Attempts by the former directors of Pike River Coal to shift
responsibility for the tragedy onto their managers is
"disgraceful" and highlights the need for stronger mine
safety laws, the miners' union said today.
Company directors were slammed for prioritising production
over the safety of its workers in a Royal Commission of
Inquiry report into the West Coast mining disaster which
claimed the lives of 29 men on November 19, 2010.
In a statement released through lawyers today, John Dow, Ray
Meyer and Stuart Nattrass, who were directors of the company
at the time of the disaster, said they "strongly disagree"
with the commission findings.
"Our clients consider that the commission's view appears to
be based only upon conjecture or impression, as despite the
considerable amount of evidence made available to it, its
report does not identify any particular circumstances, or any
documents, in which a safety requirement was not met for
financial reasons or because it might have impacted upon
The statement has sparked anger from the Engineering,
Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) which says attempts
to blame the former health and safety officer for the
director's failings were misguided.
"For these three men to refuse to accept any responsibility
for the 29 men who died under their watch and to then try to
sheet home blame to the people below them is simply
disgraceful," said EPMU assistant national secretary Ged
"There is no doubt Pike River Coal Ltd put production ahead
of safety, and the royal commission report gives numerous
concrete examples of this happening. The former director's
claims are simply not supported by the evidence."
Mr O'Connell said the former directors' refusal to accept
they are accountable shows the need for stronger mine safety
The lack of accountability from those at the top is
"unfortunate", Mr O'Connell said, and shows the need for a
corporate manslaughter charge to "focus their minds" on the
consequences of their actions as directors.
"The Pike River inquiry heard repeatedly how the company
these men ran refused to listen to workers, excluded the
union at every opportunity and created a culture where
workers learned not to speak out for fear of being
disciplined," he said.
Mr O'Connell says the former directors' attempts to shift the
blame to those below them shows why companies can't be left
to manage health and safety on their own.
"These out of touch comments are a perfect example of why we
need stronger mining regulations, an independent and
well-resourced mines inspectorate and worker-elected check
"Companies like Pike River Coal Ltd simply can't be trusted
to put safety first."