What was Andrew Little’s role in Pike River?

Andrew Little 13

George commented last night:

Could you ever imagine John Key making such a childish statement when debating the recovery of the Pike River miners? Andrew Little at his contemptuous best. “Just this week, Mr Key sent Nick Smith to threaten the Pike families with arrest if they try to stop Solid Energy entombing their loved ones”. what a bonehead! It is statements like that which endorses the commonly held belief that he does not have the dignity, decorum or intelligence to lead the country. Whilst this braindead statement is a figment of his unionist imagination, the more disturbing aspect of this uttering is his belief that it will generate political capital. This is clear evidence how out of touch he is with the common decency of the average Kiwi.

Whilst we are on the issue of Pike River might I take the liberty to remind you Andrew of a few small details. At the time of the 2010 explosion you were head of the EPMU which represented approximately half of the 140 miners on the site. You said there had been no problems at Pike River Coal and defended its safety record. (21 Nov 2010 Morning Report RNZ) and (NZH 22 Nov). The question that needs to be answered is why you sat on your hands when members of your union had expressed concerns about the safety of the mine?  

The New Zealand Herald, also in November 2010, quoted Gerry Morris of Greymouth, a former writer for Coal magazine, who said he had heard regularly from contractors at the mine “over the last two or three years that this mine is unsafe, there’s far too much gas, there’s going to be a disaster here one day”. Were you aware about the walk out by miners which was revealed by miner Brent Forrester? He told TVNZ’s Sunday on December 5 2010 that he once helped organise a walkout of about 10 miners to protest the lack of basic emergency equipment, including stretchers and an emergency transport vehicle. he claimed he received no support from the EPMU, and that you insisted that PRC “had a good health and safety committee that’s been very active.”

What the hell would you know about leadership Andrew. Had you been proactive towards your member’s concerns, John Key may not have had to instruct Nick Smith “To threaten the Pike families with arrest if they try to stop Solid Energy entombing their loved ones”.

There is also a rather lengthy article asking about the role of Andrew Little and the EPMU in the Pike River mining disaster. It is rather detailed and outlines a lot of background, though I can’t ascertain the veracity of the information it contains.

While Andrew Little was defending PRC an Australian gas drainage engineer, who wished to remain anonymous because he feared ‘recriminations’, said he visited Pike River in 2009  and observed that its  operating standards were “extremely poor”.

He said  that he had been told by miners  that the mine was flooded with methane gas about three weeks before the first explosion.

He said  miners had bored through ‘high flow methane holes’ without any risk assessment conducted or procedure on how to manage gas flow from the hole in place. He was critical  that PRC has not yet implemented a gas drainage drilling regime that could relieve the pressure when there was  a  build up of gas by drilling a hole in the coal seam.

The New Zealand Herald, also in November 2010,  quoted Gerry Morris of Greymouth, a former writer for Coal magazine, who said he had heard regularly from contractors at the mine “over the last two or three years that this mine is unsafe, there’s far too much gas, there’s going to be a disaster here one day”.

But despite the overwhelming evidence that there was  something seriously and dangerously wrong at the Pike Rive mine, the officials of the  EPMU did nothing.

The mine opened in November 2008  and on not one occasion did the EPMU  initiate industrial action or even criticise PRC’S  safety standards, even after a group of workers  walked off the job to protest the lack of basic emergency equipment.

The walk out by miners was revealed by miner  Brent Forrester. He told TVNZ’s Sunday on December 5 2010 that  he once helped organise a walkout of about 10 miners to protest the lack of basic emergency equipment, including stretchers and an emergency transport vehicle. They received no support from the EPMU. Andrew Little  even insisted that  PRC “had a good health and safety committee that’s been very active.”

It was exactly this benevolent attitude  by the EPMU that allowed PRC – and the Department of Labour – to continue as if it was just ‘business a usual’. It appears that no-one was  protecting the interests and concerns of the workers on the mining site. The EMPU failed to organise industrial action  to address safety concerns  at the  mine in favour of  ‘cooperating’ with management, what it and the CTU sometimes  refer to as ‘modern unionism’.

There won’t be any resignations from within the EPMU for dereliction of duty and, of course, Andrew Little  has escaped to Parliament.

And now Andrew Little is the Leader of the opposition and is politicking and grandstanding over Pike River.

Perhaps he might like to answer some questions about his behaviour at the time of the accident?

 

– WOBH, Against the Current

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