Payment for Pike River miner's widow

The widow of a Southland man killed in the Pike River mine disaster will receive $10,000 following the resolution of an employment dispute her husband had with his former employer Solid Energy.

Keith Valli, 62, was killed with 28 others in the Pike River coalmine explosions from November 19, 2010.

An Employment Relations Authority decision says Valli and two other miners - Chris Pinn and Ray Waghorn - were unjustifiably dismissed from their jobs at Solid Energy's opencast coalmine near Ohai, Southland, in 2008.

The decision was delayed by the Pike River disaster and the February 2011 Canterbury earthquake.

"I also wish to extend my sympathies to Mr Valli's family, especially as the issuing of this determination may cause further pain, " authority member Mike Loftus said.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union Southland organiser Trevor Hobbs said yesterday that Solid Energy had treated the three men disgracefully as it had ignored the provisions in the collective agreement when dismissing them.

The decision had "brought it all back to the surface" for Mr Valli's widow, Mr Hobbs said.

"She's holding up as well as can be expected but she's extremely hurt by the whole exercise.

"She commented to me that Solid Energy has never once approached her and expressed sympathy or sorrow over this incident." The decision says Ohai staff were told by Solid Energy in 2007 that the company had lost two large contracts, meaning the mining operation would be downsized. In 2008 the company said further redundancies were needed.

A group of workers were then assessed, with Waghorn ranked third, Valli fifth and Pinn seventh. However, the three men were made redundant, while those ranked first, second, sixth and eighth were kept on, with Solid Energy saying the four who remained were able to perform "crucial operational tasks".

Production manager Antony Stodart told the authority he should not have allowed his views to "get in the road of what should have been a more consistent approach" and should have "taken into account all relevant experience" the men had to offer.

Valli was able to get a job at Pike River immediately.

He had told the authority about the shock he felt at being selected for redundancy and how he felt hurt at being badly treated by a company he had worked at for 28 years.

Loftus ordered Solid Energy to pay one month's wages to Pinn and Waghorn to reimburse their lost pay, as well as the sum the company would have contributed towards superannuation.

The company was also ordered to pay $10,000 to all three men as compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

The Southland Times