          A CxO is often only in a job for four or five years before moving on; rationally maximising their pay and bonuses during that period requires short term thinking.

          There are going to be accidents like this with horrible consequences under any system. Consider the Chenobyl accident, which happened due to poor saftety measures, despite the opperators of the plant having no profit motive.

          Any system which encourages shortcuts and normalisation of risk is highly problematic. Whether it be at a nuclear power reactor or at a coal mine. That’s why you need a system of strong checks and balances; strong regulation which is enforced strongly in other words.

          It just so happens that in a capitalist system, bottom line expediency and cost savings is an additional driver for taking shortcuts.

          And probably Fukushima is a better and more modern example than Chernobyl.

          There, it was also clear that regulators had far too cosy a relationship with the parties they were supposed to be regulating. Earlier whistleblowers has also been ignored.

          There, it was clear that spent fuel pools were stacked more full of used fuel rods than they were ever designed for because of the cost savings from doing it that way.

          • McFlock

            Bang on. Especially about the normalisation of risk.

          • Nick C

            “Only if you think in the long term, which private sector shareholders often do not.

            A CxO is often only in a job for four or five years before moving on; rationally maximising their pay and bonuses during that period requires short term thinking.”

            Yes, but saftey standards you impliment to prevent future accidents will increase your share price now. It’s effectivly getting rid of a liability (the risk of an expensive accident).

            • Colonial Viper

              Yes, but saftey standards you impliment to prevent future accidents will increase your share price now. It’s effectivly getting rid of a liability (the risk of an expensive accident).

              ? I’ve never heard of stock prices being moved by unquantified changes in long term potential tail risks.

              Share prices are (or used to be) very driven by quarter to quarter eps expectations. Cutting corners conveniently reduces costs and increases quarter by quarter eps expectations. For a while at least.

              Banks do the same thing. Make huge sales of dodgy subprime loans, use loan loss reserves of 1% or less, and book the revenue now.

              The whole loan book will implode in four or five years, but who cares: everyone who matters has got their bonuses, the share price has rocketed up, poor people got to live in a nice house for a while.

        • RedLogix

          NickC does make a valid point. The owners and managers of Pike River never intended to blow their mine up. Nor would I suggest they were conciously placing profit ahead of safety. That’s too long a bow really.

          But in the H&S business what happened is technically called latent failure.

          Latent failures are made by people whose tasks are removed in time and space from operational activities, e.g. designers, decision makers and managers. Latent failures are typically failures in health and safety management systems (design, implementation or monitoring).

          Examples of latent failures are:

          Poor design of plant and equipment;
          Ineffective training;
          Inadequate supervision;
          Ineffective communications;
          Inadequate resources (e.g. people and equipment); and
          Uncertainties in roles and responsibilities
          Poor SOPs.

          Latent failures provide great, if not a greater, potential danger to health and safety as active failures. Latent failures are usually hidden within an organisation until they are triggered by an event likely to have serious consequences.

          This is exactly what happened at Pike River. The combination of financial pressure, a difficult geology, and most critically.. no effective external oversight and a lighthanded regulatory environment.

          All this stuff is well known. I happen to know that Pike’s H&S Officer is one of the most highly qualified and experienced around. (And he lost a son; he’s paid a hell of price.) But in hindsight he was too exposed, too many calls in a context that was slowly turning to shit around him… but no-one to help him see it. This is a common human failing and I’m not pointing a finger, just naming it.

          Ultimately the fault lies with the govt that dismantled the regulations in the first place. Sadly no-one will hold them to account; certainly not our media.

          • just saying

            The culture of an environment encourages failures caused by omission and commission. And in many work cultures, safe practices are discouraged or even prevented by budgetry and time constraints, so it’s a kind of wink-nudge kind of thing amongst workers and management alike.

          • Colonial Viper

            Poor design of plant and equipment: who allowed substandard equipment and specifications to be used, and why? Was price a factor?

            Ineffective training: who was responsible for the quality of training and ensuring effectiveness? Were budgets a factor?

            Inadequate supervision: did management realise that supervision was inadequate? Was action taken to rectify it? Were inexperienced or unqualified staff asked to supervise – and if so were budgets a factor?

            Ineffective communications;
            Inadequate resources (e.g. people and equipment); and
            Uncertainties in roles and responsibilities
            Poor SOPs.

            and so on and so forth.

            My point is this: the management culture of an organisation (which is driven from the top) has massive effects on the potential for latent failures to exist and propagate. EDIT I see Just Saying made a very similar point.

            Did Pike River want their mine to explode? No, certainly not.

            Did Pike River want their mine to meet or exceed minimum New Zealand and Australian norms for good mining practice? Also no, certainly not.

        • mik e

          Nick of time quote Gerry Brownlee the mining company has $300million invested in this mine its ridiculous to even think they would take shortcuts with safety.

        • mik e

          fukushima to you Nick c they wouldn’t bother to start any enterprise like this nick c if it weren’t for ACC you nickhead. leaky buildings is another example of lax govt control laissez fair $32billion problem national offers $500million to fix!

    • Nick – none of that makes sense.

      Whether a company makes a gazillion dollars in profit – or nothing – is irrelevant at the end of the day, when it comes to safety of employees. Safety is not dependent on profit-levels. (At least, not in this country.)

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