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Metiria Turei has started something

17 August 2017 1 comment

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When Metiria Turei announced her resignation as co-leader of the Green Party, on the afternoon of 9 August, it could be said that the bullies had won.

The reactionary media pack – led chiefly by so-called “journalists” Patrick Gower, Mike Hosking, Duncan Garner, Tracy Watkins, and  John Armstrong – had joined the hunt. They scented blood. The prize?  Who would be first to announce her resignation. Watching and listening to Gower almost salivating as he put the verbal “ultra-violence” boot into Metiria was nauseating.

The political Right-Wing – led chiefly by ACT’s sole MP, David Seymour – not only clamoured for her resignation, but actively promoted rumour after rumour to undermine her reputation. Mischief-making falsities from the Right is done with malice and glee. Especially if the “fake dirt” can be thrown anonymously via social media.  Seymour’s role in this is even more jaw-droppingly hypocritical when one studies the lengthy list of former, disgraced ACT MPS – and there have been several, for such a minor party.

Various sundry vociferous critics from the “Moral Majority” – led chiefly by Joe and Jane Bloggs – pakeha, middle class; home-owning; privileged. They have never know hunger or having to choose between paying the rent or new shoes for the kids. For them, the mantra is “can’t afford to feed kids – don’t have them”.  (Which is code for “fuck off, we don’t want to see you poor people because it makes us feel guilty and we don’t like it. You’re in our Comfort Zone”.)

Fellow blogger, Martyn Bradbury described that relentless attack on Ms Turei thusly;

It is a grim reality of the double standards that are always used against the Left in politics. The truth is that this was a class attack by rich white male broadcasters who used their privilege to launch a character assassination against Metiria for daring to give beneficiaries hope that the way they are treated will be finally discussed.

And that is precisely the point. This was never about Metiria having to lie to Social Welfare when she was 23.

It certainly wasn’t about her so-called “electoral fraud”. Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders live overseas and are actively encouraged to vote in electorates they haven’t resided in for years. The Electoral Commission even encourages citizens to vote in electorates they are absent from;

Enrol and Vote from Overseas

Just because you are out of the country doesn’t mean you have to miss out on having your say in New Zealand’s elections.

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Your electorate will be the one in which you last lived for a month or more. 

All quite legal.

But when a mischievous young person does pretty much the same thing as a prank, to support a joke political “party” – people lose their minds?!

Ms Turei was certainly not the first woman on the Left to be vilified. Before her, there was Sue Bradford. And before her, Fran Wilde. When Conservative New Zealand is threatened by women who “cross the line”, it reacts brutally.

Ms Turei not only “crossed the line”, she was an uppity brown woman who got lippy and insolent to The Established Order of  Things.  The Establishment slapped her down – hard.

As Stephanie Rodgers wrote for Radio NZ;

I will remember that for 30 years, no one really challenged the brutal reality of life for the poor in New Zealand. We lamented child poverty rates. We railed against increasingly draconian policies and re-brandings. But there was a gentlemen’s agreement that things weren’t that bad, the system did what it could, it was just so complicated, we can’t simply give people money, they’ve got rights but they have responsibilities too.

I will remember that as soon as someone – a Māori woman who survived poverty and didn’t forget where she came from – said ‘This is fundamentally wrong, and we must do better,’ she was finished.

The “weapon of choice” to take down this uppity woman was not Ms Turei’s political opponants in the National/ACT Party (though that stooge, Seymour, certainly did his masters’ bidding). That would be too obvious. New Zealanders with a vestigial sense of fair play would quickly recognise a political “hit job” carried out by the governing party. Especially with Paula Bennett apparently having a few of her own skeletons stashed away in her closet.

No, retribution would be exacted by New Zealand’s own “Media Elite” – prominent personalities from TV (Garner, Gower, and Hosking); print media (Tracy Watkin and John Armstrong), and the usual goon-brigade of semi-articulate radio “talkback” hosts.

Radio NZ was largely exempt from the media pack hunting down their quarry. Until 10 August,that is. On a programme called ‘Caucus‘, Guyon Espiner, Lisa Owen, and Tim Watkin discussed Metiria Turei’s lying to Social Welfare in her 20s.

Driving home this evening, I listened to the three of them discussing Metiria Turei’s lying to Social Welfare in the 1990s. I listened and listened, and became more incredulous and angry with each uttered word.

I switched off the car radio. Outside, the dismal grey sky occassionally sprayed sheets of rain over me as I and  thousands of other vehicles slowly moved along the  Motorway. “60K” the illuminated overhead signs demanded.

Sixty?

We should be so lucky! We did 30 or maybe  40 and were thankful for it.

Despite the gloomy grey sky, blanketed with bulging dark clouds, it was a damn sight more cheerful outside than in my  vehicle, having listened to three journalists who I usually hold in high regard. It was darker, gloomier, and worse inside than out.

For the first time ever, I had willfully switched off a Radio NZ political programme. Listening to three, privileged, well-paid, middle-class, pakeha professionals pontificating on the sins of a 23 year old young maori woman two decades ago was more than I could stomach.  Louder than ever, Herman Melville’s now-oft repeated quote bounced around inside my head;

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.”

Maybe I’m wrong and I don’t know the full extent of the lives of Guyon Espiner, Lisa Owen, and Tim Watkin – but that’s the point. We don’t know their lives.

The Inquisitors who have hounded and interrogated Ms Turei have done so with utter impunity as to how they lived their lives in their teens and twenties. Perhaps they lived their lives faultlessly.

Because – and here’s the point – the journalists and media personalities are not investigating anything Ms Turei did in her adult years, especially as a Member of Parliament.  They are scrutinising her past life.

It was a time when every single one of us cocks-up one way or another. (I certainly did. I haven’t worn my halo since puberty.)

Case in point; all three likened her transgression to lie to Social Welfare with Bill English’s rorting of the Ministerial Accomodation allowance in 2009;

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Note how then Dear Leader, John “Pull the Other One (pony tail)” Key phrased English’s deliberately rorting the system as an unfortunate distraction“.

At least Ms Turei never called her lying to Social Welfare as an unfortunate distraction“. Can you imagine the reaction of the Establishment Media?!?! They would have burned her alive at a stake on the Parliamentary forecourts.

But the point here is that Bill English was 48 when he rorted the Ministerial accomodation allowance.

Metiria Turei was 23.

Please Guyon Espiner, Lisa Owen, and Tim Watkin – tell us how they are remotely similar? If you can explain this to us, the Unwashed Masses, perhaps we can begin to glimpse your reasoning to hound this woman till she finally cracks and resigns.

Because I really, really, really want to understand.

The next complaint they had was the messy nature of Metiria Turei’s “back story”. Lisa Owen referred to “missing bits of her story” and “gaps” in her life.

Well, that’s a surprise, isn’t it?

That young people have messy lives that are often not tidy; not neatly packaged for future scrutiny; and often much of what we’ve done as young adults totally eludes our memories.

My own life has been “colourful” to put it mildly. Much of it I can recall. Much of it, I’ve forgotten or the details are hazy. If anyone asked me what I was doing when I was 23, I might offer basic facts – but certainly not details.

Most normal, rational, fair-minded people would find it  utterly unreasonable to expect the often chaotic lives of young people – especially those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap – to be recalled two decades later. Especially by an unrelenting media pack demanding minute details.

John Key’s “poor memory” was a standing joke in this country. The most famous example when he couldn’t recall the last time he had txt-messaged a far-right blogger. It had been only 24 hours previously. But he said he “forgot”;

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Screw that. We know he was a lying, manipulative con-man. But he got away with it because he ticked all the right boxes;

  • Establishment
  • Wealthy
  • Powerful
  • White
  • Male

On top of which, he was further rewarded with a knighthood. (I didn’t know liars were knighted.)

By contrast, Ms Turei was anything but but any of the above.

As  State House Tenant Advocate, Vanessa Kururangi, blogged recently;

If you’re brown, don’t dream of conquering mountains.
If you’re a woman, don’t you start having an opinion.
If you’re intelligent, play that shit down.
If you have stretch marks, you don’t stand a chance.
If you have aroha, don’t share it with others.
If you extend your arms, it had better not be for a handout.
If you have a voice, keep it zipped.
If you have a skeleton, best you bury the whole house, not just the closet.
Also, learn to lie.

“Learn to lie”. That last one is a lesson all our politicians have had beaten into their skulls by events  over the last two weeks. Lie like John Key when he “forgets” stuff. Tell the truth – and prepare to be excoriated.

None of which stopped Espiner, Owen, and Watkin from holding her to a higher standard than Key. None of them paused to think; “Hang on, are we really expecting too much from a young woman in her early 20s who lived like most young people who have no perception of long-term consequences?

They’ll deny it was a witch-hunt, of course. All of them will; Tracy Watkins, John Armstrong, Mike “I Love John” Hosking, Duncan Garner, and Patrick “I’m Holding The Line” Gower, as well as Espiner, Owen, and Watkin, and a few others who I cannot be bothered to list.  Otherwise known as the “Media Elite”.

But of course it was.

Meanwhile, stories of poverty continue in our daily media. There is much hand-wringing, soul-searching, and those same  Media Elite wanting answers to questions.

Metiria Turei may not have had the answers. But she knew the welfare system is broken and keeps people mired deeper in poverty, creating new cycles of despair, lack of hope, violence, hunger, disease…

Metiria Turei may not have revealed every intimate secret she had at the time. Why should she? Does poverty really mean having to give away your privacy so that privileged folk in the Middle Class can pass moral judgement on whether you are worthy of charity. That’s really going ‘Victorian’ on poor peoples’ asses.

Maybe it would be fairer if, when a Media Elite asks a poor person who they’ve been fucking recently, that Media Elite can swap his or her details at the same time?

Like this;

Patrick Gower: “So tell us, Wretched Poor Person, who’ve you been having sex with while on the DPB?”

Solo Mum: “I’ve had sex three times, Mr Gower, Sir, with the same person.”

Patrick Gower: “Away with you, Woman of Loose Morals!” [Turns to TV camera] “In the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to say I had sex with my partner, Mary the Merino, but no suck luck. It’s just me and my right hand, folks. Now back to the studio.”

Too much information, right?

But that’s how much the media demands to scrutinise the lives of the poor – especially those on welfare. As if receiving a state benefit demands surrendering privacy.

In case certain individuals from the Media Elite believe I’m being crude and unfair – damn straight I am. The last two weeks have shown me what the new standards are. I’m quite capable of playing by those rules.

On the day that Ms Turei announced her resignation I was thoroughly ashamed to be a New Zealander.  I saw the nasty, vindictive, petty-minded elements of our society. And the Media Elite played along; encouraging it; enabling it.

A day later, as I talked to grass-roots Green Party supporters, and read the comments of other people on social media, I began to hear the voices of the better nature of New Zealanders.

And you know what, my “friends” in the Media Elite? You can’t do a damn thing about it. As “Bill” from The Standard wrote;

Something’s happening right under our noses in New Zealand and a fair few people are missing it. When Metiria Turei highlighted the fact that New Zealand’s Social Security system is deployed as a weapon against poor people, 30 years worth of pent up frustration and/or remembered experiences from innumerable people suddenly found an outlet.

Metiria Turei has started something. You can’t stop it.

You can’t stop us all.

 

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Postscript – Minister for Sheer Hypocrisy Speaks Out

Former welfare beneficiary and now Deputy PM, Paula “Good Time Party Girl” Bennett recently admonished Metiria Turei, lecturing her on the Protestant work ethic;

“ I was often on benefit, I had jobs and I was always trying to get off when I was on, because I wanted to work and didn’t want to be on a benefit.”

Which seems in stark contrast to an earlier remark that Bennett made to NZ Herald journalist, Amelia Romanos, in February 2012;

“ Then I pretty much fell apart because I was exhausted. I went back on the DPB.”

So, Bennett wasn’t “always trying to get off when I was on, because I wanted to work and didn’t want to be on a benefit“. Sometimes she got a bit tired.

What was that you were saying to Ms Turei, Minister Bennett?

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References

Radio NZ:  ‘Outside opponents want to see us fail’ – Metiria Turei

Electoral Commission: Enrol and Vote from Overseas

Radio NZ: How Metiria Turei saved the Labour Party (audio)(alt.link)

Radio NZ:  I will remember Metiria Turei differently

Fairfax media:   Bill English buckles over housing allowance

Mediaworks/Newshub:  John Key ‘genuinely couldn’t recall’ text messages

Radio NZ:  Deputy PM on Turei’s benefit dishonesty

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Additional

The Spinoff:  The sins of Metiria, Bill and John – sense-checking the fact checkers

Other Bloggers

Gordon Campbell on the Turei finale

Bill:  Corbyn-esque NZ

Chris Trotter:  Avenge Metiria!

Vanessa Kururangi: “A Guide To Politics – Rules on How to Survive”

Curwen Rolinson:  Jacinda Effect > Metiria Affect – Why The Greens’ Polls Are Down

Previous related blogposts

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei!

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei! (Part Rua)

The most grievous betrayal of all – two so-called “Green” MPs who should know better

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 August 2017.

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MSM catches up on Unemployment stats rort

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The mainstream media – or at least one clever journalist working for Mediaworks/Newshub – has finally caught up with a story broken by this blogger last year that unemployment data from Statistics NZ was no longer reliable;

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Fake Stats

Last year, I revealed how Statistics NZ had revised it’s definition of what constituted being unemployed;

On 29 June 2016, Statistics NZ announced that it would be changing the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

The statement went on to explain;

Change in key labour market estimates:

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate

  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent 

  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force 

  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

The result of this change? At the stroke of a pen, unemployment fell from 5.7% to 5.2%.

Simply because if a person was job-searching using the internet they were “not actively seeking work”.

Which beggars belief as the majority of jobseekers will be using the internet. It is the 21st century – what else would they be using?

I pointed out that jobseekers in the 21st Century would be using internet websites – as government departments WINZ and  Careersnz  were at pain to point out on their own websites;

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“Most job vacancies are listed online” – CareersNZ.

“Most jobs in NZ are advertised online” – WINZ

Evidently Statistics NZ  did not get the memo.

Dodgy Data, Sham Stats

The ‘revision’ of definitions follows from another dubious Statistics NZ criteria for how they measure unemployment;

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

* worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment

* worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative

As I questioned last year; if working one hour, without pay, is the minimum criteria to be considered “employed”, then what must our true rate of unemployment actually be?

The msm seemed oblivious to what was been perpetrated.

National, however,  were quick to capitalise on  the ‘revised’ September statistics, as this Twitter-meme showed on 2 November 2016;

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Newshub looks deeper

Writing for Mediaworks/Newshub, Anna Bracewell-Worrall realised that  Statistic NZ unemployment data is not as reliable as New Zealanders have been led to believe;

The official unemployment rate in New Zealand has hit an eight-year low of 4.8 percent.

Sounds impressive, right? Sounds like the kind of employment environment where the worker rules – where there is little competition for jobs, and bosses are so desperate for workers they are offering great salaries and benefits.

But the 4.8 percent unemployment statistic is not telling the full story.

There are 1 million New Zealanders not in jobs and not counted in either the unemployment or employment rate. Many of the 1 million people ‘not in the labour force’ are doing things like studying or caring for a family member.

She didn’t quite get it right when she asserted;

To count as unemployed, people must have actively sought work within the past month and be available for work within the next four weeks. ‘Actively sought’ means they contacted an employer, placed an ad to find a job or took steps to set up a business.

You might be trawling Seek for a forestry job in Kaikohe, but if you don’t apply for anything in the month before the employment survey takes place, you count as ‘outside the workforce’.

Ms Bracewell-Worrall asked the $64,000 + gst question;

So, are we being misled by statistics boasting low unemployment rates?

The answer was provided by Bill Rosenberg, economist at the Council of Trade Unions;

[Rosenberg] says when people read headlines saying New Zealand has a 4.8 percent unemployment rate, they are not getting the full picture.

“When [people] look at that figure, they get a false sense of wellbeing. Actually, there’s a lot more people out there who are still wanting work.”

He said he’s never been particularly happy with the exclusion of people who have stopped looking for work.

“It’s a fairly brutal definition, really. It’s what’s used internationally, but it really doesn’t take into account the nature of the jobs that are out there and the difficulties people can have in finding those jobs.”

“There are a lot of people who are not getting what they need from employment,” he said, be it enough hours or enough pay.

Statistics NZ has accepted that their measurement of “official unemployment” is flawed and presents a distorted picture;

The number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate are widely used as indicators of labour market performance and unutilised labour resources in the economy. For many years the measure of unemployment and the unemployment rate have been criticised from both an economic and social perspective. Some of the main criticisms are that the unemployment rate:

  • fails to capture labour market downturns in all contexts

  • does not fit with common perceptions of ‘lack of work’

  • is no longer sufficient on its own in increasingly diversifying labour markets to describe all aspects of attachment to the labour market and insufficiency in paid work 

  • fails to capture the economic hardship experienced by individual workers.

To counter criticism that the Household LabourForce Survey was presenting dubious data and under-reporting real unemployment and under-employment, Statistics NZ has offered a new(ish)  category of “under-utilisation” (see Addendum below for full details);

Statistics NZ will produce official underutilisation statistics using data from the quarterly HLFS. The HLFS redesign will enable more accurate reporting of underutilisation statistics, in line with the recommendations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO, 2013).

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The underutilised population are people who were either unemployed, underemployed, or in the potential labour force.

Crucially, the “Potential Labour Force”  sub-category includes;

…available potential jobseekers – people who are not actively seeking work but were available in the reference week and want a job (the ‘discouraged’ are included in this group).

This is a marked improvement from Statistics NZ’s earlier arbitrary decision not to include unemployed job-seekers who were using on-line methods to find paid work;

Looking at job advertisements on the internet is “correctly” classified as not actively seeking work

The Bogus Stats – 4.8%

The July 2017 Quarter of  Labour Market Statistics presented good news.  The unemployment rate had fallen to  4.8%.

National were quick to seize on the data;

The latest Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) shows the unemployment rate is now at the lowest level since the start of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) says Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith.

“The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.8 per cent in the June 2017 quarter, the lowest rate since December 2008. Our strong economy continues to deliver for New Zealanders,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“The number of people unemployed has dropped by 3,000 this quarter, reflecting a robust labour market and increasing employment opportunities.

It was bogus of course. Stats NZ were using their dodgy definitions to conjure up that figure of 4.8%.

The Real Stats – 11.8% !

However, the Under-utilisation rate offers a more sober picture;

In the June 2017 quarter, the seasonally adjusted underutilisation rate fell by 0.5 percentage points to 11.8 percent. This represents 13,000 fewer underutilised people, down to 327,000.

New Zealand’s real unemployed/under-employed stands at 11.8% – over double the “official unemployment rate”. That figure is not what the msm will be showing the country any time soon.

Which begins to answer the question why – when we supposedly have low unemployment – are wages continuing to stagnate?

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Capitalist  Supply & Demand dogma states that in times of shortage of labour, wages must rise. This has not been happening.

Current high migration has been offered as one reason.

A more credible reason is that the country’s “low unemployment”  has been an illusion. Unemployment/under-employment is much higher than the public and msm  have been led to believe.

New Zealand is experiencing hidden unemployment/under-employment and the truth is only now slowly starting to emerge.  The question remaining to be asked is; will the msm cease focusing on trivia and begin to do some meaningful investigative work?

Newshub has started the ball rolling. Let’s hope they continue and others pick up on this.

Because this is the REAL news:

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Unemployment/under-employment – July, 2017: 11.8%

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Addendum

The full sub-categories and definitions of Under-utilised labour is:

The underemployed

There are several types of underemployment. The measure used here is time-related underemployment, which exists when an employed individual wants to work more hours than they usually do and is available to do so.

The ILO guideline (ILO, 2013) defines the underemployed as employed individuals who:

  • worked less than a specified threshold of hours (usually part-time), and
  • would like to work more hours, and
  • were available to do so in the reference week.

The unemployed

According to the international standard definition of unemployment (ILO, 2013), the unemployed comprises all individuals who in the reference week:

  • were not in employment, and
  • were available to work, and
  • were actively seeking employment.

The potential labour force

The potential labour force consists of people who are not in the labour force but can be considered to be ‘just outside it’. They meet two of the three criteria (listed above) needed to be considered unemployed. Two main groups of individuals are in the potential labour force:

  1. unavailable jobseekers – people who were actively seeking work, were not available to have started work in the reference week, but would become available within a short subsequent period
  2. available potential jobseekers – people who are not actively seeking work but were available in the reference week and want a job (the ‘discouraged’ are included in this group).

The first group is considered to have slightly closer attachment to the labour market than the second group, but both have much stronger attachment than other groups who are not in the labour force.

The extended labour force

In addition to the measures outlined above that form the underutilised population, a further measure has also been introduced, the extended labour force. It measures the total labour force (those employed and unemployed) plus the potential labour force. This is used as the denominator when constructing the underutilisation rate.

 

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Unemployment – Bad news NZ, it’s much worse than you think

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

Careersnz: Job hunting tips

Work and Income: Where to look

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Definitions

Twitter: National (2 Nov)

Statistics NZ: Introducing underutilisation in the labour market

Statistics NZ: The underutilised

Statistics NZ:  Labour Market Statistics – June 2017 quarter

National Party:  Unemployment at lowest rate since GFC

Radio NZ:  Strong GDP makes little difference to average earners – English

Previous related blogposts

The REAL level of unemployment

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

National exploits fudged Statistics NZ unemployment figures

Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies – ** UPDATE **

2016 – Ongoing jobless tally and why unemployment statistics will no longer be used

2017 – Ongoing jobless tally

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 August 2017.

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The most grievous betrayal of all – two so-called “Green” MPs who should know better

12 August 2017 6 comments

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Right-wing rednecks – I can deal with.

Beneficiary-bashing bigots – no problem.

Well-meaning ignorance – a bit of a challenge.

But what I find difficult to comprehend is when we face betrayal from our supposed comrades; people who supposedly share our values, and are travelling the same struggle-road.

I refer to (now-ex-)Green MPs, Kennedy Graham and Dave Clendon who dropped the political equivalent of a barrel-bomb into the middle of the election campaign with this jaw-dropping act of betrayal;

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They issued a joint statement stating;

“We do not believe that lying to a public agency … can ever be condoned.”

That one simple line speaks volumes about the self-sense of privilege exhibited by these two men. Obviously they have never had to face the prospect of choosing to lie to WINZ – or telling the truth and risk cutting their benefit and reduced income.

Their self-righteousness in siding with “public agencies” over the poor; the powerless; the abused; the dispossessed makes them unfit to be in any political movement professing to be progressive.

They should join National, or even better, ACT.

I am livid with anger at the selfish actions of these two. I have given my weekends to help erect Green Party billboards. I have helped draft letters to newspapers defending Metiria Turei from the reactionary media pack who are hounding her. I plan to give up my time to help the Green Party as much as I possibly can with leafletting and doorknocking.

And then these two fucking clowns; on parliamentary salaries; living comfortable, privileged lives – undermine everything that I – and thousands of other volunteers – have done?

To hell with that. To hell with them. To hell with their self-serving, pious self-righteousness.

And to hell with these selfish desire for revenge.

Yes, that’s right – revenge. Both of these two dickheads have been dropped down the Green Party list rankings from 2014;

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Clendon and Graham are both non-entities; non-performers who were dropped down the Green Party list to make way for more talented candidates. That much is obvious.  Also obvious is the retribution they have exacted for their demotion. They must have waited very patiently for the right moment to plunge the knife into the backs of their colleagues; the Party, and it’s supporters and volunteers.

Metiria Turei’s confession was the moment they had been waiting for. A gift for traitors to exploit.

Whilst Ms Turei faced her reactionary critics in the Establishment Media – she left her back exposed to these contemptible  cowards.

The damage that Clendon and Graham may have done to our chances to change the National-led government is much, much worse than Metiria Turei’s recent admission to lying to social welfare. They may just have thrown National a life-line. With polls on a knife-edge, one or two percent is all it takes to decide if our Prime Minister is Bill “Double-Dipper” English, or Jacinda “Let’s Do It” Ardern.

This is an act of betrayal that is much worse than anything National may have dished out to us in the last nine years. We know what to expect from the Tories and their fellow-travellers.

But to be stabbed in the back by people we trust to represent the poorest people in our society – is treachery beyond polite words.

This is my second draft at writing this. My first attempt is not printable except maybe on Whaleoil. (And even Cam Slater might have asked me to “tone it down”.)

Kennedy Graham and Dave Clendon can fuck off.

Just. Fuck. Off.

 

 

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References

Radio NZ:  Two Green MPs call for Turei to step down

Green Party: 2014 Party List

Green Party: 2017 Party List

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 August 2017.

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Some background info for Guyon Espiner

1 August 2017 4 comments

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On Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘ on 26 July, Co-Host Guyon Espiner interviewed Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei on why she didn’t find a job to support herself at University and pay for the care of her baby. He was critical in her activities in the McGillicudy Serious Party and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party instead of seeking some sort of part-time employment.

The reason why any job seeking by Ms Turei during the early/mid 1990s would have been futile is common knowledge to those who remember the ‘Mother of All Budgets’ by then Finance Minister, Ruth Richardson;

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Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the ‘mother of all budgets’, but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

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Unemployment at that time reached levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1920s/30s;

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Unemployment Rate

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Unemployed Number of People

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Nearly 200,000 people were out of work at the time.

There simply was no  work for thousands of New Zealanders who had lost their jobs.

In April this year, a well known journalist wrote this analysis of Jim Bolger and the extreme neo-liberal “reforms” of the early 1990s;

Bolger says neoliberal economic policies have absolutely failed. It’s not uncommon to hear that now; even the IMF says so. But to hear it from a former National prime minister who pursued privatisation, labour market deregulation, welfare cuts and tax reductions – well, that’s pretty interesting.

“They have failed to produce economic growth and what growth there has been has gone to the few at the top,” Bolger says, not of his own policies specifically but of neoliberalism the world over. He laments the levels of inequality and concludes “that model needs to change”.

But hang on. Didn’t he, along with finance minister Ruth Richardson, embark on that model, or at least enthusiastically pick up from where Roger Douglas and the fourth Labour government left off?

Bolger doesn’t have a problem calling those policies neoliberal although he prefers to call them “pragmatic” decisions to respond to the circumstances. It sets us up for the ride we go on with Bolger through the 1990s, a time of radical social and economic change.

Judge for yourself whether or not they were the right policies but do it armed with the context. Bolger describes his 17-hour honeymoon after becoming PM in 1990. He recalls ashen faced officials telling him before he was even sworn in that the BNZ was going bust and if that happened nearly “half of New Zealand’s companies would have collapsed”.

The fiscal crisis sparked the Mother of All Budgets and deep cuts to the welfare state. Some believe this was the start of the entrenched poverty we agonise about to this day.

That author was Guyon Espiner, co-host of Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report’.

Either Espiner has forgotten the lessons of history, grimly recounted to him by former Prime Minister Jim Bolger – or he wilfully chose to ignore the dire circumstances that Metiria Turei, and thousands of other New Zealanders, found themselves in at the time.

Neither is an edifying prospect for a supposedly professional journalist with a wealth of knowledge to tap into. He should have known that he was demanding the near-impossible from Ms Turei.

The interview was one of a series throughout mainstream media where the scent of blood has been picked up by the journalist-pack, and they are in full flight of their quarry.

The circumstances of why she was forced to lie to WINZ is almost incidental.

The fact that she did lie to WINZ is of secondary importance to the Right; the mainstream media; and to the Establishment.

The real reason she is being pursued and vilified is because she dared to speak out. While the Establishment will tolerate benefit fraud – and occassionally make sport of anyone discovered doing it – they will not tolerate anyone from the lower classes stepping forward to tell their story.

Ms Turei’s grievous crime is not the money she took. It is her subversion.

That is the real threat to the Establishment.

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#iammetiria

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References

Radio NZ:  Greens say household income report is damning

Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand:  The ‘mother of all budgets’

Trading Economics: Unemployment Rate

Trading Economics: Unemployed Number of People

The Spinoff:  Neoliberalism has ‘failed’ and the ‘model needs to change’

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 July 2017.

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The Negotiated Pay Equity Settlement for Care Workers – beware the fish-hooks amidst the hyperbole

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Historic & Hyperbolic

It’s been touted as the most “historic pay rise” in  history. But the actual mechanics of the deal; the “fine print”; and other undisclosed facts may raise questions as how much of a “historic pay rise” the deal actually is.

As of 1 July, an estimated 55,000 healthcare workers would be in line for pay-equity increases ranging from a reported “15% to 50%”. The increase is estimated to be worth approximately $2 billion;

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Meanwhile, the media, unions, and several blogs, lauded the settlement;

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About 55,000 low-paid workers, mainly women, are about to get one of the biggest pay rises ever after details of a historic pay equity settlement are revealed today. – Dunedin Stadium blog

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The government will implement a historic pay equity pay deal for aged and residential care workers worth $2.05 billion of extra pay for some 55,000 people – close to 2% of the total New Zealand workforce. – National Business Review

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About 55,000 low-paid workers, mainly women, are about to get one of the biggest pay rises ever after details of a historic pay equity settlement are revealed today.New Zealand Herald

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In 2014 Kristine Bartlett won a huge victory in the Court of Appeal over pay equity. Now, it looks like that victory is about to pay off, with the government about to approve a huge pay settlement for underpaid women.No Right Turn

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The historic $2 billion pay rise for 55,000 care and support workers announced yesterday has been welcomed by unions, workers, and industry leaders.Otago Daily Times

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The government has agreed to the principles of equal pay outlined by Unions, Government officials and Employers. This is a historic achievement and brings us one step closer to achieving equal pay for underpaid women. – PSA

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Tens of thousands of aged-care and disability workers will get a hefty pay rise today as a landmark equity deal kicks into effect.Radio NZ

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A historic pay deal for thousands of low-income care workers, mainly women, will be signed off today.TV3

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It is a day they should celebrate […] great day for worker rights.The Daily Blog

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This is a huge victory for health care workers, and for women. – The Standard

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Obviously, the aged care settlement is excellent news for the workers who will directly benefit.Werewolf/Gordon Campbell

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Radio NZ described the settlement in simple terms;

Parliament last month unanimously approved a $2 billion settlement, boosting the wages of about 55,000 workers by between 15 and 50 percent.

It follows a legal battle by Kristine Bartlett, who argued she was underpaid because she worked in a mainly-female industry.

Ms Bartlett’s pay will now jump from $16 an hour to $20 – and then again to $23 by 2021.

However, what many people fail to fully appreciate is that the pay-increases will be spread over five years, as this Ministry of Health table, below, illustrates;

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In Ms Bartlett’s case – and others in her Level 4 pay bracket – her pay will increase from $16.25 per hour to $23.50 per hour – a 44.6% increase. However,  it should also be noted that [some] community support workers covered by this “equity pay rise” had not had any pay increase since the last collective agreement raised wages in October 2015;

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But in correspondence to this blogger dated 14 July, E tū Union’s assistant national secretary, John Ryall, disagreed. He pointed out;

Those on collective agreements had increases from the funding increases given to their employers during this period (very low – about 1%) and from the movement in the minimum wage in April 2016 and again in April 2017 (about 3% plus on each occasion).

What is undisputed is that the pay increases will be doled out in small multiples;

In 2018, the increase will be an addition $1 per hour (for Level 2 pay rates) – a 5% increase from 2017.

In 2019 the increase will be  50 cents an hour – just under 2.5%  from 2018.

There will be zero pay increase in 2020.

In 2021, there is a $1.50 per hour pay increase from 2019 – a 7% increase, but over over two years.

John Ryall made clear that the settlement was an on-going process;

The Care and Support Equal Pay Settlement Agreed Position of the Parties says the following about the settlement – “Both parties (Unions and Government) are agreed that this settlement is an historic step forward for women workers in the elimination of systemic undervaluation of care and support work. As such, it is a significant step in addressing gender based inequality in New Zealand.” We did not even say in the settlement that pay equity had been achieved. We said it was a “significant step” as like the treaty settlements we did not believe that the rates themselves were high enough, but we were prepared to put this deal to a ratification vote (which incidentally was approved by 95% of care and support workers who voted) on the basis of settling, extinguishing claims for 5 years and having another go later if we felt there was still some ground to make up in terms of the Equal Pay Act.

John Ryall’s caution appears to be well-founded. However, the mainstream media and some blogs’ uncritical lauding of the settlement clearly failed to  reflect the real situation that the settlement was a “significant step” toward pay equity. The complexity of the problem may have contributed to the ‘fog’ surrounding the settlement.

An inflationary fish-hook

Furthermore, a considerable portion of those planned increases will be swallowed up by inflation, as this Treasury graph, below, shows;

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The inflation figure for year-ending June 2017  is 1.7%, according to latest Statistics NZ figures. Ms Bartlett is apparently well ahead  this year.

Apparently.

Calculating  inflation requires averaging several contributing  factors. While domestic airfares were down 15% – vegetables were up 19%. It takes no stretch of the imagination which is more applicable to the daily lives of low-paid community care workers.

By  2018, inflation is around 1.7% – still ahead with her 5% increase.

By 2019, the inflation rate has climbed to 2.2% –  almost swallowing up her 2.5% increase.

By  2020, inflation remains at 2.2% – and with zero pay increase this year, Ms Bartlett’s pay rise last year has been well eroded, and nibbling into her 2018 increase.

By 2021, inflation stands at 2.1% – eating into her 7% pay increase that covered not one, but  two years.

On 22 April, I wrote to Minister for Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman, to ask how the pay equity settlement would take inflation into account;

“Will the planned increases be inflation-adjusted, to prevent any increase being watered-down by inflation?”

Seven weeks later on 8 June, Minister Coleman responded;

“The settlement agreement contains an agreed formula linked to the All Industries Labour Cost Index to ensure wage rates remain current over the five year settlement.”

This is critical, as the Care and Support Workers Pay Equity Settlement Agreement is a mechanism for pay equity. Any erosion by inflation negates the intent as well as benefits of the settlement.

The Settlement Agreement document confirms Minister Coleman’s statement that there will be an “agreed formula linked to the All Industries Labour Cost Index to ensure wage rates remain current over the five year settlement“. But there is a ‘fish-hook’. Any adjustment for inflation is post-poned for four years;

“If the All Industries Labour Cost Index by 30 June 2021 (for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2021) moves on average by more than 1.7% annually then the figures in the above tables applying from 1 July 2021 will be adjusted accordingly.”

According to the Settlement Agreement, inflation adjustment will  not “ensure wage rates remain current over the five year settlement“, as Minister Coleman asserted. Instead, any inflation-adjustment to pay-equity is not made until 1 July 2021 – at the conclusion of the agreed  Settlement period.

I asked Council of Trade Union  economist, Bill Rosenberg, to comment on inflation adjustment to the Settlement. Bill said he was not confident of Treasury inflation forecasts;

“…Forecasts, Treasury’s as much as any forecaster’s, are just forecasts and the further out they are the less reliable they are. Treasury takes the view that the long term rate of inflation is 2% and all their forecasts trend towards that.

Secondly their Budget 2017 forecast for March 2017 was out – they forecast 2.0 percent but it came in at 2.2 percent  (illustrating the above point – though usually forecasts in the next year to 18 months are more reliable than further out). That puts out their June forecast. Recasting that, assuming they at least had the June quarter about right, their annual increases would be something like [this]“;

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Bill compared his estimated inflationary figure with the 2017 BEFU (Budget Economic Fiscal Update), which yielded this table for predicted inflation;

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“I’m not confident the June 2018 figure will be that low,” said Bill.

John Ryall was also unconcerned about inflationary pressures on the settlement, saying;

The wage rates will increase over the period from 1 July 2017 until 1 July 2021 by 13% on the bottom rate, 15% on the second level rate, 19% on the third level rate and 15% on the top level rate. This is still ahead of what the inflation rates are predicted to be for this period.

He also pointed out the settlement’s provision to make up for inflation in 2021;

Under the Care and Support Worker (Pay Equity) Settlement Act 2017 if the labour cost all industries index moves by more than 1.7% on average over the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2021 the final rates at 1 April 2021 will be adjusted upwards by the outstanding percentage.

However, that will not assist workers who leave the profession before 1 April 2021. Nevertheless, John did point out  the significant gains to workers, adding;

There are very strong provisions in the Care and Support Worker (Pay Equity) Settlement Act 2017 for employers to do everything practically possible to “ensure” that all of their care and support employees get to the top step (ie complete a level 4 qualification). This means that very few of the care and support workers will be remaining on the same level as they complete their transition through from 1 April 2017 to 1 April 2021 and the increases take place as soon as they complete the qualifications, not having to wait for a service milestone after this date. This is a major piece of work for the unions in this period and I think will lead to a lot of future litigation and organising.

Whichever forecast becomes reality is almost irrelevant. What is relevant is that – spread over five years – the benefit of the $2 billion pay-out will be affected – perhaps weakened – by inflation.

On-going negotiations

I also asked Minister Coleman if the pay equity settlement would impact on future union wage negotiations;

“Will the equal-pay settlement and increase in wages have any impact on future Union-Employer wage negotiations? Or will future negotiations and demands for pay rises be considered a part of the pay-equity settlement?”

Minister Coleman responded that;

“The settlement addresses historic issues of systemic gender discrimination and does not extinguish the right of the 55,000 care and support workers  to negotiate  further rate increases or additional terms  and conditions  of employment with their employers.”

However, on page 5, the Settlement Agreement has done precisely that: extinguished rights;

“7. Subject to Executive and Parliamentary processes, the Parties acknowledge that the Legislation will cover the following matters:

[…]

(c) extinguish retrospective claims by Current Employees against Employers”

And  on page 18,

“The unions accept that this settlement will from 1 July 2017 extinguish any separate ongoing service allowance or qualifications allowance for care and support workers within the scope of this agreement that is contained in any employment agreement.”

The page 5 proviso extinguishes  past claims, whilst the page 18 proviso extinguishes current, on-going service and qualifications allowances.

Coleman added,

“The increases in care and support worker wage rates are not expected to significantly impact on contract negotiations with the approximately 1,100 employers. As noted above, the pay equity settlement does not extinguish the right of employers to negotiate price increases to meet increased operational costs.”

It is unclear what Minister Coleman bases his belief that “increases in care and support worker wage rates are not expected to significantly impact on contract negotiations”.

It remains to be seen whether future Union-Employer wage negotiations will yield further wage increases. If Employers point to the Pay Equity settlement as de facto pay-increases, then any equity in the settlement will be quickly eroded. By 2021, healthcare workers could be back to Square 1.

Should that happen, Unions may have to re-new pay-equity negotiations from scratch, as this Settlement agreement has a “sunset clause”;

This Settlement Agreement

[…]

(b) expires on 30 June 2022.

More hooks

Newsroom’s  Teuila Fuatai also identified another potential fish-hook; under-funding the equity funding by government/Ministry of Health. Should the Settlement funding be insufficient for any reason, employers may opt to hire relatively inexperienced – and thus cheaper – staff.  On 29 June, Ms Fuatai wrote;

Jessica Buddendijk, CANZ committee member, said the Ministry had fundamentally failed to account for “staffing numbers and length of service” in its calculations.

“Where a provider has a lot of very well educated, long serving staff, this tends to push them into the upper pay bands. With large numbers of [carers] needed because of the high dependency of those in aged care, this caused a huge error for which the providers have to bear the cost,” she said.

Simon Wallace, NZACA chief executive, warned that long term “many aged care providers may be forced to employ lower qualified and less experienced staff” because funding was weighted against having higher numbers of experienced and well-qualified workers.

There is precedent here.

National froze funding for ECE providers in 2010/11, sparking a massive, angry response from parents, ECE providers, and teaching staff. National’s  agenda was to cut costs by abandoning the requirement to having early childhood centres fully staffed by qualified teachers.

In November last year, the NZEI released a survey pointing to increasing use of unqualified staff  used by Early Childhood Education providers;

A new survey shows a six year funding freeze is threatening the quality of ECE as services say the freeze is forcing increases to parent fees, cuts to teacher pay, deteriorating child to teacher ratios, and increased reliance on unqualified staff.

An NZEI Te Riu Roa survey of 264 early childhood centres around the country found that 87% had experienced shortfalls since the Government first froze per-child funding six years ago, and 70 percent had increased fees – by an average of 29% – as a result.

Since 2010, increases in government funding for ECE have been for increased participation only, meaning services have faced real-term cuts to their core per-child funding.

[…]

• 41% of centres have reduced their ratio of qualified teachers in favour of cheaper unqualified staff.

According to the Newsroom story;

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said he was unaware of any providers being underfunded. “No one has told us that they’re underfunded, but the Ministry is working with some providers who have raised viability issues.”

Remain Calm – Don’t Hyperbolise

Interestingly, it was the student magazine, Salient, that reported the pay-equity settlement announcement on 1 May with restrained language. There was no hyperbole  such as “historic”, “victory”, “big pay rise”, etc;

Care workers win equal pay

The New Zealand government has announced a $2 billion settlement for care workers, after a lengthy court case led by aged-care worker Kristine Bartlett. Bartlett argued that the sector’s low wages were due to it being a female dominated industry, and were in conflict with the Equal Pay Act.

On July 1, depending on qualifications and experience, 55,000 workers across the sector will receive pay rises between 15 and 49 per cent.

The significance of the pay rise was explained by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman: “For the 20,000 workers currently on the minimum wage of $15.74 per hour, it means on July 1 they will move to at least $19 per hour, a 21 per cent pay rise.”

The settlement includes pay rises for workers who are above minimum wage and rewards those with qualifications and experience.

To back-pay or not to back-pay – why is it the question?

Lastly,  on the issue of back-dating  salary increases, I asked Minister Coleman;

Why was the settlement not back-dated when MPs automatically have their pay-increases backdated? Especially when negotiations with relevant parties was announced nearly two years ago on 20 October 2015 (by yourself) and has been on-going since.

Members of Parliament regularly have their salary increases backdated by the Remuneration Authority;

2015

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2016

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Despite the Minister  responding to a previous question stating that “the settlement addresses historic issues of systemic gender discrimination and does not extinguish the right of the 55,000 care and support workers  to negotiate  further rate increases or additional terms  and conditions  of employment with their employers” – his response to the  question of back-dating the claim was in direct contradiction;

“The unions and the Government  agreed that the settlement would extinguish  all pay equity claims made prior to 1 July 2017 for eligible employees.”

Not just contradictory – but a total evasion of the question itself. Minister Coleman simply could not explain why highly-paid members of Parliament have salary increases back-dated – but lowly-paid healthcare workers do not enjoy the same privilege.

E tū’s  John Ryall, however, was less critical and more pragmatic with his explanation;

In the history of NZ all settlements under the Equal Pay Act have been negotiated settlements. In the 1970s these were normally done in 3 or 4 steps and none of them included backpay because of the complications that arise with who is entitled to it (previous employees or current employees, union members or non-members) and when large industry settlements are done the backpay can sometimes be worth more than the settlement. Are we trying to put right historical injustices or pursue compensation and in the case of the private sector will the compensation mean that employers become insolvent rather than lifting wage levels across the sector market to a minimum level that everyone has to pay. In the view of the unions who negotiated the settlement we were trying to put right an historical injustice that I personally have spent the last 35 years of my life on (I was worried it could take another 35 years before we ever saw a cent of what we were seeking and that Kristine Bartlett and myself would be dead and buried).

The pay equity movement by unions is a nobel cause and long past it’s due-date. It is disappointing that the settlement was marred by a government unwilling to apply principles of compensation that Parliamentarians regularly apply to themselves.

As John Ryall was determined to explain;

…this settlement has given confidence to hundreds of thousands of low paid workers who have found some leverage to get their abysmal pay rates increased. Already we are signing off a settlement on Monday for 1700 vocational disability support workers, we are pursuing a case in the Employment Relations Authority and putting pressure on government about 3000 mental health support workers and we have heaps of other workers who are approaching us about getting organised around equal pay as a lever to increasing wage rates across their industries. Other unions have cases running for 12,000 school support staff, about 3000 social workers, 2000 hospital administration workers and WINZ front line staff as well as a case for Countdown workers (distribution centre male employees v checkout female employees)

However, it still remains to be seen if this de facto Wage Order by National will achieve it’s intended aims. Especially where a National government is concerned.

But as John Ryall made clear;

The National Government could have ridden the Bartlett court case out and we may have got a judgement in another five years time, by the time it went through all levels of the courts, and then we would have needed to take cases for all the other workers in the three sub-sectors as well as vocational disability and mental health.

We made the judgement that negotiating a settlement was the right way to go. There are issues around the funding but the bigger picture is the re-distribution of income that this process has set up, which I think is eventually going to mean some hard questions about governments about the taxation system that is going to be needed to pay for it.

This blogger accepts the hard work by Ms Bartlett and the unions involved. But one thing we cannot over-look – there is no room  for complacency. Once the hyperbole is stripped away, it is clear that far from being a giant leap for low-paid workers, it was a small step.

Last word

From John Ryall;

We made the judgement that negotiating a settlement was the right way to go. There are issues around the funding but the bigger picture is the re-distribution of income that this process has set up, which I think is eventually going to mean some hard questions about governments about the taxation system that is going to be needed to pay for it.

Disclosure

The author of this story is employed in the community-care sector, and therefore has a vested interest in pay equity.

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References

Beehive: $2 billion pay equity settlement for 55,000 health care workers

National Business Review:  $2b pay equity package for aged care workers confirmed

NZ Herald:  Big pay rise for women – Deal likely to alarm private sector

Otago Daily Times:  Carers’ $2b pay rise hailed

PSA: Equal Pay

Radio NZ:  Dollars in pockets as historic pay equity deal takes effect

TV3:  $500m pay rise for care workers

Ministry of Health:  Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Operational Policy Document (p10)

Treasury: Economic Outlook – The outlook for the economy is positive

Statistics NZ:  Consumers Price Index – June 2017 quarter

Treasury: BEFU 2017

Ministry of Health: Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Agreemen (For Aged Residential Care) (p 5, 18)

Ministry of Health:   Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Agreement (p4)

Newsroom:  Pay equity deal’s missing millions

Fairfax media:   Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

NZEI: ECE survey shows children and families paying for funding cuts

Salient:  Care workers win equal pay

Beehive: Government to enter negotiations over pay for care and support workers

NZ Herald:  MPs’ pay rise officially confirmed

Radio NZ: MPs given 2.5 percent pay rise

Acknowledgements for assistance

Dr Jonathan Coleman, Minister for Health

Bill Rosenberg, NZCTU

John Ryall, E tū Union

Additional

Employment New Zealand: Previous minimum wage rates

The Spinoff:  After the equal pay decision, joy – and anxiety – from care workers who missed out

Other Blogs

Dunedin Stadium:  Payrise for low-wage workers in aged care and home support #genderpaygap

No Right Turn: A victory for women

The Daily Blog: Courts finally give the poorest workers what the Government wouldn’t and the Unions couldn’t

The Standard: Thank you health care workers

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell  on the aged-care settlement

Previous related blogposts

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers! (1 March 2012)

No Rest for the Wicked (23 March 2012)

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash” (28 May 2012)

Roads, grandma, and John Key (18 July 2012)

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers (11 November 2012)

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion (16 November 2012)

That was Then, This is Now #22 – Lowest wages vs Highest wages (31 January 2014)

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation? (31 October 2015)

Special Education Funding – Robbing Peter, Paul, and Mary to pay Tom, Dick, and Harriet (27 August 2016)

Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?   (28 April 2017)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 July 2017.

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Foot in Mouth Award – Nicky Wagner, because disabilities issues are such a drag on a nice day

24 June 2017 3 comments

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Bennett had it (and probably still does)…

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Key had it;

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… still had it;

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Aaron Gilmore had it;

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Steven Joyce has it;

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Alfred Ngaro has it;

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And it seems Minister Nicky Wagner has it;

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Yes, indeed, Ms Wagner, we’re sure you’d rather be out on the harbour rather than having to mess around with boring disability issues. After all, it’s not your responsibility if some people  ‘choose’ to stay indoors rather than go sailing because they happen to have a disability.

Oh, wait, you’re Minister for Disabilities.

Yes, indeed, another National member of Parliament has revealed her innermost thoughts and feelings about us plebes. We are an inconvenience. Especially on a fine, sunny day.

Ms Wagner soon received a barrage of criticism for her 15 June ‘tweet’;

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1h1 hour ago

really? your response to backlash is to double down and refuse to apologise?? I hope you end up on the news for this.

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4h4 hours ago

Replying to

Then resign and give your position to someone with integrity and compassion. Shame on you.

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14h14 hours ago

Replying to

So would everyone with a disability but not everyone gets that choice…

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2h2 hours ago

Replying to

I suggest you step down then. Our communities deserve someone who wants to be there and makes a difference.

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3h3 hours ago

Replying to

find a new job as a fisherman if representing our disabled community is too much of a chore

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12h12 hours ago

Replying to

You tweet this? Clearly your judgement is poor. Make the most of your good fortune

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2h2 hours ago

Replying to

I hear you- I hate it when our daughters disability gets in the way of our sailing. And biking. And overseas travel. Ugh

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12h12 hours ago

Replying to

Well sorry for taking up your precious time by having a disability. I’d rather not have to think about it either. Ugh.

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2h2 hours ago

Replying to

Oh my gosh. Your my mp. From my area. You told me disability was your most important thing to you. You lied to me.

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9h9 hours ago

Replying to

Resign from your ministerial position. Such a flippant attitude when your meant to be meeting critical stakeholders of your portfolio! Shame

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7h7 hours ago

Replying to

i can tell this tweet isn’t going to age well over the next few months…

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And this (amongst many more) which sums things up in a nutshell;

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10h10 hours ago

Replying to

No worries, sweetie, after September 23 you can spend as much time on the harbour and away from pesky work as you like. 😀

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One hapless National Party supporter tried – without much success – to mitigate matters;

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8h8 hours ago

Replying to

Nicky you might pay to reread your tweet slowly & listen to your words.The delivery of this measage is appalling. Goodluck defending it oops

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Followed by,

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Good try – but stop digging, Geoff.

Ms Wagner quickly realised the enormity of her blunder and attempted to make good with two follow-up ‘tweets’, about eleven minutes apart;

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But by then, at least one representative from the msm had noticed the twitterstorm that had blown up around Minister Wagner;

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8h8 hours ago

Replying to

We will all stand by and watch for your ‘clarification and apology.’ See Alfred Ngaro for further help.

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8h8 hours ago

Replying to

Ummmm.. awkward. You could always resign if you don’t like your job! I know a bloke who does good harbour tours to the whales and dolphins.

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Garner’s description as “awkward” would be an understatement.

Perhaps, as National Party supporter Geoff Booth said, “We all make mistakes“. But National ministers and mps have a track record of occasionally letting slip what they really think of  us serfs. And it isn’t very flattering.

If this is how Ms Wagner feels about spending time on disability issues, perhaps it explains why we have had three housing ministers – simultaneously – and yet we still have rising homelessness and worsening housing affordability.

Perhaps it explains why we have chronic health underfunding, including  over-stretched mental health services.

Perhaps it explains why we still have high youth unemployment of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), and allowing 70,000 migrants to come to New Zealand because we are “short of skilled workers”.

Perhaps it explains why – when the economy is supposedly growing – wages have stagnated.

Obviously, National ministers would rather be doing something else.

In one way, former disgraced MP, Aaron Gilmore was the most honest out of the entire National parliamentary caucus; he really did express the innermost feelings of how the Born-To-Rule view us. I suggest Ms Wagner resign from Parliament and Aaron  Gilmore take her place. At least he’s more upfront and we know what we’re getting.

The rest of his National colleagues can also take a long, long cruise out onto the Auckland harbour.

 

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References

Radio NZ:  Bennett ‘would consider another privacy breach’

NZ Herald:  Key – US journalist Greenwald ‘a loser’

NBR:  ‘Dotcom’s little henchman’

Mediaworks:  ‘Do you know who I am?’ – Aaron Gilmore

NZ Herald: Minister to students: ‘Keep your heads down’

NZ Herald:  Associate Housing Minister Alfred Ngaro reprimanded, apologises to PM over Willie Jackson comments

Parliament: Nicky Wagner

Twitter: Nicky Wagner

Twitter: Nicky Wagner – would rather be out on harbour

Twitter: Nicky Wagner – follow up on harbour tweet 1

Twitter: Nicky Wagner – follow up on harbour tweet 2

Previous related blogposts

Foot in mouth award – Former ACT MP exposes flaw in free-market system

Foot in mouth award – another former ACT MP plumbs new depths of dumbness

Foot in mouth award – Bill English, for his recent “Flat Earth” comment in Parliament

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 June 2017.

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National continues to panic on housing crisis as election day looms

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The Grand Announcement!

On 3 June, National announced with great fanfare that additional state housing would be made available in Tauranga  and  Papamoa;

Almost 220 new social and transitional places are on the way for Tauranga and Papamoa, the Government has today confirmed.

“We’re on track to have 68 short term transitional housing places available in Tauranga and Papamoa by the end of the year. This will mean we can support up to 272 families in Tauranga and Papamoa every year while long term solutions are found,” says Ms Adams.

“Of those 68 places, 21 places are already open.

“Across the wider Bay of Plenty region, we will be providing a total of 146 transitional housing places meaning we’ll be able to help 584 families every year,” says Ms Adams.

“These houses are in addition to the 290 social houses we’re planning to secure in the Bay of Plenty. These new properties will be a welcome addition to the region, which is an area of growing need.”

Minister Amy Adams emphasised,

“We are working hard alongside providers to address the demand on social housing and help those most in need of warm, safe housing.”

Except…

Which would be fine – except that in December last year, National signed an agreement to sell off 1,138 state houses to IHC subsidiary, Accessible Properties;

Accessible Properties has signed a contract with the Government confirming it will acquire and manage 1,140  [actually 1,138] state homes in Tauranga, and plans to add 150 more houses to its portfolio.

The 1140 homes are currently with Housing New Zealand and will transfer on April 1, 2017. The contract was signed today and Housing New Zealand tenants are receiving letters this week explaining the change of ownership.

It was a similar deal to the one  the Salvation Army walked away from in March 2015;

The Government’s plan to sell off unwanted state houses to community housing providers has been dealt a massive blow with the Salvation Army walking away from the negotiation table.

The Salvation Army announced today it lacked the expertise, infrastructure and resources to deal with the number of houses and tenants that the Government wanted to offload.

[…]

Salvation Army social housing spokesman Major Campbell Roberts said the Government had underestimated the complexity of the task.

“I don’t think there has been enough thinking gone into it.”

Roberts said the current “Housing New Zealand monopoly” wasn’t working, but handing social housing over to single community organisations, like the Salvation Army, would fail.

Community Housing Aotearoa director Scott Figenshow rightly pointed out;

“ Last month the Government confirmed $1.2 billion of deferred maintenance on the state housing stock. Why would a provider want to purchase a liability? ”

IHC/Accessible Properties showed no such hesitation and on 1 April this year the sale was completed. Accessible Properties’ CEO,  Greg Orchard, appeared very pleased with the deal;

“The properties have been assessed as being at a very good standard – we will maintain this and seek to make improvements.”

The sale of the properties took place at the same time that Tauranga was experiencing a housing crisis similar to Auckland’s;

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Which means…

National’s “grand plans” for 220 new social and transitional places remains woefully short of the 1,138 houses that National sold off to IHC’s Accessible Properties at the end of March.

It is also unclear what is meant by “ transitional places“. Are these actual houses? Or motel units, à la Auckland-style;

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Only National would have the brazenness to sell off 1,138 state houses and then announce one-fifth of that number of “new houses” as some sort of “stunning achievement”.

Worse still is National’s over-all record when it comes to State housing;

In 2008, Housing NZ’s state housing stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2016, that number had fallen to 61,600 (plus a further 2,700 leased) – a dramatic shortfall of 7,400 properties.

No  wonder we have families living in cars in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Where did those state houses end up?

Promises made…

In September 2009, then-Housing Minister, Phil Heatley, announced that state house tenants would be allowed to purchase the state houses they were living in;

From today those state house tenants in a position to buy the house they live in can do so, says Housing Minister Phil Heatley.

[…]

Over the next week, Housing New Zealand will be approaching about 3,800 state tenants who pay market rent and live in a home that is available for purchase, to make them aware of the opportunity.

[…]

To ensure a property is not on-sold to developers, a tenant who purchases their state house will be unable to reapply for a state house for three years from the date of purchase.

Heatley specifically made clear his opposition to state houses ending up in the hands of anyone but occupying tenants.

In January 2015, our then-Dear Leader, Key, repeated National’s plans to sell state houses – but only to social service providers;

We’ll then look to sell between 1,000 and 2,000 Housing New Zealand properties over the following year for use as social housing run by approved community housing providers.

In doing so, we’ll use open and competitive processes.

Community housing providers may want to buy properties on their own, or they may go into partnership with other organisations who lend them money, contribute equity, or provide other services.

Properties will have to stay in social housing unless the government agrees otherwise, and existing tenants will continue to be housed for the duration of their need.

Selling properties in this way doesn’t reduce the number of social housing places. It just means more of the tenancies will be managed by a non-government housing provider rather than Housing New Zealand.

We’re very conscious that the sale of properties has to work for taxpayers.

We’re looking to get a fair and reasonable price for these properties, bearing in mind they’re being sold as ongoing social houses with high-need tenants.

We’re not selling them as private homes or rentals.

Note his unequivocal guarantee; “We’re not selling them as private homes or rentals”.

As with many of Key’s statements, he was somewhat ‘loose’ with truthfulness.

Promises broken.

By May this year, it became very apparent where many of the 7,400 state houses sold off by National had ended up;

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The article by Virginia Fallon makes this extraordinary revelation;

While the Devon St sale gives buyers the chance to choose their neighbours, it marks a bittersweet ending for Kay Hood, who once owned 80 per cent of the street.

“I would have liked to have bought the sixth one, that’s the only eyesore,” she said.

Over 20 years, Hood and husband Peter bought five houses on the street, and she wishes the last one never got away.

“We bought them off Housing Corp and I did approach them for the last one, but we never got it.”

We bought them off Housing Corp…”?!

So while entire families are camping out in cars, garages, or  –  if they are lucky – motel rooms, private investors have ‘snapped up’ State House properties.

In this case, the Hoods on-sold their investments (ie, former state houses), and were candid in their plans;

“ We’re going to go skiing and spend the children’s inheritance. ”

Personally, I hold no antipathy toward the Hoods. In our current social climate of  hyper-individualism  combined with a degree of moral ambiguity, many of our fellow New Zealanders have exploited opportunities for speculation such as this.

But I do hold 100% responsible John Key and his fellow Ministers-of-the-Crown who allowed this travesty to occur.

More so John Key, who benefitted from a state house in his youth;

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The over-powering stench I can smell is either a dead, rotting whale on my front lawn – or Key’s appalling hypocrisy.

The sound of a train-wreck hurtling toward you

It is abundantly clear that National is panicking over the issue of housing.

Whether it is homelessness or over-crowding by poor families, or home unaffordability for middle-class Millenials, National has managed to spectacularly cock this up.

New Zealanders may be able to tolerate poverty. This country has had varying degrees of poverty since the Year Dot.

But the notion of homelessness is more than they can stomach. Homelessness strikes at the very core of the “Kiwi Dream”, where a roof over your head and a place to raise a family is one of our strongest values. (The other being the now-mythical notion of egalitarianism. That social ideal had the life throttled out of  it after 1984.)

Housing-related problems (I refuse to call them “issues”) for National keep mounting in a Trump-like way.

On 8 June, on Radio NZ, Major Campbell Roberts (the same Maj. Roberts who, in 2015, had thoroughly rejected National’s invitation to buy properties from Housing NZ)  from the Salvation Army’s social policy unit, had been invited by then Finance Minister English to become part of National’s Housing Shareholders Advisory Group.

Maj. Roberts revealed that now-Dear Leader, Bill English, had described a looming housing crisis as far back as 2010;

“ He [Mr English] said a couple of things; one, the use of of the $15 billion asset of Housing New Zealand, and the second was that he was seeing a major crisis in Auckland in housing in five or six years.  It was a passing comment – but it was one of the reasons for setting up the shareholders group.

English’s prediction has eerily come to fruition;

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Unsurprisingly, English rejected Maj. Robert’s revelations using a highly effective technique from his predecessor. One of English’s tax-payer funded spin-doctors said,

The Prime Minister was having a number of such conversations on housing reform at the time, including with a housing advisory group which included the Salvation Army, and he doesn’t recall exactly what he said.

Who else had memory problems when it came to potentially embarrassing gaffs and scandals?

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Meanwhile, in a latest move to dampen the ballooning housing market, the Reserve Bank is contemplating adding a new “tool” to it’s regulatory powers. The RBNZ wants to cap  debt-to-value ratios at five times a borrower’s income;

The Reserve Bank wants to be able to stop people taking out mortgages that are too big compared to their incomes.

It wants debt-to-income restrictions (DTIs), which limit the amount that people can borrow to a multiple of their income, added to its macroprudential toolkit, alongside loan-to-value (LVR) restrictions.

The restrictions are used in other markets around the world, such as Britain, where borrowers must have a loan no bigger than 4.5 times their income. The Reserve Bank is suggesting a limit of five times.

The size of New Zealand mortgages compared to incomes has increased sharply over the past 30 years. The Reserve Bank said increases since 2014 partly reflected the drop in interest rates over that time, but it was possible that rates could rise again in future.

The RBNZ estimates debt-to-income restrictions could prevent 8,800 investors from buying a property. But 1,600 First Home buyers  would also be caught up in stringent DTI restrictions and locked out of  owning their home.

The Bank’s chief agenda is to prevent a massive housing crash that would impact on the economy; cause mass unemployment; and result in thousands losing their homes through mortgage defaulting;

The housing market could collapse if mortgage rates rise to 7 percent, given the increasing numbers of households heavily in debt, the Reserve Bank says.

The Reserve Bank stress-tested the ability of borrowers to cope with mortgage rates at 7 percent, which is close to the average two-year mortgage rate over the past decade.

It found 4 percent of all borrowers, and 5 percent of recent ones, would be put under severe stress where they could not meet day-to-day bills for food and power.

Auckland borrowers appear particularly vulnerable to higher rates, with 5 percent estimated to face severe stress.

[…]

“So that if a downturn comes, you don’t get a whole lot of forced sales coming onto the market that depresses house prices even further, and create a risk for the banking system and also the broader economy.”

All because National ignored a crisis that Bill English predicted seven years ago, and could have dampened with a capital gains tax equivalent to company tax, and stopping investors from claiming tax deductions on mortgage interest payments.

It is bizarre and inequitable that tax-payers are in effect subsidising investor/speculators on their investments. Especially when, after two years, those properties can be on-sold with little or no capital gains tax paid.

If the RBNZ introduces a debt-to-income ratio of five times a person’s income, it may well succeed in dampening down the property bubble.

But as usual, it will be those at the bottom (or near the bottom) who pay the price. They will be the ones who continue to be locked out of the property market and denied a chance to enjoy the Kiwi Dream of home ownership.

The resentment and anger this will cause cannot be over-stated.

The sound in Bill English’s ear is the roar of a train wreck bearing down on him and his hopeless, self-serving ‘government’. ETA for the crash: 23 September.

All because National stubbornly refused to act to curb property speculation.

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References

Scoop media:  More social housing coming on board in Tauranga & Papamoa

NZ Herald:   Government sells off Tauranga’s state housing portfolio to Accessible Properties

Accessible Properties:  What is happening?

Fairfax media:  Salvation Army says no to state houses

Bay of Plenty Times:  Accessible Properties takes over state homes

TVNZ News:  Housing crisis hits Tauranga, forcing families into garages and cars

Bay of Plenty Times:  Tauranga’s homeless problem at ‘crisis point’

Sunlive: Housing crisis under the spotlight

Radio NZ:  Housing situation critical – Tauranga principal

Tauranga Budget Advisory:  City’s Rental Housing In Crisis

NZ Herald:   Govt to buy more motels to house homeless as its role in emergency housing grows

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

Beehive:  State houses available to buy from today

Fairfax media:  John Key Speech – Next steps in social housing

Fairfax media:  Can’t afford your own island? How about buying your very own street?

NZ Herald:  Prime Minister John Key’s childhood state house up for sale as Government offers 2500 properties to NGOs

Radio NZ:  PM spoke of housing crisis in 2010 – Sallies

Otago Daily Times:  Auckland housing crisis expected to drag on

Fairfax media:  PM talked of major housing crisis – Salvation Army

Dominion Post:  Editorial – Prime Minister’s bad memory embarrassing

Fairfax media:  Debt-to-income ratio would stop thousands from buying houses – RBNZ

RBNZ: Consultation Paper – Serviceability Restrictions as a Potential Macroprudential Tool in New Zealand  (p26)

Radio NZ:  Housing market could collapse on 7 percent mortgage rates

IRD: Residential property

IRD: Taxation (Bright-Line Test for Residential Land) Act 2015

Additional

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NewstalkZB: Demand for food banks, emergency housing much higher than before recession

Previous related blogposts

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 June 2017.

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