Yesterday in New Zealand, a mother of 4 collapsed and died shortly after Mercury energy cut off the power to her house.
Folole Muliaga had just recently been released from the hospital, and was dependant on a respirator for oxygen. Folole’s energy bill was $299.
And now it seems mercury reps are trying to make the company into the hero of this story of ‘business as usual’. There’s a protest set for tomorrow (see below)
A family spokesman, Brendan Sheehan, told Radio NZ that when a Mercury Energy representative arrived to disconnect the electricity, the woman and her son told the person that she relied on the oxygen machine to stay alive.
“They came to the house and they were aware of the circumstances when (the power) was cut off,” he said.
He said he didn’t know how much the unpaid bill had been.
The family were “hard-working immigrants”; the woman had been unable to work because of her illness, and her husband had cut back his hours in order to care for her.
Mercury Energy spokesman James Moulder said there was a policy in place to deal with issues of medical need and hardship.
“Once we’ve been notified that someone is dependent on electricity-powered medical support, we…request evidence from a medical practitioner and then we move into another process which puts them onto different payment terms.”
He said the Mercury representative should have told the woman and her son to ring the company and speak to someone about the situation, before the power was shut off.
Mercury was still trying to ascertain whether this happened.
Mr Moulder said the company was also working on restoring electricity to the house, where the grieving family had spent a night without power.
Mr Moulder said the company had not yet identified the person who went to the house yesterday and shut off the power.
Mercury contracted out the work to independent firms and it was working with its partners to find out who had shut off the power.
“I’m confident that if our people had been spoken to and we had been made aware of the situation…then this wouldn’t have occurred. (source)
Trade unionists and community activists from South Auckland will join forces tomorrow at an angry picket at the headquarters of Mercury Energy, 602 Great South Road in Green Lane, tomorrow Thurs 31 May at 4pm, to protest the death of Folole Muliaga.
Folole died after her power was disconnected from her house by a contractor employed by Mercury Energy, leaving her family to grieve in the dark. Her family had warned and pleaded with the company beforehand that her life support required electricity. She was $200 behind her bill.
Protest organiser Joe Carolan-
“Yet again we see a so-called State Owned Enterprise put profit before people in New Zealand. Mercury Energy should be renamed Murder Energy- they are corporate bully boys who prey on the weak, old and vulnerable of South Auckland, and are no better than the corrupt money lenders who plague our communities. They rely on the fact that people feel alone and isolated- thats why we want to give them a dose of people power tomorrow they will never forget.
Trade unions like my own Solidarity Union will join community activists at Murder Energy Headquarters tomorrow, 602 Great South Rd, Greenlane. We will be calling for the sacking of Murder Energys CEOs and their blood soaked moenymen, and for proper democratic community control over the decision making to ensure that this tragedy that Folole and her family suffered is never, ever repeated. We call on the people of Auckland who are angry about this to come join us and say People Before Profit- Murder Energy- Never Again!”