Pike River contractor fine 'a joke'

9:09 am on 27 October 2012

The Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union says the fine given to an Australian-based drilling company for safety failures at the Pike River coal mine is "a joke".

There was uproar in the Greymouth District Court on Friday afternoon when Valley Longwall International (VLI) was fined $46,800 for unsafe work practices at the West Coast mine, where 29 men died in explosions last year.

Angry parents yelled out and swore at executives of the company, which had earlier pleaded guilty to three charges brought by the Department of Labour under the Health and Safety Act , each of which carry a maximum $250,000 penalty.

Alan Clarence of the EPMU says given the possible maximum fine of $750,000, the actual penalty a joke. "It does send the wrong signal," he says.

Mr Clarence says a law change is needed to recognise that responsibility for employees' safety lies with the company that benefits from the work, in this case, Pike River Coal.