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The dead and the living

Written By: - Date published: 8:48 am, December 15th, 2010 - 37 comments
Categories: leadership, Mining - Tags: ,

It is much easier to honour the dead than it is to care for the living.

As a government and as a country we honoured the Pike River dead, as was right and proper. But now the hard part starts. What are we going to do for the Pike River survivors? The families who lost loved ones. The fellow workers who have now lost their livelihood.

The plight of the contract workers is particularly dire:

Pike River contract staff left out in cold

Out-of-work Pike River miners will start finding out today whether they have jobs, and if not, how much they will be paid out.

However contractors, and the families of contractors who were killed in the mine, may not receive a cent.

About 100 contractors were employed by Pike River Coal, including Milton Osborne, one of the 29 men killed.

His grieving wife, Anna, sobbed as she spoke of her concerns about provision for her family.

“My children have no father because of this and it’s something that should never have happened in the first place,” she said last night.

“And because of this we are now trying to deal with what’s owed to us. He [Milton] worked his arse off for that company and it’s a slap in the face to say, well, he’s dead and there’s possibly no money coming because of it.”

At a press conference yesterday, Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall said there was no obligation to continue paying contractors.

The interview with Anna Osborne is on Morning Report here.

It is time for the government to step up with a package to support all Pike River survivors. Because it would cost a fraction of what it costs to bail out rich investors. Because it would be an incredibly popular move with the country. Because it is the right thing to do.

37 comments on “The dead and the living ”

  1. New Zealanders have donated vast sums to the appeals for the miners. i wonder where that cash has gone. Helping these families would seem to be the priority to me.

    Interesting how the mine management’s soft and cuddly act has been dropped.

    • Tigger 1.1

      Yes, fascinating to see the CEO speak of the dead contractors as simply unsecured creditors last night on TVOne. He’s was practically canonised by some in the media/public – still so enamoured are you all?

      And again, the need for contractor law reform is evident.

      • Swampy 1.1.1

        The CEO is employed by the board. They tell him what to do.

        He got the plaudits because he fronted up to do the hard yards at the coalface not because he was some super guru or whatever.

        Contractors have chosen that course of business. They want to run their own business and they operate by providing their services to another company. As such they are subject to the normal risks and challenges of running a business. Just comes with the territory you know.

        There is no proven need for change to contract law. It is the prerorgative of a business to choose what they will employ people to do and what they will purchase as services from another company. For example Pike didnt own the trucks that were used to move their coal to the railhead. They didn’t own the rail wagons that moved it to the port and they didn’t own the ships that took it to the cutomers. Those were all contracted services.

    • OleOlebiscuitBarrell 1.2

      interesting how the mine management’s soft and cuddly act has been dropped.

      The company is in receivership. The management is not making any decisions.

      • bbfloyd 1.2.1

        apart from the decision to race into receivership at the earliest opportunity…of course, they will have been told what to say on tv by the receivers?

        • OleOlebiscuitBarrell 1.2.1.1

          Normally, receivership is not optional at the discretion of the debtor. Usually, it is the creditor who decides to put the debtor into receivership.

          • Pascal's bookie 1.2.1.1.1

            If by ‘normally’ you mean ‘often’ then sure.

            But voluntary receivership is also quite normal.

            PRC called in the recievers as I understand it. It’s true that one of their biggest creditors happens to be their largest shreholder, but that doesn’t change the fact of what happened.

            • OleOlebiscuitBarrell 1.2.1.1.1.1

              There is no legal concept of voluntary receivership. It has to be started by the secured party. You may be thinking of voluntary liquidation.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      New Zealanders have donated vast sums to the appeals for the miners. i wonder where that cash has gone.

      Yeah, I’ve been wondering that. Last time I heard it was well over $100k for each worker that died.

  2. Good comment.

    Hopefully the media’s love in with PR’s Management will now dissapate as management is shown to be money grabbing and totally disinterested in the plight of their workers.

    Government could set up a trust fund for the families with $1m per deceased donated. This would go some way to alleviating their hardship. Total cost would be $29m a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.7b given to South Canterbury Finance’s investors.

    I bet it does not happen. Shows where this Government’s priorities are.

    EDIT: Agreed Tigger above.

    • Tigger 2.1

      Was gobsmacked at Key last night, ms. What spin doctor told him to be so blase about dead miners’s families not getting paid for work they’d done? Definitely saw the deadness behind the eyes when he was speaking, great to see his lack of compassion finally being outed.

      A trust is a great idea and totally agree, $1M per deceased is nothing in the scheme of things. Labour, Greens? In fact, this should have happened right at the start – a government trust fund we could have donated into as well instead of all these rag-tag ‘fundraisers’ where you’re never sure where the heck the money is ending up.

      Got to say, this whole thing is evidence why private business sucks at this sort of stuff. Ultimately it is all about money – decency goes out the window. And yet again, the taxpayer will be doing the right thing while the business, which has sucked profit from the West Coast for years, walks off into the sunset.

      • Swampy 2.1.1

        Oh really? $300 million invested in this mine. The investors will be lucky if they get a few cents in the dollar of that back to them if it turns out that the mine can’t be re opened.

        Pike has $9 million which just pays the staff as they are at the top of the list, probably that 9 mill will be gone pretty quickly and the investors will actually have to stump up some more of the ongoing costs or allow a firesale of the recoverable assets (the ones above the ground). Maybe less than 50 million in that.

  3. Sanctuary 3

    Where the hell is Phil Goff in all this? Swanning about in Wellington being portrayed by the media as a bully forcing poor Pansy from office (at least that was how TVNZ painted it last night) shows how skewed his political antenna have become, how out of touch he is.

    Pike River is the big story, not the beltway snaring of Pansy Wong.

    Any good LEFT WING politician would have known this instinctively.

    Goff should have known that Helen Kelly was having a meeting in Greymouth to help set up a family support group, and he should have gone down there for the meeting and to thunder to any media available that now the photo op has passed the PM is nowhere to be seen, and the Labour Party does not forget its roots.

    He should have known that it was likely Pike River was going to go into receivership yesterday. Being in Greymouth, standing with destitute and bereaved worker’s and contractor’s families, and demanding they get fully paid out for what they are owed would have landed some big blows on Key’s cold and heartless “its complicated legally” soundbite.

    Instead, Goff was in Wellington, playing beltway games, out of touch with what are the big stories in the minds of New Zealanders.

    His lack of visibility is almost total. Time to go, Mr. Goff.

    • bbfloyd 3.1

      so we can assume from your comment that it is phil goff who decides for the media what they say about him? and, of course, the media aren’t going to continue with the constant misrepresentation, or the ignoring of everything goff says, unless it can be twisted to suit the interests of their bosses in wellington?

      “being portrayed by the media as a bully forcing poor pansy from office”.. so we can assume your grasp of the english language is so poor as to be able to utterly fail to understand what a half witted conclusion you arrive at after stating quite clearly how badly our “fourth column” is representing reality? or are you just so bigoted that you havn’t the wit to do no more than dog whistle?

      by the way, thanks for showing us what a craven, unscrupulous bunch of hacks make up our so called political (anal)ists..

      • Roger 3.1.1

        I bet if Goff went down there the mainstream media organisations would have portrayed his presence as playing politics. No doubt someone like John Armstrong would use his horse-race analysis and suggest Goff is trying to improve his polling percentage, getting back at Key for the Mana result, or somehow linking it to Pansy Wong resigning to get a double hit on the government.

        • Swampy 3.1.1.1

          Everything a politician does is political by definition. The leaders of both were over there pretty quickly (Goff was actually much slower). It’s what we expect from national leadership. The politics can go to hell as far as I am concerned.

          If you don’t accept that politicians are expected to play a leadership role in matters of national interest I presume you do not believe in democracy.

    • “Being in Greymouth, standing with destitute and bereaved worker’s and contractor’s families, and demanding they get fully paid out for what they are owed would have landed some big blows on Key’s cold and heartless “its complicated legally” soundbite.”

      That would have been great to see. A real lost opportunity to help the families.

      • Swampy 3.2.1

        But he was not talking about the receivership.

        He was talking about the funding of the recovery operation. Whether the company should be sent the bill or whether the government should step in and continue funding it.

        I think most people would have formed the view that the company should be paying the bills to put the fire out and make the mine safe to be entered, if it is possible to do it.

    • Swampy 3.3

      Goff was not in Greymouht until 2 days after the explosiion. I wonder if campaigning in Mana was more important .

  4. Bill 4

    Why should they (PRC) be allowed to socialise the costs of their business in any. way. whatsoever?

    And why should grave robbing investors get away with whatever portion of the supposed $9 million in the PRC accounts without being hauled over the coals?

  5. Descendant Of Smith 5

    I have mixed views on who should do what cause not all the facts are clear.

    There has to be a little more complexity to the contractor’s wife situation that it seems as well though.

    Surely in terms of ongoing income would she not be entitled to ACC as well along with the waged and salary earners? In saying that I’ve seen farmers and builders etc come undone when an accident has happened cause they have the wife on the books as a wage earner to reduce the income and ACC levies only to find that of course that the ACC is assessed only on the basis of their own income. I’m not suggesting something like that has happened but I would have though that their would be ACC income support for considerably more than the benefit rate.

    Absolutely the contractors across the district should receive their money owed but as all are well aware businesses go into receivership all the time leaving plenty of unpaid creditors behind all the time. There’s been plenty of businesses go under because of this. Ultimately those that survive do so because they predominantly charge their other customers sufficient to meet the losses.

    “At a press conference yesterday, Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall said there was no obligation to continue paying contractors.”

    There’s a world of difference between paying people what you owe them and paying ongoing support for work not done. Either way though there is an obligation – it’s called a moral one.

    What is clear from afar is that contractors are not feeling supported, workers are losing their jobs and that the company has (apparently?)insufficient resource to meet all it’s obligations – both legal and moral.

    I don’t think there’s any easy answer – I’d be interested in where the shareholders are in all this. what is it they they would like to happen? How much is owed to contractors?

    • bbfloyd 5.1

      the easy answer is that they(contractors)and their families are screwed. and the shareholders and our great leaders in wellington don’t give a shit, unless there is political capital to be made from it.

      • Bill 5.1.1

        The flip side to that is that they will also do something if they perceive that there will be too much political damage if they don’t.

    • Bill 5.2

      If PRC and receivers and all the rest of the shower feel that contractors are no longer supplying a service and so they (PRC) have no obligation to them, then hey….in line with the sterile…lifeless…mind set of those nice Capitalist chappies who want their invested monies back.

      At what point, or at the occurrence of what event, is a miner’s shift determined to have ended? At what point did management ‘stop the clock’ on wage payments? At the time of the explosion? At some indeterminate point after? And what rationale or criteria did they use and why? And did those criteria square with the procedures within the employment agreements?

      The same can be asked of contractors in the mine. At what precise point did PRC determine that those contractors were no longer ‘supplying a service’;what was the rationale and does it stack up logically and in the face of contractual clauses?

      If people are out of the equation…and they seem to be from the statements coming from PRC… then fine, people don’t count and considerations of whether they are alive or dead are immaterial as to whether they are technically still in ‘on the clock’.

      Meanwhile, who are the investors? Phone numbers and addresses anyone? $9 million is nothing to a corporate investor. And seriously? I’d like to see some public opprobrium poured on the heads of these grave robbing bastards.

      • Descendant Of Smith 5.2.1

        Top 10 Shareholders

        As at 2 July 2010
        Shareholder
        Ordinary Shares
        % of Ordinary Shares

        NZOG Services Limited
        119,031,670
        29.4

        Gujarat NRE Limited
        28,943,245
        7.1

        Saurashtra World Holding Private Limited
        22,309,358
        5.5

        Accident Compensation Corporate – NZCSD
        19,753,312
        4.9

        National Nominees NZ Limited – NZCSD
        13,968,019
        3.4
        Forsyth Barr Custodians Limited\
        8,237,121
        2.0

        AMP Investments Strategic Equity Growth Fund – NZCSD
        7,366,228
        1.8

        New Zealand Superannuation Fund Nominees Limited – NZCSD
        6,854,896
        1.7

        Custody and Investment Nominees Limited – A/C NZCSD
        3,465,155
        0.9

        National Nominees Limited
        3,057,600
        0.8

        Note: The above list includes custodians, who hold shares on behalf of various other beneficial owners.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.3

      Surely in terms of ongoing income would she not be entitled to ACC as well along with the waged and salary earners?

      You’d be amazed at how difficult contractors find it to get ACC at all even though they pay double (Both the workers portion and the employers) the amount that someone on PAYE does. ACC pretty much refuses to pay out to contractors.

      Absolutely the contractors across the district should receive their money owed but as all are well aware businesses go into receivership all the time leaving plenty of unpaid creditors behind all the time.

      Contractors should be the first to be paid out for work done and for the full amount agreed upon. It’s not them that’s taking the “risk” but the investors.

      I’d be interested in where the shareholders are in all this. what is it they they would like to happen?

      They want their money back plus interest – the same as the unsecured “investors” of SCF got.

  6. Deadly_NZ 6

    Well what do you know?

    The Nats won’t do anything.

    ACC will wriggle and put everyone through a dozen hoops trying to get out of paying anything, I reckon the Nats have this marked for sale.

    Helen Kelly was there ?? I’m Sorry this woman is almost as shallow as The Teflon John.

    The recievers are there to wring every dollar out but they will get thier fees first and everyone else gets a kick up the ass.

    Welcom to NZ in the twenties where if disaster strikes you are on your own it seems

    • grumpy 6.1

      “The recievers are there to wring every dollar out but they will get thier fees first and everyone else gets a kick up the ass.”

      It’s always been like this. The “investors” will lose out big time, the secured investors (Banks etc.) will get first whack out of the assets, the probably will be little left for wages which are preferred creditors but ahead or the contractors who are unsecured and therefore probably get nothing.

      The Coast is littered with failures like this – why do you think the NZ Labour movement originated there – and in the coal mining industry as well.

      The good side is that coal miners can double their income in Australia.

    • Descendant Of Smith 6.2

      Actually it seems to me ACC have been quite proactive about being clear over entitlements: I don’t see how you can accuse them of trying to wiggle out of anything.

      “ACC assistance to the families of Pike River coal miners – questions and answers

      03 December 2010

      1. What assistance is available to the families of the 29 Pike River Coal Mine men?
      Entitlements include:
      * Funeral Grant
      Families can receive a funeral grant of up to $5,541.23. This can be used towards costs associated with a funeral or memorial service.
      * Survivor’s Grant
      A survivor’s grant is a one-off payment to the partner, children and other dependents of someone whose death was the result of an accident. The amount payable is $5,940.91 for a spouse or partner and $2,970.47 for each child under 18 or other dependent
      * Childcare
      * Childcare payments can be made to the caregiver of each child, for up to five years or until the child turns 14. Only children living in New Zealand are eligible for childcare payments. All childcare payments are non-taxable. Maximum childcare payments per week are: for one child – $126.33
      * for two children – $151.58 ($75.79 for each child)
      * for three or more children – $176.86 (divided evenly).

      * Weekly Compensation
      If the person who has died was an earner at the time of their death (paying income tax and ACC levies in New Zealand), weekly compensation payments are paid to the spouse or partner and dependant children based on a percentage of earnings.
      2. How is weekly compensation calculated?
      A Pike River Coal Mine victim’s spouse or partner can receive weekly compensation payments of up to 60% of 80% of their spouse or partner’s previous year’s earnings. In addition to this, children or other dependants receive up to 20% of 80% of the deceased person’s earnings. The amount paid to the victim’s spouse may be less than 60% if there are more than two eligible children or other dependants but the total payable to all surviving dependants cannot exceed 80% of the miner’s earnings. Weekly compensation is payable to the spouse for either five years, or until the youngest child in their care turns 18. It is payable to the children or other dependants until they turn 18, or 21 if they are in full-time study.
      3. What can funeral grants be used for?
      The funeral grant may be used for burial, cremation, and related ceremonies. The grant can also cover memorial costs if the body is not recovered. It can be used for transporting the body back to the deceased’s homeland. The funeral does not need to be in New Zealand.
      4. How much is the support provided likely to cost ACC?
      It is too soon to accurately determine this. ACC’s focus at this point in time is to provide support to those affected.
      5. What steps has ACC taken to ensure its Greymouth staff can provide necessary assistance to the families of the 29 Pike River miners?
      ACC is prepared for major events like this where there are multiple claims. ACC is able to lodge claims based on basic information, does not require specific forms, and does not need to wait for people to make contact. All 29 claims for the miners have since been lodged with ACC, based on information supplied by the NZ Police and Pike River Coal. ACC has already deployed a senior staff member to Greymouth to assist the families and help local ACC staff. Information packs for the families have been distributed, and ACC has been compiling information about the miners’ employment status and relevant personal details to ensure a prompt response.
      6. How do the families apply for assistance?
      Financial assistance (entitlements) can not be paid without the family, or someone the family nominates, first making contact with ACC. ACC has dedicated staff available to assist families and they can be contacted by phone or email.”

      _____________________________________________________________

      It’s always possible of course that issues will come up such as self employed earnings were reduced for tax purposes which then reduces entitlements as well or possibly a partner was claiming DPB and so were they a partner or not but those instances should be considered more carefully and I’m sure we would expect that they would be.

  7. Deadly_NZ 7

    Yes ACC have to be seen to being proactive , the outcry would have even shaken the govt if they did’nt but lets see what they are doing in 6 months for those who lost the main bread winner, sorry but i have dealt with acc and it not a pleasant or easy task.
    However I digress did any one read this on stuff I mean talk about making nothing sound like something .

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/4459069/More-help-sought-for-Pike-River-miners

    • Descendant Of Smith 7.1

      I’ve dealt with both ACC and the private firm CRM over rehabilitation issues for my wife from a serious work related accident.

      ACC may have it’s issues but CRM was a hundred times worse – at least with ACC their is some real accountability – you can write to a Minister and complain. In the end it was ACC who paid out for CRM’s stuff-ups.

  8. Hi,
    I am not interested in talking about ACC, I am interested in responses to the Pike disasters and issues around workers safety. For those who believe that coal mining is not safe, and that workers rights are important and workers safety is too, there is a lot to think about in the wake of the Pike tragedy.

    Reading the maps explores mining history in New Zealand and disputes between those who support and those who are against coal mining:
    http://readingthemaps.blogspot.com/2010/12/miner-problem.html there is a discussion in the comments section:

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7843316&postID=1633698769428298188 – One person comments that:
    …”The evidence shows that coal mining needs to be phased out. What that means for coal mining communities is another matter. So, we have the fact that it needs to stop (not immediately, but phased out while supporting the communities which rely on it)”…

    I have come across an interesting blog written by a miner who recently quit working in the mines, he explains why, and explores many subjects and questions about the mining industry in the US: http://thoughtfulcoalminer.blogspot.com/
    – “Having finally gotten fed up with current labor practices and environmental destruction within todays Appalachian coalfields, I left my job in the coal mines in search of a better future for my family”.

    There has not been to much discussion on Pike River Coal and who owns it and funds it, and who was to profit from its operations. I think there needs to be a focus on its Board of Directors and its investors. Pike River Coal was a finalist in the Roger Awards in 2007. Pike River Coal and NZ Oil and Gas are talked about in this article:

    In 2007, the big venture at Pike River on top of the Paparoa mountain range – mentioned as a prospect by Rogers – is in the full train of implementation. Previously in the year, Pike River Coal (PRC) boldly advertised in a brochure that: “A resource the world wants – is an investment you need”. This brochure was an invitation to invest in shares in PRC as NZ’s only local listed mining company. So on a planet subject to increasingly dangerous human-induced global warming, the maxim of “Think global, act local” has been given a new entrepreneurial twist. The sales pitch declared that: “Fuelled by economic growth, there is strong international demand for hard coking coal for steel production”. PRC is seizing the opportunity to supply the premium coal to which it now has officially sanctioned right of access. The firm’s brochure was aimed to generate applications for shares with an Initial Public Offer (IPO) opening on June 8th, 2007 and closing July 10th. Pike River Coal is a finalist in the 2007 Roger Award. NZOG is a Wellington-based company listed on both the NZ and Australian Stock Exchanges.

    http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/16/04.htm The New West Coast
    Gold/Coal Rush? Globalisation And Commodity Resources – by Dennis Small

    • Swampy 8.1

      The Roger Awards are a complete joke.
      Spare us the self adulatory grandstanding of that bunch of c*mm#n!st^c time wasters thanks.

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