Phil Goff got a great reception at the CTU conference this morning.
His speech was inspiring – while it is available on line, you had to be there to really get a sense of how well Labour’s message is going down with workers.
There’s much more to come on savings, skills, jobs, wages and social policy, but today’s announcement was for the miners.
Two days ago, the Minister of Labour announced she was implementing a High Hazards Unit in the Department of Labour which will double from two to four the number of Labour Inspectors in the Mining industry. Everyone is pleased about this, even if it took a lot of pressure to get the Minister to do anything.
But there is more to Mine Safety than having a well-resourced inspectorate. There also need to be strong regulations and worker check inspectors on the job.
Today, Phil announced that we will reinstate check inspectors and model new NZ regulations on Queensland’s mining safety regulations.
Queensland’s regulations are very comprehensive, and the underground section contains provisions for emergencies, rescue and communication, electrical equipment and installations, explosives and explosive power tools, gas monitoring, mechanical, mine design, mining operations, ventilation and working environment.
Until they were removed by the National government in 1992, check inspectors were democratically-elected miners, responsible solely for the safety of workers with the power, amongst others, to order the immediate withdrawal of miners from a mine or part of a mine that the check inspector deems dangerous. Check inspectors were (and are in Australia) experienced senior miners who have the trust of their fellow workers. Unlike company employed health and safety staff, check inspectors are responsible to the miners, not the company.
This is a great announcement. It was well received today, particularly by the Miner’s Union, the EPMU, who have pushed hard for real change to mine safety in New Zealand.
And before anyone goes there, yes Labour didn’t reverse National’s changes to mine safety. We made significant change to National’s awful Health and Safety laws, but it wasn’t enough. We know that. And that’s why we will do something about it.
The findings of the Royal Commission into the Pike River disaster won’t be released until 2013. Labour doesn’t believe we should wait until then to take action.