Monday, November 5, 2012

Just get the coal out---safety--well?

We pride ourselves in New Zealand as being a nation that cares for its people. We have excellent health and education systems for our people, most of which is free for citizens and residents. We also have civilized labour laws whereby the vast majority of workers are treated fairly and work in the knowledge that they are safe at work. Of course within the statement I just made there is variation and a continuing battle wages to keep the gains that NZ workers have fought for over the years,
We see on TV and read in our papers (much of that online now of course) reports of terrible disasters in gold and coal mines overs seas, particularly in China. We say---‘thank God we have robust systems in place in NZ to protect our workers from the greed of the mine owners who seek profits at the expense of the workers.’  We also believe that we left behind the terrible conditions in Britain, pertaining to the industrial Revolution and the following years of British expansion. We came to NZ for a better life and we excelled at achieving a damn good place to live in and the belief that everybody should have a fair go.
The Pike River tragedy has reminded us that all is not well. Indeed, the disaster has highlighted a return to the bad old days when lives are not valued as highly as we would hope. The subsequent failure of officials and mine owners to remain vigilant is an indictment on many areas of our society. Cost cutting by government departments, leaders in industry and the sheer pressure on management to produce a profit has undeniably led to the death of many men.
These lives were cut short by the bad decision making and lack of overseeing of safety standards; plain and simple. The official report into the tragedy has laid the blame where it truly lies. It also states clearly that these deaths were avoidable.
So the Minister in charge of safety has fallen on her sword! That gives little comfort to the loved ones of those who died. The recommendations are merely that---- is there a real willingness on the part of the Government to make things right in this major contributor to the NZ economy? Will the Government make sure that we have the necessary ‘safety inspectors’ or will they continue to pay lip service to the need for much needed changes?
I have my doubts. Like all Governments, they keep their eyes on the bigger picture about what wins votes and as far as this Government is concerned--- the elections are two years away and people will have distant memorise of the Pike River ‘man made’ disaster. Cynical I know, but how much can we trust that lessons have been learnt and that cost cutting, costs lives?!