Pike River families to weigh in on workplace safety laws

  • 18/08/2015
Twenty-nine miners lost their lives in the Pike River tragedy (AAP)
Twenty-nine miners lost their lives in the Pike River tragedy (AAP)

The families of men killed in the Pike River mine disaster are on their way to Parliament, ready to let MPs know what they think of watered-down workplace safety laws.

They'll be joining others who have lost loved ones in workplace accidents as MPs prepare to debate the committee stage of the Health and Safety Reform Bill.

The debate had been scheduled for tonight but it's now going to take place on Wednesday.

However, the family members intend arriving for a meeting in Parliament this evening organised by the Council of Trade Unions (CTU).

CTU lawyer Jeff Sissons hopes politicians will listen to what they have to say.

"We're asking MPs to fix the Bill, because it's been seriously watered down in select committee," he told RadioLIVE.

"Some of the families are going to talk about their experience losing a loved one, and what changes to the Bill might mean for that."

The Bill was changed after it was introduced following complaints to National Party MPs from small businesses and farmers who thought it would saddle them with unnecessary costs and legal obligations.

The Government says it has "struck the right balance" but Opposition parties say the legislation has been seriously weakened.

During its second reading debate at the end of last month, Labour MPs accused the Government of caving in to the demands of "ratbag" employers.

One of their main complaints is that the Bill now makes it voluntary for low-risk businesses with fewer than 20 employees to have elected health and safety representatives.

The previous intention was that all businesses should have them.

There were protests at Parliament when the Bill was going through its second reading, and some of those involved are returning for its committee stage.

Labour and Green Party MPs will be joining them.

Anne Osborne, whose husband Milton died in the 2010 Pike River mine explosions that killed 29 men, says Prime Minister John Key promised he would fix health and safety laws.

"He hasn't, but we're going to strongly encourage other political parties to make sure the promise is kept," she said.

The committee stage is the only stage at which a Bill can be changed.

Opposition parties are going to put up a raft of amendments, but to succeed with any of them they need the support of at least one of the government's allies ACT and United Future.

ACT is firmly behind the Bill but its opponents are hoping United Future's Peter Dunne can be persuaded to support some of the proposed amendments.

NZN / 3 News