NZ government owed Pike River victims safety reforms: union

A local union says the New Zealand government owes it to the men who were killed in the Pike River Coal mine to improve workplace safety.

The Engineering Printing and manufacturing Union has marked today International Workers’ Memorial Day, and national secretary Andrew Little told 3news that vast improvements can be made in the mining sector and other dangerous industries.

"We owe it to the 29 men who died in the Pike River mine and the rest of the 7270 people that work in the mining sector to improve safety," Little said.

"We know enough about the Pike River disaster to know that health and safety regulation and oversight by the authorities is a real issue that the Royal Commission will have to explore in detail," he said.

Earlier today it was revealed a fully-clothed body found inside the mine indicates some of the men survived the first blast, contrary to the findings of an inquiry in January which determined it was so great there would have been no survivors.

Little said workers should work together with the government to improve workplace safety prior to the commission’s report’s release.

The report could potentially take years to complete.

He said the best move for the government to make is to reintroduce mines inspectors, which were scrapped in 1992.

His calls echo those made by mining expert Dave Feickert in January, who said a mining inspector at Pike River would have seen the dangerous situation unfolding and possibly avoided it ending in tragedy.

"The EPMU has campaigned on behalf of miners for the reinstatement of check inspectors since 1992, repeating its call for them in the aftermath of workplace deaths in the Black Reef and Roa mines on the West Coast in 2006."

Little said the previous New Zealand government’s Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson chose not to reintroduce the mine inspectorate positions.

To mark International Workers’ Memorial Day, a monument will be unveiled by the EMPU in the historic township of Blackball to remember those lost in the Pike River mine disaster.



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