Unions attacking Whittall

December 6th, 2010 at 6:08 am by David Farrar

Fresh from the PR triumph of attacking Sir Peter Jackson, the continues its strategy of winning over the public by targeting .

The Press reports:

Council of Trade Unions president told a Canterbury Workers Educational Association function in Christchurch on Friday that Whittall should have apologised for the tragedy.

“He’s now been called a national hero, but he’s the CEO of that company and he hasn’t apologised,” she said.

“Even if the company did everything right, if it was me, I’d say: `I’m the employer. This has happened and I’m really sorry. I don’t know why, but I’m going to find out why’. But he hasn’t said that.”

Questions about what happened had not been asked, Kelly said.

“This is a very serious event. That mine was open for just over a year. There are 29 miners dead. We’ve got to be more mature about who we honour, how we think about things, what we demand. If that had been public Department of Conservation [land] we would have gone after them and said what had happened.

“But because it’s a company and because the CEO gets to sit next to the Prime Minister at the memorial service, the hard questions have not been asked.”

The CTU just don’t get it. Peter Whittall would not have insisted he be on the stage and one of the speakers at the memorial service. The PM would not have decided who the speakers are. I’m bet you that it was at the request of the miners families, that Whittall was on the stage as one of the speakers.

I’ve remarked on radio how unusual it is that the CEO of the mine where 29 people died has become a national hero. This must be very frustrating for the unions. But the reality is it is the way Whittall conducted himself that has won people over.

But he would know, that admiration for his post-explosion performance, will not protect him if it transpires that Coal has some culpability for what happened. Admiration for fronting up does not remove accountability and responsibility.

But this is why we have a Royal Commission – to establish the facts. I think it is unwise for various unions to already be trying to denigrate Whittall.

They have not been alone there. Cindy Baxter of Greenpeace facebooked soon after the tragedy a list of Pike River Directors, labelling them “the people who developed the mine that just killed 29 people”. An extra-ordinary rush to judgement.

We also had a Labour MP on day one of the explosion tweet about how the company must be asked the hard questions to prevent a cover-up and how the unions are key to this. This was before we even knew if anyone was dead.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) national secretary Andrew Little acknowledged Whittall had not sought hero status, but said failures on the part of mine managers or “the guys underground” could have caused the disaster.

“We need to reserve judgment until we get credible answers to questions about why it all happened.

“The company has been treated as somewhat heroic and in a way I think it’s somewhat undeserving.”

Little is correct in saying we need to reserve judgement. My admiration for Whittall’s response to the explosion in no way means that should not be held accountable if the facts warrant it.

I think Andrew is wrong though in saying the company has been treated as somewhat heroic. Whittall has been, but he is not the company. People have empathised with the fact he knew every single miner killed – in fact had employed them all, and so obviously grieved for them.

In yesterday’s HoS, Matt McCarten had the same theme:

under his watch, 29 men were killed and still lie entombed. Family members and friends of the dead have been robbed of a loved one. Many other workers, as a result of the explosion, will lose their livelihoods.

Unbelievably, the chief executive of this company becomes a media darling.

He did not become a “media darling” for what happened. He gained respect because he did what so many people say they want CEOs to do – he fronted up constantly, he did not spin, he did not lie, he told the truth. He was real.

If you have followed the media coverage you’d think the whole tragedy was just an unavoidable accident.

On the contrary, I think no such thing.

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82 Responses to “Unions attacking Whittall”

  1. Psycho Milt (2,369 comments) says:

    …the CTU continues its strategy of winning over the public….

    This may come as a shock, but unions don’t exist to win popularity contests, they exist to promote the interests of workers – eg, the ones killed down mines. Kelly, Little and McCarten are correct – the fact some dim bulbs in the media have been promoting Whittall as a hero due to his impressive conduct following the disaster doesn’t alter the fact that the buck stops with him, and he’s going to have to account for what happened.

    [DPF: One is better able to promote the interests of workers by not acting so stupidly. Public goodwill helps you achieve your aims]

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  2. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    I was interested to hear Andrew Little admitting that a report about attention to safety had effectively got lost down the back of the sofa due to the ‘change of Government’. This to me suggests much about the leader of the EPMU evidently too distracted by his other role as Labour Party President to monitor and keep a flame lit under teh ongoing issue of safety of his members. Of course, this is not to equate Little with being ‘responsible’ for the deaths. But I think that if this process is going to be predicated by the ‘blame game’ everyone involved should be prepared to stand up and admit it if they have someohow fallen short of their duty of care to these people, rather than engaging in spiteful or jealous posturing. (which to his credit, Little has so far refrained from, unlike Kelly and McCarten).
    http://monkeyswithtypewriter.blogspot.com/2010/12/epmu-blameless-in-pike-river-tragedy.html

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  3. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    PM, you are correct, the buck does stop with Whittall. And so far he’s not acquitted himself terribly well. He says he doesn’t know what caused the explosion that killed the miners. After the explosion, he said there were 36 miners missing when in fact only 29 miners were missing. He has not been forthcoming with information about what measures were in place to prevent such a tragedy. Apparently there was only one source of power to the mine. An American expert says that having only one source of power was an error. I get the distinct impression that Whittall may tell the truth and the whole truth eventually, but only if he’s compelled to. In the meantime, he’s quite happy to withhold important information from the familieis concerned.

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  4. Inventory2 (10,185 comments) says:

    It would appear that the union movement has decided to launch a concerted attack on Peter Whittall. Perhaps this is payback for them failing to gain inclusion on the Royal Commission. Other than that, I agree with Milt’s closing words regarding Whittall (“the buck stops with him, and he’s going to have to account for what happened.”); it’s up to the Royal Commission now to apportion responsibility.

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  5. Viking2 (11,286 comments) says:

    Oh Dear, Clark tatics all over again. How do we distract people from our own bad behavoir, oh I know we will attack someone else.
    So McCarten who is the workers champion attacks Whittall to smokescreen his illegal activity of not paying his workers PAYE to the IRD. The slime has no shame.

    Kelly, who with the assistance of some yank slimball attacks PRC and Whittal after attacking the employment of the workers she claims(in her head), to represent.
    These people are living off others hard earned money and rather than representing anyone they are pushing their own communist agenda. One which hopefully most Kiwi’s can see through.

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  6. scanner (340 comments) says:

    If this stupid bitch actually had the worker interests as her prime concern, she would shut her big flapping fucking mouth until at the very least, the facts start to emerge.
    If she wants someone to go after perhaps Andrew Little would be a good start, after all he lost the file down the back of the sofa, or even the Greenies whose forced to the mine to be built arse about face.

    [DPF: 20 demerits - bitch is an unacceptable word]

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  7. JC (933 comments) says:

    I can think of several reasons for the unions taking this stance.. one being a tribal response to management of the mine, another that there has been some criticism that they weren’t pushing known safety issues hard enough and need to shift blame, and another that they need to get a “friendly” commissioner on the Royal Commission to protect themselves and be seen to be working for their members.

    There’s also the inevitable political dimension of having the unions so deeply in Labour’s pocket.. Little’s position as union boss and MP has to be protected by throwing a little “chaff” in the air to downplay this.. and of course there’s some political points scoring to be gained if the commissioners don’t a include miner/unionist. This is also an opportunity to win back the West Coast seat for Labour.

    JC

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  8. Pete George (23,359 comments) says:

    Some people seem to be confusing how Whittall acquitted himself over the couple of weeks that the mining disaster played out with how Pike River (with Whittall being one with the most responsibility for the company) dealt with design and operational matters related to safety.

    Playing on this confusion doesn’t reflect well on those trying to score some political points. Are some union leaders trying to divert attention from their own involvement with the miners, in the mine, and safety issues?

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  9. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    What about union culpability? A young man on the Sunday programme said there were safety concerns..he contacted a union guy who told them to walk out of the mine..What did the official do after this? His sudoku or his crossword.??.He could have blown the whistle , gone to the media etc..Somewhere I saw that miners had far better cover under mining unions than under the engineers union…When did this change in representation take place?
    Someone in Kelley’s position should be able to do more than play the blame game.
    Peter Whittal wrote the 2008 report saying amongst other things that he was concerned about only one mines inspector in the South Island..Who disestablished the Mines Inpectorate?

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  10. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    He could have gone to media, Joana? I am sure he would’ve got support from Gerry Brownlee, right?

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  11. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Ross
    My engineering family said the same thing early on about how there should have been an alternate power source.

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  12. flipper (3,847 comments) says:

    I cannot understand how it is that the union conspiracy mongers believe Whittal is to blame. Really, as we all know, the culprit is John Key. Disguised as a miner he snuck into Greymouth and sabotaged the mine. He then employed Whittal to engage in the biggest cover up of all time.

    I agree with DPF. An “independent” Royal Commission MUST have a miners union rep or it will not be independent. Kelly, McCarten and to a lesser extent Little, are having another attack of the Jackson smarts. DUMB!

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  13. Dirty Rat (504 comments) says:

    Well, the buck does stop at someone.

    I blame it as an Act of God

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  14. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Helen Kelly is the Eddie the Eagle and Matt is the pissed uncle at the family Christmas party of the union movement.

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  15. Pete George (23,359 comments) says:

    What’s the use of an alternate power source if methane detectors automatically shut off the power if levels get too high? Of the many claims of poor design and poor safety practices a few will turn out to be correct, and those claimants who were wrong will quietly forget.

    The Commission will examine all aspects of mine safety and probable causes – before that is done I think it would be unwise for any involved parties to be trying to influence and divert public blame sympathies.

    I have no idea how significant any safety concerns actually were, but it’s worth noting that 29 men went in there to work that afternoon. If I had grave concerns about my safety I wouldn’t have gone in.

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  16. Komata (1,144 comments) says:

    Hre we go again – the unions simply cannot help themselves can they and just have to ‘put the boot in’ and attack the ‘Class Enemy’ epitomised by Mr. Whittall.

    The problem is that they (the unions) are operating in as much of a vacuum as anyone else, and without adequate information so cannot actually apportion ‘blame’ directly at Mr.Whitall, but as always this does not stop their ‘rabid dog’ approach. I do wonder however if these attacks (which on the face of it appear to be concerted, rather than random) are more about internal politicking within the union movement itself than about the ‘disaster’ per se,’ and are being made with a view to the ‘Main Chance’ of future over-all leadership, of the CTU rather than the dead at Pike River; the dead do have their uses and union leaders have been known to act in somewhat-cynical ways ‘for ‘The Cause’ (their ‘personal’ cause that is).

    And, having vilified Andrew Whittle, will the union leaders then turn on themselves in the usual socialist/unionist manner? One wonders . . .

    Politics and Death – an interesting combination, and ‘the game’ continues.

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  17. m@tt (613 comments) says:

    People have empathised with the fact he knew every single miner killed – in fact had employed them all, and so obviously grieved for them.

    Actually this is an example of the subtle PR spin that is in fact building Peter up to something greater than the sum of his parts.
    In a press conference he admitted that he did not in fact know all 29 personally as some were contractors and he admitted that he may not have even met some of them.
    David, like you I also think Peter has done a great job of fronting and being a visible leader during the days after the disaster however there has been some hyperbole and quite frankly some pumping up of personalities which I find a little distasteful.

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  18. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    So how long until it becomes apparent that another corporate “litany of lies” has already been conjured up, a-la Erebus and Air New Zealand? One would be a fool to believe in corporate honesty.

    It is well known that this company never had quite enough money, and that what money they did have was used to prove the resource and not to establish the extraction. Not enough holes were drilled and as a consequence the development of the mine was largely made up as they went in. This also explains the myriad problems the mine had in gestation.

    Bodgy job resulting in death.

    Bloody apologists half of you.

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  19. slightlyrighty (2,499 comments) says:

    How can Kelly state that Whittal has not apologised? Has she been following all his movements since this tragedy occurred? Has she been in on every meeting with the families of the deceased? Or do we have a rush to judgement without reference to all the facts and without regard to the consequences of the outburst?

    People like Kelly have a mental default setting that assumes the worst behavior on the part of employers and assumes the best behavior on the part of employees.

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  20. wreck1080 (3,821 comments) says:

    Anything is pure speculation , until the report is produced. Even then , they might not discover the true cause.

    Maybe a series of individual events occurred which in themselves would be insignificant but when combined resulted in catastrophic systems failure.

    What if the workers themselves did not follow safety procedures? Is that the fault of the mine bosses?

    So, really, it is too early to issue blame. Speculation is pointless as you may well be proved wrong.

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  21. Dave Mann (1,190 comments) says:

    I find that this Kelly woman almost always rubs me up the wrong way…. but in this instance I must say that she and Matt McCarten have a good point. Peter Whittall is, after all, the CEO of a company which has effectively killed 29 of its employees and Helen Kelly is not baying for his blood; she seems to be quite moderately and reasonably pointing this out.
    I have no idea what the enquiry will find, but it would be am absolute bastard if the hard questions were not asked because the media have fallen in love with the CEO.

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  22. Guy Fawkes (702 comments) says:

    It is the focus of blame that is of great concern to me.

    Blame that may yet prove to be in areas not connected to the unfortunate workers or indeed their employers.

    Think we had better sit and wait this out. The Unions and various Pinko Pundits are best advised STFU until there are far more substantive facts.

    But we all know that they actually won’t, mainly because they actually can’t!

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  23. Pete George (23,359 comments) says:

    it would be am absolute bastard if the hard questions were not asked because the media have fallen in love with the CEO.

    The media don’t ask the questions in a Royal Commission. Those asking the questions are hardly likely to be swayed by a few people commenting on their impressions (or ulterior motives) of some media coverage.

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  24. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Ross..I didn’t get the union official /Jerry Brownlee connection…Noone in CHCh is frightened of Jerry Brownlee..they all remember the school teacher within..In my day, union officials were not frightened of anyone..or frightened of losing their own jobs..they were concerned about the jobs of others and spoke out when the situation warranted it. I am not saying other people’s actions should not be examined..I am simply saying the actions of this official should also be examined..If he thought the situation was so serious that the men should immediately walk out he knew more than a lot of other people knew.Also the men were looking to him at a time when they were concerned if they took things further they would lose their jobs. What would a ”mining” union rep have done??

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  25. Dave Mann (1,190 comments) says:

    Hi Pete… but there is still a risk that the pressure of public opinion (created by a sensational media) will have an influence on the questions asked. I can almost see the way Sir Humphrey would handle it – so a union counterbalance right from the start is in my view a healthy thing.

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  26. hmmokrightitis (1,572 comments) says:

    I think the media stupidity about all of this has confused the union – there is a difference between someone having a high profile, and being admired. And, as I suspect most NZ’ers at the moment have, a level of respect for the mine CEO, who has shown great dignity, an openness and willingness to engage, all the while in the back of his mind knowing that it was on his watch that 29 men died. That doesn’t make him a hero, and for the life of me, I don’t know how anyone could think that, but it seems the union does, but that’s for their own ends, as per usual.

    Just think, if both Kelly and Little had come out with cautionary statements around a rush to judgment, follow due process etc etc, showing their smarts and leadership capability all at once, how much would they have gained in most peoples eyes? But no, more of the same. Why is it we have to get dragged back by these morons to the ’50′s bosses vs. workers bullshit again? And this man will be PM one day? Sweet hay-sus, that scares me more than anything.

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  27. annie (540 comments) says:

    Helen Kelly certainly isn’t a fast learner, is she?

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  28. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    Perhaps the wider public is not aware of various “facts” yet but many many facts are well known in the community and industry.

    Where there is smoke there is fire (most of the time). One would be well advised to listen to them (and take them in stride).

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  29. Lance (2,573 comments) says:

    It would help with credibility if unions didn’t fight for their workers rights to NOT wear safety gear in some industries.
    A bazaar bunch of conspiracy theorists whose only philosophy seems to be ‘company bad, worker good’.

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  30. grumpyoldhori (2,416 comments) says:

    Frustrating for the unions, yep, having twenty nine of your members dead in a mine might just cause a touch of frustration.
    Fuck, listening to some of the media one would come to the conclusion that Whittal was a trained rescue miner and would be leading the team in person in a rescue attempt to get the miners out.

    Interesting though, a mining crew pulls out because of safety issues and what was the most important point to the management, who rang the union.

    Christ I’m only surprised the company is not saying that they would be best placed to run any enquiry.

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  31. Falafulu Fisi (2,177 comments) says:

    So Matt McCarten thinks that Mr Whittall is the Obama of this country, where the MSM in the US fell in love with him in the 2008 presidential election? Umm, but I thought that Matt McCarten was 100% supportive of Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Mr Matt McCarten was therefore fell in love with Obama exactly as his stupid complaint yesterday about Mr Whittal’s nice treatment from the media.

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  32. James Stephenson (2,097 comments) says:

    A young man on the Sunday programme said there were safety concerns..he contacted a union guy who told them to walk out of the mine..What did the official do after this? His sudoku or his crossword.??.He could have blown the whistle , gone to the media etc..

    I’m sure I heard Andrew Little on the radio (probably with Maggie Barry) saying that his union had had no reason to be conccerned about safety at the mine.

    I’m wondering how much of this attack on Peter Whitall is a reaction to the fingers that have been pointed at the fact that the design of the mine was altered due to environmental constraints placed on it by the last Government, especially the second ventilation shaft that it was not allowed…

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  33. scrubone (3,090 comments) says:

    Matt McCarten stated that there was no one on the commission to speak for the miners. Apparently, he’s missed the whole point of the commission.

    But Andrew Little hasn’t done himself proud either. He stated on Campell Live the other day that this would never have happened in a Solid Energy mine and insisted it was wrong to call it an accident during the service. (Not sure what else whey would have described it as – maybe a “problem of as yet undetermined source at this point”).

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  34. vendetta (60 comments) says:

    I don’t really see anything untoward at this stage – as DPF says, he’s fronted where he could have hidden, talked straight when he could have said ‘no comment’ and THUS FAR appears to be aware the buck stops with him.

    Obviously if he’s found liable, and the media seems to imply forgiveness is in order because of his compassion and humanity – then that’s something to worry about.

    If the media was painting him as a negligent monster and rushing to crucify him before the facts were known, somehow I doubt the unions would be voicing concern about this potentially tainting the outcome of the inquiry.

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  35. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    James Stephenson, there was no request to DOC for a second ventilation shaft. Wake up.

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  36. ben (2,414 comments) says:

    Imagine how much more sensible the world would be without the Left.

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  37. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    Of course ben, like the yin without the yang. Sheesh.

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  38. BeaB (2,085 comments) says:

    So Kelly wants him to say “I am sorry” when everything about the man – his words, his demeanour, his actions – showed exactly how sorry he was. It’s true that he will be held to account but neither he nor his boss seems to running away from that. It is a strange thing for Kelly to prefer style over substance when we all know actions speak louder than words. She is very odd.
    Do you think the low opinion of human nature held by people like Kelly etc is actually an indication of how they themselves think and behave?

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  39. grumpyoldhori (2,416 comments) says:

    ben so was twenty nine dead left wing miners a good start ?

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  40. Zarchoff (100 comments) says:

    This is the unions idea of helping – find someone to blame!

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  41. Lance (2,573 comments) says:

    wow grumpyhori…

    Making outrageous statements to make it look like anyone opposing your views is heartless bastard.
    The tobacco companies would be proud of you.
    Don’t make the argument about the actual issue, make it about something you can’t lose on.

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  42. grumpyoldhori (2,416 comments) says:

    Lance Ben asked the question, would the world be better off without the left, I pointed out that twenty nine of the left are gone.
    You are sensitive that I might have hurt his feelings, cry me a river.

    Asking the question would the world be better off without the left after some have been lost is not heartless ? you on the right are different.

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  43. Lance (2,573 comments) says:

    I don’t believe ben was advocating killing the left.
    That’s what you made the argument about, and that sucks.

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  44. wf (401 comments) says:

    From the first we knew Peter Whittall would be on a hiding to nothing – if he is respected it’s surely because we can’t imagine how we would conduct ourselves in such a situation. He had been CEO for 9 weeks. The unions had been involved since the mine’s beginning, but are now acting as though they were powerless to act for their members. Lazy more like.

    Ross @ 6.51 criticised PW for not knowing the number of miners actually missing: perhaps in the immediate aftermath that’s quite likely – after all one young fellow is alive because he didn’t feel like going to work, but he would have been on the shift roster, and then there were a few tags at the entrance which the miners hadn’t picked up when they came off shift.

    I do hope that the commission is rigorous and uncompromising in it’s investigations. At the very least we will all know a lot more about coal mining at the end.

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  45. david (2,557 comments) says:

    grumpy – evidence please that the 29 were all “left”

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  46. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Grumpy ..you are making assumptions about 29 dead men..several of whom were not miners…How do you know their political beliefs??

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  47. RightNow (6,844 comments) says:

    goh – how do you know the political leanings of all of those 29? On the most shallow measure they were likely all earning over $60k so would have been fiscally better off voting for a right wing government.

    I think the union leaders simply can’t avoid the knee-jerk reactions we keep seeing from them. My inclination is to wait until the investigations are completed and more is known about the causes of the disaster.

    In the meantime let the unions/lefties carry on their smears, as Psycho Milt said above the unions don’t exist to win popularity contests. If they feel compelled to make allegations so soon then that’s their choice, I expect that Peter Whittall/PRC and the relevant government ministers will maintain the decorum they’ve acted with so far and not rise to the bait.

    As with previous situations, rushing to judgement will only leave the unions/Labour with egg on their faces.

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  48. Gwilly (156 comments) says:

    The unions seriously need their wings clipped, they are are a menace and are ruining this country.

    Can you believe Mike Williams on Q&A yesterday thought one of the two solutions to catching Australia were to make Unions stronger! I had to rewind my Sky Box and check he actually said that several times. These people are screwing up this country completely and utterly. The fact that anyone could even hold such a view deserves to be locked up in a mental institution. What planet are they living on?

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  49. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    Well silly gwilly, Australia has stronger unions than NZ does…. how does that fit in the reasoning segment of your own brain functions? (if in fact you have such a segment as there was no reasoning in your last post)

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  50. Gwilly (156 comments) says:

    What happened with Hobbit movie rather proves my point don’t you think. That “little” attempt of the unions to flex their muscles cost NZ $20M.

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  51. Kimble (4,417 comments) says:

    “Australia has stronger unions than NZ does”

    They also have a larger population, more profitable companies, and vastly more accessable and desireable natural resources.

    Australia is not ahead of NZ because of their Unions. Australian workers are not ahead of their NZ counterparts because of Unions, as much as those Unions try to take credit for it. Union membership in Australia crashed to very low levels, and for much the same reason as it did in NZ (outside of ECA). The Unions stopped representing genuine workers, and started to exist for their own purposes. They stood in the way of business growth, and people quickly realised that lower growth meant fewer jobs. Australia also had large employment growth in areas that it is difficult to unionise for a number of reasons.

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  52. Mark (1,436 comments) says:

    Indeed Australia has a very strong union movement by comparison to New Zealand, they are however slightly less inclined to make the stupid PR blunders that Helen Kelly has demonstrated a propensity for. They tend to do their homework and are pretty well-informed before they shoot from the lip. Kelly appears to just shoot first and think later as the Hobbit debacle demonstrated.

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  53. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    Matt McCarten got it wrong when he said the Anglican clergyman had attributed the mine explosions to an act of God.

    It was the other way round. The vicar said it wasn’t an act of God.

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  54. Kimble (4,417 comments) says:

    Either way, what does a vicar’s muttering about his imaginary friend have to do with anything?

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  55. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    Australia certainly has a larger population and more importantly a faster growing population. And yes it has lotsa minerals (but so does NZ actually) that China wants. It aint called the lucky country for nothing.

    But the strong unions in Australia have without doubt been part of the reason that the lower portion of the population has a greater portion of the wealth than here in NZ, and hence a higher living standard. This will be what Mike Williams was referring to – ensuring the lower portion of the nation has a larger share of the nation’s wealth (it has been in serious and unprecedented decline in NZ).

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  56. TCrwdb (246 comments) says:

    Unions should fuck off and die, they’ve had their day.

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  57. grumpyoldhori (2,416 comments) says:

    Gwilly fuck you right wingers are fucking dumb are you not, you state the unions are a menace, yes, they do tend to be rather keen on safety issues unlike those from the extreme right who believe that no regulations is the way to go.
    But, grow a pair boy, go down to Greymouth drop into the pub and rant that in the history on the West Coast of mining employers have been the ones leading the way on safety.
    You may get a surprise.

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  58. vendetta (60 comments) says:

    Kimble had it right.

    Unions are vital, without them we wouldn’t have many of the working rights we take for granted – four weeks holiday, maternity leave, sick leave, workplace safety regulations etc. And yes, strong representation on these issues (as in Australia) can lead to a more even distribution of income where the lowest-paid are concerned.

    Unfortunately, political grandstanding and poor PR decisions such as the Hobbit fiasco turn people off. As does the ‘us and them’ attitude taken by many of the higher-ups with regards to employers vs employees.

    Battles should be picked carefully – more people would be interested in membership if true representation for the average man and woman in the street was what the unions were truly seen to believe in. Currently, that’s not the image they project.

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  59. KevinH (1,160 comments) says:

    John Key has appointed High Court Judge Justice Graham Panckhurst to head up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Pike River Mine Tragedy. The comission is charged with the role of investigating; the cause of the explosions, the cause of the loss of life, the search and rescue,systems and the legislative framework of mining safety.
    This commission will investigate the tragedy and determine wether safety procedures were adhered to and implemented and that best safety practice was being employed at all times at this mine. Certainly questions will be asked from the Unions and the Royal Commission will be the appropriate place to discuss those concerns.
    In the interim as Christmas approaches the families will be wanting some respite from the media and public scrutiny to be able to mourn for their lost loved ones and reflect on what has been a terrible tragedy.

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  60. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    KevinH, a blog is not the place to give us solicitor-speak. It is a place to rant and carry on.

    And just because this government has appointed a High Court Judge to determine what happenned it does not mean that others are out of bounds in carrying out their own enquiry, be that through close local knowledge, media reports, industry experience, etc. I for one, am not beholden to some govt and will do and speak as I wish. I have little faith in govt actions (more in the judiciary).

    The Royal Commission is not the sole appropriate place to discuss and enquire – it is merely one of a number of places. Get with the reality of the man on the street.

    So anyone who suggests that I shut up and wait for the govt process to run can go jump. Happy to carry the can for being wrong – lets see what happens.

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  61. Pete George (23,359 comments) says:

    So anyone who suggests that I shut up and wait for the govt process to run can go jump.

    It is being suggested that unions would be prudent to shut up and wait until the various inquiries have properly investigated. Blog posters will continue to jump in regardless.

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  62. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    Yes Pete, organisations such as unions and govts and police etc have many such appropriate norms and parameters around how their conduct should proceed. That is for them.

    Btw KevinH, given you have asked us to rely on the govt’s appointment and terms of reference around the judiciary’s role, and that it seems you may be one such person enmeshed in the judicial system, how does a member of the public know it can rely on the judiciary given that the Wilson stain remains ?? …….

    such a shame that was not cleaned up. smelly stain.

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  63. big bruv (13,573 comments) says:

    Hori

    “Gwilly fuck you right wingers are fucking dumb are you not, you state the unions are a menace, yes, they do tend to be rather keen on safety issues ”

    How I wish this was about safety issues, sadly this is just another example of extreme lowlife (Kelly and McCarten) using the death of 29 men for their own political gain.

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  64. kiwi in america (2,486 comments) says:

    vto
    Spare us the class warfare rhetoric. You’ve clearly never started a company or run one. They all cost more than predicted and hence there is never quite enough to go around. Go ask the founders of PayPal, Google, You Tube and Microsoft who all began their companies on inadequate venture capital but still made it.

    The Miners Union were an integral part of the set up of this company. It has probably been the most scrutinized and analysed mining operation in NZ history – even to this very day where is the union rep on the inside of this process who has come forward with a shock horror expose of the shocky approval process and any management abuse of power. John Campbell would have an orgasm at the mere prospect of an interview with such a whistleblower. It hasn’t happened and that is because the set up and approval processes that needed to be adhered to will likely be proven to largely have been adhered to.

    What singles out a RC of I is its powers of subpaena – powers that the other inquiries don’t have. Whittall does not come across as someone with anything to hide. I have no doubt that if he and his management team are found to be remotely culpable that he would resign.

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  65. Kimble (4,417 comments) says:

    “And yes, strong representation on these issues (as in Australia) can lead to a more even distribution of income where the lowest-paid are concerned.”

    Meh, not so sure. The average wage in Australia is higher than NZ, but is the lowest wage? You would have to exclude the influence of the minimum wage to isolate the current impact of Unions.*

    (*If Unions want to claim the minimum wage, then they must also claim the rate of unemployment in low skilled workers, and they never have.)

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  66. vendetta (60 comments) says:

    Minimum wage in Aus was raised to $15 back in July. So yes, quite a bit more than ours.

    Again, this doesn’t detract from the fact that I believe the unions in this country are doing a poor job because scoring political points appears to have taken over in importance from standing up for the average worker.

    And I would disagree strongly with Psycho Milt’s first point raised … the unions need the support of the public. They do need to ‘win the popularity contest’ as it were. Otherwise how can they possibly lobby to get anything accomplished? How can they acquire new members? Without support they’re as good as useless, and many will not offer theirs until the focus changes.

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  67. david (2,557 comments) says:

    Mallard is such a precious wee petal.

    I commented over at Red Alert as follows but it never made the thread.

    “Trevor, while you (and BTW many many others) are upset by the disaster, surely you will recognise that perception = reality for many of your readers. The appearance of what appears to be an orchestrated campaign by the Red Team (Helen Kelly, Matt McCarten, your good self) to start proposing how that Inquiry should operate and who should be on them the panel before the membership is finalised is that these statements are political.

    They may not be, but the way it comes across is that you are setting the Commision up in advance so that if your questions are not asked you can claim a whitewash and if they are you can claim to have thought of them first.

    I would suggest a bit of silence instead of pointless stirring at this point might be the way to show respect for the Royal Commission. So far I have not seen anything that gives me cause for concern that the Inquiry will not be anything other than deep, fair and balanced.

    Let them get on with it.”

    It was quite polite for me really but obviously hit a bit close to the bone.

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  68. Geoff Fischer (1 comment) says:

    http://www.republican.co.nz November 29 has a post titled “Pike River and other disasters” . This post examines the culture which gives rise to a succession of high profile disasters in New Zealand.

    A short excerpt:

    Something went badly wrong at Pike River. It appears that there was no watch at the entrance to the mine. According to reports the two survivors spent two hours walking down the incline to escape the mine and raise the alarm. Those two hours arguably provided the only opportunity there was to rescue any survivors of the first explosion on the Friday. In my experience New Zealand workers do not normally enter spaces deemed to be dangerous, unless the internal atmosphere is being constantly monitored, a “door watch” is present, emergency services are on call, and rescue equipment is close to hand. None of these conditions seem to have been met at Pike Valley. One has to ask why not. One also has to ask why a cigarette smoker would be employed in an underground coal mine in this day and age, and what security measures were in place to ensure that no potential sources of ignition were taken into the mine.

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  69. Swampy (273 comments) says:

    National Hero is not an appropriate term even though it is approproate to recognise his dedication to the task at hand however difficult that is proving to be. The problem with describing him as any sort of hero is that as a mine manager there are going to be questions over his involvement in the events leading up to the disaster.

    However I find the attacks by the CTU, McCarten and the Standard quite loathsome and sadly typical, it is certainly not a way to win public favour.

    It;s very interesting to note all recent commentary is by the chairman John Dow and Whittall appears to have disappeared from pulbic view since the memorial service.

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  70. Swampy (273 comments) says:

    Oh, if Little says this would never happen at Solid Energy, wrong, it did. 12 years ago at Mt Davy, which was closed after 3 miners will killed in 2 separate accidents.

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  71. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    kiwi in america
    Don’t know where you get the idea I have never started a company etc – how wrong you are. In addition, the vehemence with which you and others stand up and defend PRC and others far outstrips the “attack” from the other direction. That “attack” as far as I can see is in fact attacking the fawning attitude of the press and media, and suggesting that people who hold some up as heroes are jumping the gun. You lot are the ones jumping all about with conclusions.

    Further Swampy, CTU, Helen Kelly et al said it was poor form of PRC and Whitall not to apologise to the families and friends of the killed miners. Well, fuck me, suck it up. If such happened to me and the employer explicitly did not apologise I would be less than happy. It was a lack of basic humanity not to apologise. Guess they had no choice but to listen to their solicitors.

    Back off on the strident defence. Open your eyes and ears. Ask some hard questions. It is a situation for asking the hard questions – 29 people died. Fuck me, people just bow down these days.

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  72. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    Further, as Chris Trotter puts it this morning;

    1. Why is PRC insisting on their lawyers presence during interviews of witnesses?
    2. Why is PRC demanding transcripts of witness evidence etc?

    These are entirely inappropriate in such an inquiry.

    Some one (or organisation) is responsible for these deaths. Fact.

    PRC, being the owner and operator, is the prime suspect. Fact.

    PRC, by both points above, have already tainted proceedings.

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  73. slightlyrighty (2,499 comments) says:

    One reason that I can see for PRC having lawyers present is that there seem to be a number of people keen to lay blame at their feet at the outset.

    oh, and vto, even the prime suspect in any investigation is entitled to legal representation as a basic point of law, and that cannot be construed as an admission of guilt. Not allowing a suspect to have legal representation would taint proceedings. This does not mean that the union should be appointing itself as prosecuter, as that is the role of the crown in these sort of cases.

    Having said all that, an RC of I is not a trial per se, but it’s findings could, I assume, lead to a possible prosecution. Now I am sure that the RC will listen to any relevant testimony a union official could have, but I doubt they could have any evidence to support their ideologically based suppositions, because if they had, we would have heard it trumpeted from the rooftops.

    The unions may well have role to play, but it is not the one they are currently playing.

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  74. kiwi in america (2,486 comments) says:

    vto
    Of course Chris Trotter has expressed an unbiased and completely ideologically neutral opinion on this subject ….!

    The likelihood of a civil lawsuit against PRC, even if the RCI finds no substantial evidence of culpubility on the part of PRC, is very high. Such conduct is standard defensive legal tactics that any company is advised to do under the circumstances regardless of innocence/guilt culpable/not culpable. If PRC were guilty of egregious safety or construction breaches, some lower level trade union member involved in the process would’ve spoken to sympathetic media by now.

    But of course if your ideological bent is ‘capitalist company bad – trade union good’ (as yours appears to be) then you would see something sinister. Why don’t you stop second guessing the inquiry and wait and see what is unearthed.

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  75. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    slightly righty “oh, and vto, even the prime suspect in any investigation is entitled to legal representation as a basic point of law, and that cannot be construed as an admission of guilt. ”

    This is the point where you go hopelessly wrong. The subtle but massive difference seems to have passed you by. Analogy is probably best – a rape suspect does not get to have their lawyer present when the victim is being interviewed (or any witnesses). This is fundamental justice. That is the exact point. Understand it. It is crucial to understanding PRC’s actions.

    and both slightly righty and kiwi in america, you claim that if there were concerns they would have been heard by now. Well I suggest you pay attention and understand before commenting. Such concerns have been about since the day of the explosion. Several. There is a substantial column from exactly such a “lower level member” in the Press today. It is far from the first.

    You fullas I suspect are too far from the action. Others of us are close.

    One final thing kiwi – I absolutely will not stop asking the questions and trying to nut it out myself. I will not rely on the system that allowed this to happen to try to answer why it happenned. It is a fool who relies completely on govt processes and yet more of a fool who believes in corporate honesty. I and others will keep making one hell of a lot of noise to make sure the bastards are kept honest.

    And do stop going on about my political bias and capitalist bad balderdash – I’m as bloated as the rest and only vote left once in a bloody blue moon. Looks like one is rising.

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  76. kiwi in america (2,486 comments) says:

    vto
    I read Brett Forresters assertions. I have no doubt he’ll be someone the Inquiry will urge to come forward. Its very hard to put his claims into any context. Has he worked in any other mines to compare what day to day levels of methane in a working mine are? Even he claims not to know if management knew about this. If methane levels were at dangerous and explosive levels daily then this is an accusation that will be backed up by many others and yet it hasn’t.

    What other process has the power of subpoena and testimony under oath (and I’d imagine a promise of anonymity if needed) other than a Royal Commission. You don’t think that all of NZ wants to get to the bottom of this. You are implying that this thing will be a whitewash when that was not the case with the Cave Creek inquiry. It got precisely to the bottom of what went wrong as did the Erebus inquiry. The actions of Air NZ to block its findings eventually backfired and Mahon’s finding of the orchestrated litany of lies was the takeaway we all remember. If PRC have behaved like Air NZ I have no doubt it will all come out.

    PRC are protecting themselves from possible civil action which has different process of evidence and burden of proof from criminal procedings so your rape suspect analogy about lawyers being present is not as relevant. When I was a director of a lending institution we had our lawyers involved with almost everything we did even when there was nothing wrong going on – it was a precaution given the legislation we operated under.

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  77. cam2570 (4 comments) says:

    Here we go, right wingers attacking unions for having the nerve to criticise Peter Whittal.

    No one is pointing a finger at the man for his actions after the explosion, he was a rock to all the families .

    Mr Whittall will be judged on his performance as a CEO of Pike River Coalmine and how he handled the safety of his workforce prior to the accident, if accident is the right word. After all how can a build up of methane gas over a period be classed as an accident.

    For all the people using the explosion to take an opportunity to kick the unions you are all low life.

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  78. slightlyrighty (2,499 comments) says:

    Cam.

    It appears that the unions are attacking Whittle. We have Kelly lambasting Whittle for not apologising, when he has been, in your own words, a rock to all the families. We must remember that the purpose of the RC of I is to determine if there is anything to apologise for. At this stage we simply do not know.

    At the same time Trotter is calling for union representation on the RC of I. I am not saying that the unions should not be involved, but certainly nowhere near the level Trotter is calling for.

    vto. You may well never stop asking questions and trying to nut it out yourself. Guess what. PRC will be doing the same thing, which would make transcripts a useful tool. Will you be happy if the RC comes to a conclusion you don’t agree with?

    What the unions should be doing, aside from offering support to those directly affected, is quietly working behind the scenes, providing assistance to those called to testify if it is required.

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  79. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Kiwi in A..
    Forrester has worked in some Aussie mines..has quite a strong Aussie accent…Some of the men who could back him up are dead..Conrad Adams etc…They were involved with other men in a walk out as advised by their union rep…not sure when..

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  80. grumpyoldhori (2,416 comments) says:

    Political belief of miners, well since a mate is a contractor and a rescue miner it makes it pretty bloody obvious that he is not part of the, companies can do no wrong right wing brigade.
    Fuck, some of you will be stating that those waiting to try and get the miners out were raving ACT members who live by the creed of Rand.

    Hey, but my mate thanks you Jaffa types who have never been near a mine for the suggestion that they earn too much to be left wing and should be part of the no regulations is good brigade.
    Best laugh he has had in too long.

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  81. kiwi in america (2,486 comments) says:

    Grumpy
    Its not the political views of the miners or management, its about letting the RCI do its job and THEN making informed decisions about who is to blame and not just assume that PRC is at fault. If they are then Whittall must resign and face any charges the Dep’t of Labour (or others) may be obliged to press. Until then all we are doing is indulging in idle speculation.

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  82. Daigotsu (451 comments) says:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/pike-river-mine-disaster/5951671/Pike-River-charges-revealed

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