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EPMU urges MPs to back mine check inspectors

August 8, 2013

EPMU urges MPs to back mine check inspectors

The EPMU has urged a select committee to ignore the self-interested lobbying of mining companies and give workers the right to have a say over their own health and safety.

The mining industry is lobbying strongly against the Pike River Royal Commission’s recommendation to allow union check inspectors. These inspectors would be accountable to workers and would have the power to stop unsafe mining operations.

EPMU national secretary Bill Newson told the Transport & Industrial Relations select committee that check inspectors could have prevented the Pike River tragedy.

“Check inspectors are needed to ensure mine workers have an independent voice on their own health and safety,” he told the committee. “The Royal Commission stated that ‘such inspectors may have made a difference at Pike River’.

“It is the EPMU’s view that the lack of legislative support for union check inspectors allowed Pike River management to ignore workers’ concerns and create a dangerous culture of silence on health and safety.

“Previous legislation has failed these workers and this is our chance to get it right. If something goes wrong in the future it will be sheeted home to this committee, to this parliament and to this legislation.

“We believe the welfare of these workers should take priority over submissions based on the difficulties and inconvenience that this legislation may cause for those whose primary interest is doing business.”

Mr Newson told the committee that calls from parts of the mining industry to be exempted from stronger inspections were “unfounded”, “ideologically-driven” and “regrettable” in the wake of the Pike River disaster. He reiterated the EPMU’s support for training requirements for check inspectors, as well as legislative safeguards to ensure safety remained their sole focus.

Check inspectors were a key recommendation of the Pike River Royal Commission and the EPMU has been calling for their reintroduction since the 1990s.

The EPMU’s oral submission is available at: www.epmu.org.nz/assets/Mining/EPMU-Pike-River-Oral-submission.pdf

ENDS

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