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Men’s Work

Filed under: General — Ministry of Men's Affairs @ 1:47 pm Tue 29th January 2008

The sentencing today of a geologist and manager of the Black Reef Mining Company highlights the disregard NZ shows to men’s contribution. Robert McGowan died when the mine he was working in was engulfed by floodwaters from an adjoining mine abandoned since 1932. The Department of Labour prosecuted the geologist and manager, and police are reported to be considering whether to pursue criminal charges.

It may well be appropriate to prosecute those involved in managing the mine. It may make little difference that one of the two prosecuted, manager Garry Haddow, was with Mr McGowan in the mine and was barely able to survive until the flood abated before attempting unsuccessfully to save his colleague. However, the fact that his own safety relied on his decisions and actions suggested that he made errors rather than committing deliberate criminal acts.

The union representing coal miners has criticized previous weakening of regulations around mining. The Black Reef Mine was still within a 12-month period of grace that the Dept of Labour allows new mines before having to provide a mining plan for scrutiny. The same department considered that this particular mine warranted only one inspection visit every six months. The union has called for reinstatement of mine check inspectors to be on site at all times of mining. But clearly it was easier for our government to prosecute a few individuals for mistakes than to consider what price might be justified to improve men’s safety in dangerous jobs.

What has been missing from all news reports is a basic recognition that mining is a dangerous service provided mainly by men, as is the case for most roles involving high levels of danger. Year after year almost 100% of workplace deaths are suffered by men, and it’s not because men tend to be more clumsy than women. Even in jobs now featuring women, e.g. police, the men will tend to place themselves in the way of danger to protect their female colleagues. No journalist saw fit to acknowledge the many men whose bravery enables them to do what is required to maintain the infrastructure our societies depend upon for modern lifestyles. Instead of honouring men for their contribution, we as a society take them for granted until they make a mistake whereupon we focus only on blaming and punishing a few of them. We maintain a position of denial about the inherent dangerousness of many jobs men do, pretending that such jobs would become magically safe if only everyone followed fine-print regulations written more for the purpose of scapegoating than as realistic, practical approaches to reduce risk.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs studiously avoids recognising any special merit in men’s roles, instead making its primary focus to get rid of the alleged disparity between the average incomes of men vs women. Somehow, social justice is to be found in equating incomes regardless of career risks, body wear and tear, discomfort, dirt, personal costs and sacrifices, priority given to one’s career, or any other factors that may well distinguish between what men and women do to earn a living.

As if to emphasize the perceived irrelevance of men’s contribution, NZ National Radio this morning aired a story about today’s scheduled sentencing of those blamed for the Black Reef Mining accident, without any reference to the dead man’s bravery and sacrifice in undertaking dangerous work to provide for his family. Their story instead focused on the struggle Mr McGowan’s widow endured to exact retribution for her husband’s death. (See also this article and this article) At today’s sentencing her reported comments related mostly to her wish to gain financial compensation for the loss of her money provider. And good on her; of course our hearts will go out for the losses suffered by her and the children. However, in failing to respect, even to mention the dead man’s sacrifice in undertaking dangerous work to provide for his family, Mr McGowan’s widow, our newspapers and National Radio have all insulted the memory of this martyr and all men who undertake dangerous jobs, including those now being punished.


  1. bit off topic but have you guys ever had your child support calculated on a salary 30 to 50G higher than what you earn by IRD. and when queried they claim thats what the employer told them when it really was not the case???…

    i get the feeling that IRD are playing some sort of games and the debt that they highlight by non paying liable parent is a byproduct of this action on their part…

    do any of you have that experience??

    Comment by starr — Fri 1st February 2008 @ 4:01 pm

  2. If you can manage to manoeuvre the IRD into a corner where you can prove that they have made errors in their proceedures,you will find that they can become ‘almost helpful’

    Comment by rosie — Fri 1st February 2008 @ 6:11 pm

  3. What you say isn’t unusual Starr. When a debt is being chased, especially if someone has gone to Ausie to work (and grieve about the loss of their children due to Family court orders) some amazing fictitious figures are created. I saw one where they claimed a chap was earning the maximum (108kpa) from the day he left his Nz employment.
    I also know of several admin reviews where the review officer has used figures 100% more than declared as taxable eanings (and accepted buy the rest of IRD).

    Comment by Allan Harvey — Sat 2nd February 2008 @ 11:51 pm

  4. ok so i am not alone. thanks guys.

    Comment by starr — Mon 4th February 2008 @ 9:10 pm

  5. My partner is in huge debt from an income that didnt exist and all the penalties .. now he has to prove it wasnt there. Very painful process that he just isnt up to.

    Comment by Sarah — Thu 7th February 2008 @ 11:49 pm

  6. I was wondering why the government doesnt just hand the kids to the parent that can afford to bring the kids up. Seems odd that the parent with the least earning potential sits on DPB while the other parent has to pay out to them. The earning parent doesnt get the option to have day to day care if its a man.

    Comment by Sarah — Thu 7th February 2008 @ 11:53 pm

  7. I suggest when dealing with ird you must get a case manager, if the parent to be paid gets her/his back up and starts making numerous complaints to ird and allegations about his/her income they will act for that person, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, we applied to our local mp who had a ministrial enquiry into the moc’s claims and she was then refused any more reviews for two years and he did not have to pay anything for that time,, it took a bit but well worth the effort, or you can authorize someone to act for him, I have done it for several with great results. I dealt only with a David Knibb from chch in the end and whenever I rang about a new case he got right onto it. Once pinpointed they can be helpful, I also went to the ombudsman who got money returned to one man.

    Comment by karen — Tue 12th February 2008 @ 9:27 am

  8. Is it culture, that there is men’s work.
    What would a matriarchal culture, demand.
    In the past, this resulted in men building things.
    As they became free of child rearing, they had more time.

    Humans have built lots of things, amazing things.
    Strangely in a far more, gender segregated society.
    Women keeping the house, and raising children.
    Men building infrastructure, with many feats of engineering.

    Today I look for these great works, but see few.
    Infrastructure has a cost, to maintain.
    Eventually you run out of money, to do new things.

    Certainly bureaucracy, slows down things.
    And drains useful funds, better used elsewhere.
    For a short time, there was think big.

    Certainly nations like China think big, and build it anyway.
    While other nations, languish in poverty.
    They must have there money printing, just right in China.

    Soon humans will start terraforming, if not already.

    What cost is the new household, with mothers working.
    Is it that we build so fast, we can’t keep up.
    Slaves now to work, and the cost of living.

    Strangely things are becoming, more patriarchal.
    Women’s hours of work, increasing.
    And I hear, of more diversity in male parenting.

    All we need now, instead of arguments over work.
    Is arguments over what to do, with our work.
    What will humans work, and risk there lives for.

    Are there not endless great things, but remain only imaginary.
    If the private sector cannot, must the taxpayer fund it.
    How then is there unemployed, if there is endless work.

    Comment by DJ Ward — Tue 1st February 2022 @ 9:56 pm

  9. I have seen, large change in the work I do.
    From engineering without computers, to machines of today.
    Once complicated 3D objects, were very hard to make.
    Then we got CNC machines, greatly improving options.
    My work then quickly went from many workers, to just a few.
    The 3D printer had arrived, an amazing invention.
    Still in its infancy, they can print nearly anything already.

    My hands on job making and changing real world things, cannot be avoided.
    Somehow I am still needed, for my old world skills.

    Comment by DJ Ward — Thu 24th February 2022 @ 5:40 pm

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