The miners’ union says Pike River Coal is insisting that its lawyers sit in on official police and Department of Labour investigation interviews into the mine tragedy which claimed 29 lives.
The union said that was potentially “contaminating” the process.
However, Pike River said today it was only making employees – many of whom had no prior contact with the police – aware of their legal rights.
The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, which represents miners, said today the company’s stance was causing major conflict.
“Management is insisting on the right of company lawyers to sit in on interviews. Their lawyers are sitting in on interviews with the Department of Labour and police,” general secretary Andrew Little said.
However, Pike River Coal chairman John Dow said it was up to individual employees whether lawyers sat in on the interviews.
The company was only trying to ensure its staff got the appropriate advice on their rights, and how the process worked.
“We are trying to find out what happened, our only interest is getting to the bottom of it – what caused the explosion and making sure it won’t happen again.
“We’ve said to our employees that if they are not happy having lawyers in the room, that’s fine.”
So the EPMU is arguing that the employees should have no choice in whether or not a lawyer is present for their interviews.
A Department of Labour (DOL) spokesman said it was the employee’s choice to decide whether company lawyers or other representatives attended on DOL interviews.
“We are informing employees that they have this choice.”
As it should be.