Pike river mine mass killing

As we learned this afternoon, the rescue we hoped for will not take place. Because of a second major explosion the miners at the Pike river site are all almost certainly dead.

Hard questions remain to be answered and there will be a struggle for the truth to see the light.

As that inevitable struggle unfolds, there are two positive ways workers can respond to this mass killing. One is to donate to the relief fund for the bereft families and community.

The other way is for organised labour to get its bottle back, so that we’re better organised to prevent future fatal industrial accidents  killing our friends, sons and daughters.

The union role in the Pike river disaster has been marginal. The one time it was openly advanced, the boss class closed ranks and drew their claws.

Senior Cabinet Ministers rounded on Australian journalists covering the Pike River coal mine crisis, labelling their questions “disgraceful” and branding one a “tosspot”.

Police Minister Judith Collins this afternoon heaped scorn upon Ean Higgins, from The Australian, for some questions he asked at a media conference this morning.

“Frankly, those journalists need to sit down and think about what they’re actually doing. What they are doing is they are cheapening the work of other journalists working in Greymouth and they are absolutely not respecting the terrible time the people of Greymouth are going through,” Collins said.

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee earlier blasted Higgins as “boorish” for asking why a “local country cop” was leading the rescue operation.

Collins said the question was “disgraceful”.

What caused all this rukuss?

Foul mouthed Australian Ean Higgins had employed the “u” word.

Higgins  asked why Superintendent Gary Knowles was heading the rescue operation instead of a mining union.

Police superintendent Knowles then asserted that the disaster “wasn’t a union matter”.

If Knowles is right on that, then unions are irrelevant and should stop collecting dues and shut up shop.

If Knowles is wrong, Kiwi unions need to find the guts to stand up and show why we deserve to take up space.


Advertisements

Comments

  1. The Council of Trade Unions website has nothing on it about the Pike River disaster. Six days, 29 deaths and not a word. If this isn’t a union issue then what is?

    Daphna

  2. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    This article has cast in simple black-and-white terms what is a far more complex question.

    Firstly, you claim that Ean Higgins was labelled ‘boorish’ for his use of the ‘u’ word. In fact, the offensive part of Higgins’s question was his branding of Police Superintendant Garry Knowles as a ‘local country cop’. Given that Knowles is a ‘district commander’ with ‘responsibility for policing three quarters of the South Island’, it was uncalled for. It would be like me calling Prachanda an ‘upjumped oaf’ who should be replaced with someone from the bourgeoisie.

    Having said that, the substance of his question – why the union was not involved in the rescue and recovery operation – was reasonable. The way he worded it, however – insinuating that the mining union was more qualified to head up the operation than the Superintendent – was not. After all, who is more qualified to coordinate and manage a multi-agency rescue effort – the police, who regularly conduct operations of this size, or the unions, who do not?

    Returning to the substance of the question, however, the union could – and should – have played a more active role in the operation. The kind of solidarity and support that unions provide their members would have placed them in great stead for assisting the family members, heading up efforts for compensation, and evaluating safety standards in the mine. Hence, Daphna’s outrage at the lack of action on behalf of the Council of Trade Unions is apt.

    The most obvious black-and-white oversimplification the author has made is his insinuation that Knowles’s comment that the disaster “wasn’t a union matter” could be taken in one of two ways:

    “If Knowles is right on that, then unions are irrelevant and should stop collecting dues and shut up shop.”

    OR

    “If Knowles is wrong, Kiwi unions need to find the guts to stand up and show why we deserve to take up space.”

    Whilst Knowles’s statement was undoubtedly addressed at who was more qualified to manage the operation, it could have been worded better. After all, as I have stated above, there are many services that the unions could be assisting with that are best suited to their nature. Nevertheless, to extrapole from Knowles’s statement that the unions should either ‘shut up shop’ or ‘stand up and show why we deserve to take up space’ is, to be perfectly honest, little more than political grandstanding.

    Cheers,
    Matt.

    • Yes your right the police are use to doing rescue, however, can u really say, they have dealt with mine rescue? Obviously not. They hindered it, I believe.
      They stopped they Mines rescue from going in on day one. The second explosion did not happen till 5 days later. That’s a big gap. All mining companies have there own trained rescuers. They know what they deal with everyday. And are trained for such disasters.
      Most people in the mines who are with the union, are in the mines rescue. So they would know what to do.
      Could you honestly stand up to one of the families who’s just lost one of the as you put it (wasting space)miner, who just happens to be in union what you think? Now look who’s got no guts.
      The only one who’s wasting space is you, here on this page.
      The Union have just lost 29 of their own.
      And if you are wondering what i would know about it, my husband works as a miner and his father was miner/ mines rescue.

      • Alastair Reith says:

        Mysty, would you please tell us more about what you know of the Pike River tragedy and the mining companies response?

        If there are things you’d rather not post on the website email me at alastair.reith@gmail.com

      • Matthew_Cunningham says:

        Whoa, hang on a minute – was your response really directed at me? If so, at what point did I say anything about the miners (or the unions) “wasting space” or having “no guts”? You’re putting words in my mouth. In fact, if you read closely, you’ll see I have gven the unions due respect for the tasks that I consider them best suited for:

        “the union could – and should – have played a more active role in the operation. The kind of solidarity and support that unions provide their members would have placed them in great stead for assisting the family members, heading up efforts for compensation, and evaluating safety standards in the mine.” Thus far the responses on this thread – such as Alastair’s call for rank-and-file inspectors – have agreed with me.

        You argued that “the police are use to doing rescue, however, can u really say, they have dealt with mine rescue? Obviously not.”

        If you had troubled yourself to read my later response to Don, you would have seen that I addressed this very question:

        *********************************
        “The cops are not mining experts.”

        I never said they were – I said they were there to “coordinate and manage a multi-agency rescue effort” because they “regularly conduct operations of this size.” They have plenty of expert advice from the management teams that designed and worked in the mines.
        *********************************

        You also argued that the police “stopped they Mines rescue from going in on day one.” But we simply don’t know that this was the case. Superintendent Knowles did state on the second morning that he was “not going to put 16 guys underground and risk losing them to effect a half-arsed rescue”, but we don’t know what advice he was acting on. Judging by the near unanimous support for this stance amongst the mining experts, I’d call it highly precipitous to argue that Knowles actively prevented the mining exprts from effecting a rescue.

        Insinuating that I am gutless and a waste of space adds nothing to the debate. I suggest you take a deep breath before responding in future.

        Cheers,
        Matt.

  3. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Whoops – I meant ‘extrapolate’, not ‘extrapole’ :)

  4. Don Franks says:

    The political grandstanding of the political establishment has been blazing away since day one.

    “The mine was basically safe,everything possible was done, we’re all in this together and pile on the prayer, as if this was an unavoidable act of god. Yes,ok, there must be investigation, but not now, later. Much later, when the anger has died down.”

    The cops are not mining experts. They were there in force to keep the lid on things. Industrial safety is the business first and foremost of the workers on the job and the better their self orgsnisation the safer the jobs tend to be.

  5. Don Franks says:

    Here’s political grandstanding if you like:

    Cam Wylie, chairman of the New Zealand arm of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, says the explosions which resulted in the deaths of 29 miners were “extremely irregular
    “There is such an abiding and pervasive vision of mining as being a dirty business blood diamonds, all those things none of it helps. That is the public perception.
    “But it is a really, really great industry. All companies operating in mining in New Zealand operate at a high level, a leading edge level of safety, of environmental standards, of professional standards. Why we can’t get that out I don’t know.”
    Wylie did not believe investors would be scared off the New Zealand exploration industry by the accident.
    “I believe the [investment] industry will see the Pike River tragedy in the context of what it is, which is the New Zealand industry is one of high performance, safe performance, continuous performance and of growth.
    “That is our normal business, our normal way of doing things. I believe people will understand that.
    “Our business is responsible, sustainable, it’s environmentally and socially responsible and profitable with good growth prospects, and there is a high level of professional involvement in it.”

  6. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Don, I never said that the “political establishment”, as you call it, hasn’t also been engaging in political grandstanding. I was merely arguing my case against this article and its inherent oversimplifications. It misconstrues Knowles’s statement in order to draw an oversimplified black-and-white conclusion lobbying for greater union control.

    “The cops are not mining experts.”

    I never said they were – I said they were there to “coordinate and manage a multi-agency rescue effort” because they “regularly conduct operations of this size.” They have plenty of expert advice from the management teams that designed and worked in the mines.

    “Industrial safety is the business first and foremost of the workers on the job and the better their self orgsnisation the safer the jobs tend to be.”

    That’s not the issue – the issue is who is better placed to lead a rescue and recovery operation. Point of fact, I actually agreed with you regarding safety concerns:

    “The kind of solidarity and support that unions provide their members would have placed them in great stead for … evaluating safety standards in the mine.”

    Cheers,
    Matt.

  7. The Hawera Fault is known to leak methane. Therefore the Pike River mine was a ticking time bomb.

    The Pike River mine produces very high grade coking coal, which has a tendency to form dust. It is pure carbon just about, very much in demand, valuable, and explosive. Therefore the Pike River mine was a ticking time bomb.

    The Brunner Seam, that the lads were mining, has taken lives before. They all knew the risks. Therefore the Pike River mine was a ticking time bomb.

    But where were the Unions? And why is Union leadership in New Zealand so weak?

    From 1984 there has been a partnership between the Unions and the Goverment, and the Government has been in partnership with the Business Round Table. The Business Round Table are career criminals of the kind that created the Second World War.

    New Zealand is governed by fascists. We will endure? Or should we not rise up at last and at least sing songs in the pub on Friday night about treacherous Union leaders who work for the boss class (kickbacks and all) and the impending revolution that must occur?

    We must lead ourselves. No longer allow the Unions to speak for us, for they have failed us!

    Regards,
    paul

  8. “We must lead ourselves. No longer allow the Unions to speak for us, for they have failed us.”

    Never a truer word spoken.

    However, in New Zealand and per a law Labour brought in (Yes the wonderful workers party) it is illegal for a worker to do his own rank and file agitation. In other words it’s illegal to strike or demand fair treatment unless it’s under the Union. Bullshit eh? One answer; Cuba 1959!

  9. “However, in New Zealand and per a law Labour brought in (Yes the wonderful workers party) it is illegal for a worker to do his own rank and file agitation. In other words it’s illegal to strike or demand fair treatment unless it’s under the Union.”

    If this is true then it is time to break the law, for the law no longer serves us, it enslaves us.

    If one is arrested let him be a hero among his friends. If he is fined then let him decline to pay (else the boss class will use the courts to bleed our finances) and go to prison, a martyr of sorts. They won’t kill him, not in NZ, not for doing what is right. The fascists are on the back foot there. We are a decent people!

    Choose a sympathy worthy campaign focus – the Tuhoe raids remains one, but its not labour related. How about Pike River Mine? Make martyrs of these already dead men who gave their lives for us without adequate union representation.

    Hack, if you can, and leave these messages whereever you can. And get arrested for it, eventually. Live the life of Reilly on the run for a while. Make some theatre out of it. Get your 15 minutes of fame then get back into line for your next soundbyte opportunity. Our people need heroes!

    Perhaps one of our fallen comrades (any man who dies trying to feed his family is a comrade) in the mine has scratched his dying condemnation of the fascists who killed him just as the second blast rolled through. Perhaps he was given a good talking to by the ghosts of the all the men who have died there and expected so much of us to protect the union strength that their deaths helped to build up. They must think we are a pack of shit faced wankers! There’s a song there. A bit of live street theatre with an electronic skiffle group. There’s a Tee Shirt even and a coffee mug. All of that income can go back into each revolutionary unit’s battle purse. No central control. Fuck the fascists with staunch song, and purge the memory of the feeble union leadership that has pretended to serve us all these years. No violence! But we shall enviscerate their very names for what they have done and failed to do!

    regards,
    paul

  10. Alastair Reith says:

    This has nothing to do with fascism. New Zealand is not run by fascists. It is enormously disrespectful to the victims of fascist regimes to compare the systems they fought against to the one we are fighting against here.

    Anyway, back on topic…

    Pike River management have been deified by the media – this whole exercise has been excellent PR for them. Yet this is the same management team that blocked the re-introduction of democratically elected safety inspectors because of concerns these inspectors might make decisions that clashed with those of management.

    There is no guarantee that rank-and-file inspectors would have prevented this disaster from taking place, but the fact of the matter is that the mining workers and their unions have for many years been saying that the “”single most effective solution for improving health and safety in underground mines” would be to introduce ‘check inspectors’, men and women tasked with investigating mines where workers have raised concerns about safety.

    The management of Pike River prioritised profits over safety. No surprises there.

    http://www.odt.co.nz/news/politics/137939/officials-advised-against-check-inspectors-minister

  11. Fascism, Corporate Fascism, same snake different head.

    We’re lying to ourselves if we think Capitalism isn’t Fascism and that the new age of Corporate Fascism is world wide and has ruled New Zealand directly since the fall of the Soviet Union and even before that, albeit more shadowy.

    Rob Muldoon was the first Corporate Fascist stooge here, since then the chain has not been broken, even the Chinese groomed Helen Clark followed the Capitalist/Fascist agenda, introducing anti-union bills, anti-family bills, following the Fascist line in regards to the dirty, illegal Afghan war, and Iraq to a lesser degree.

    Fascism was allowed to grow, in a normal, very advanced society that was Germany at the time.. Key word is allowed. See if we continue to allow of civil liberties to be eroded we are going down the same path.

    We don’t have the right to protest in New Zealand? Why do people not care about that? That law in itself is very undemocratic and resembles Fascist law.

    We may not be in a openly Fascist nation, but we are in a Fascist one. Any nation that does’t derive power from the people is Fascist in my eyes and New Zealand hasn’t seen a true peoples orientated Government since Norman Kirk and we know what the Fascist scum did to him.

  12. Don Franks says:

    I was one of those lefties who handed out pamphlets accusing Muldoon of “creeping fascism”, but I was wrong.
    Muldoon had an energetic bullying manner and a habit of sneering at most liberal issues. He also harboured a personal hatred of SUP leader Bill Andersen, because Bill once got the better of Muldoon on national television.
    That didn’t make Muldoon a fascist, in fact workers enjoyed more democratic rights under Muldoon than we have now.

    One of Big Norm’s last acts was to threaten calling troops out against striking workers. Below the superficialities, Muldoon and Kirk were similar politicians.

  13. So … a long line from the assasination of Norman Kirk (am I able to allude to this recorded fact without being arrested?) to to near total destruction of the all the rights built up by the union movement for over a century.

    Wow! Our forefathers must be really pleased about us! They suffered murder in their beds at the hands of the corporates (in the USA they did anyway). They suffered to make the gains that we used to enjoy and now have so disrespectfully pissed away.

    The rights have not been taken from us. We gave them away.

    And if you say now that you have fought, you demonstrated, but they just did it anyway, I say we did not resist enough. Neither have we punished them. We have not demanded their respect.

    Did Mathatma Ghandi cringe in fear at the mighty British Empire at its zenith?

    Ask most people on the street – they do not understand, they do not care. They accept it all like a ram accepts a docking ring.

    Mahatma Ghandhi may have felt the same about his own people as he tried to lead them, yet try he did and he did succeed.

    Perhaps we deserve to be enslaved. So weak, so worthless, so without honour. Our children we should just sell off to the rich as living organ banks when we can no longer afford to feed them.

    Or shall we? Is there any fight left?

    Roll over and die – or at least (please!) someone start walking up and down Queen Sreet or Lambton Quay bound head to foot in chains. Perhaps you are unemployed, nothing better to do anyway – you could put the hat out and collect some worthy bread.

    There is SO MUCH that we can do even now, within the law, without fear of consequence.

    Best wishes for surviving the revolution, and the revolution starts now, in our own hearts, all the way to prison time or a bullet, just as every other revolutionary in the history of this living earth – else we are not fit to call ourselves men.

    regards
    paul

  14. Alastair Reith says:

    //Did Mathatma Ghandi cringe in fear at the mighty British Empire at its zenith?//

    Yes, he did.

    http://www.sa.org.au/mag-archive-from-old-website/91-edition-90/567-gandhi-and-the-myth-of-non-violence

  15. It should never have been the Police in charge of the Rescue/Recovery operation, it should have been Mines rescue who are trained for this type of tragedy. Good on the Aussie journalists for asking the “hard questions” that needed to be asked. So very sorry for the loss of 29 good men, May they forever rest in peace and never to be forgotten.

%d bloggers like this: