New Zealand: Pike River Mining Disaster

Socialist Appeal sends its deepest sympathies and stands in solidarity with the families of the 29 miners who died in the recent Pike River disaster, and the West Coast communities .

These recent shocking events at the mine and the subsequent explosions should not happen in a modern mine where health and safety should be paramount. It is interesting to note that in 1990 the Coal Mines Act was repealed. The repeal of such a piece of mining-specific safety legislation enabled the industry to become self-regulating as the safety aspect of mines was handed over to the Occupational Safety and Health and the police. Mining researcher Peter Ewen is on record as stating that the law change had turned back the clock 120 years.

The question raised is how can two managers effectively run a modern coal mine and guarantee the miners' safety? Certainly, the most recent government review of mines safety highlighted the inadequate safety inspection regime and rejected the need for independent inspectors as it would prove confrontational with the mines management! Perhaps because the miners view their health and safety as utmost against the profitability of the mine itself.

Certainly the events have raised numerous questions and several investigations have been instigated. The most notable being the Royal Commission of Inquiry set in place by the government. The miners' union EPMU is concerned that workers will be intimidated and not be able speak the truth as they see it for fear of losing any future employment opportunities in the industry. The union movement needs to be vigilant that the Royal Commission of Inquiry is not a whitewash, and needs to expose the inadequacies of the process as they occur to workers

To answer the inadequacies of the Royal Commission: Socialist Appeal urges the EPMU and the CTU to set up an independent labour movement inquiry into the Pike River mining disaster with expertise being drawn from the international labour movement in particular the miners' unions around the world.

Pike River Mine should be nationalised and taken out of private ownership under workers control and management on the return of a Labour government Such an approach to management to be made in all state-owned mines. Miners who now face redundancy due to ongoing problems at the mine should receive their full wages not the dole. The Coal Mines Act should be re-instated in to law immediately. The labour and trade union movement need to raise to these challenges This is the least we should be doing to honour the memory of the 29 miners who lost their lives at Pike River.

Donations to EPMU Pike River Miners Families Support Trust:
Kiwibank branch or direct to bank account: Kiwibank 38-9011-0165987-00
Cheques made out to "EPMU Pike River Families Support Trust" can also be sent by post, care of EPMU, PO Box 14-277, Kilbirnie, Wellington 6241.

Source: Socialist Appeal (New Zealand)