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Posts Tagged ‘Employers and Manufacturers Association’

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

31 October 2015 10 comments

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Fun Fact #1

Since 1986, there have been no less than seven tax cuts in New Zealand;

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

Fun Fact #2

John Key says he supports New Zealanders paid higher wages. In fact, he stated  that desire in 2007, and repeated it in  2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012;

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We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

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We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.”   – John Key, 6 September 2008

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I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

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Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

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We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

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The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more  jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

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We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

Mr Key has not repeated those statements since April 2012.

Fun Fact #3

The gender pay gap in New Zealand has worsened, from 9.9% last year to 11.8% this year;

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Timeline

2012

Kristine Bartlett and the Service and Food Workers Union lodge a claim with the Employment Relations Authority, alleging Ms Bartlett’s employer Terranova Homes and Care Ltd was in breach of the Equal Pay Act 1972.

November 2012

Ms Bartlett’s case referred to the Employment Court as it raises an important question of law.

June 2013

A preliminary Employment Court hearing held on questions of law.

23 August 2013

Landmark ruling on equal pay welcomed

Unions are hailing an Employment Court decision which allows a female rest home caregiver to argue she is underpaid because she is in a female-dominated industry.

Hutt Valley woman Kristine Bartlett is arguing her employer Terranova Homes is violating equal pay for equal work legislation, saying she would get more money if she was not working in an industry dominated by female staff.

The Employment Court held a preliminary hearing after Terranova Homes argued the court could only compare staff within its own workplace and not look at other workplaces.

The three court judges say the legislation makes specific provision for work predominantly performed by women.

The law says pay rates must be the same as male employees with the same, or substantially similar, skills, responsibility and service performing the work under substantially similar conditions and with substantially similar effort.

The judges said there was no way gender discrimination in pay could be removed if they could not compare pay rates more widely.

January 2014

Terranova appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeal.

February 2014

A decision on a landmark pay equality case has been reserved by the Court of Appeal.

The Employment Court last year found in favour of Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett, who argued her $14.32 hourly pay rate was a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.

The ruling – which paves the way for pay equality in the female-dominated aged care sector – has been challenged in the Court of Appeal by Ms Bartlett’s employer, Terranova Homes. The two-day hearing finished yesterday with the decision by Justices Mark O’Regan, Lynton Stevens and Christine French reserved.

October 2014

The Court of Appeal has supported an Employment Court decision which ruled that a Lower Hutt rest home worker should receive pay parity with other equivalent sectors.

Kristine Bartlett won her landmark Employment Court case last year – arguing that being paid less than 15 dollars per hour, despite working in rest homes for over 20 years, was discriminatory. Her employer, Terranova Homes and Care, took the issue to the Court of Appeal. But the Appeal Court has dismissed the appeal, saying the language and purpose of the Equal Pay Act back up the decision by the Employment Court.

November 2014

Today the New Zealand Aged Care Association will appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of TerraNova Homes and Care Limited in their case with the Service and Food Workers’ Union and Kristine Bartlett.

“This case has vast implications for all New Zealanders and we felt compelled to have the highest court in the land settle the questions around the Equal Pay Act 1972 once and for all,” said Martin Taylor, CEO of the NZACA.

“In handing down its recent judgement, the Court of Appeal said the decision was finely balanced with strong arguments favouring both sides. We believe the issue must be seriously looked at and tested again.

22 December 2014

Supreme Court denies Terranova leave to appeal in landmark pay equity case

The Supreme Court has denied aged care provider Terranova Homes and Care, at the centre of a landmark court case paving the way for gender pay equity, leave to appeal the ruling.In October the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Terranova Homes against an earlier Employment Court ruling backing Lower Hutt rest home worker Kristine Bartlett’s claim that women care workers’ low pay was discriminatory. She took a case against her employer, arguing her $14.32 an hour pay rate was a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.

The Service and Food Workers Union also made a claim on behalf of 15 other caregivers employed by the company, asking for a statement of the general principles to be observed for implementing equal pay.

In a Supreme Court decision out this afternoon, the judges said it considered the company’s appeal premature.

20 October 2015

Equal pay on the way for women?

The government has set up a taskforce to look into pay equity issues, which could lead to a change to the current law.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse said unions and employers had agreed to a working group to establish principles for dealing with pay equity claims.

It had been prompted by a recent Court of Appeal decision on pay rates in the aged care sector, which found women in predominantly female workforces were paid less.

Early 2016

Case scheduled to go before the Employment Court  to early 2016 (dates to be determined). 

(Acknowledgement: Much of the above Time-line, with  exceptions, is re-published from the New Zealand Aged Care Association.)

 

The Case: exploited labour

The case of Kristine Bartlett  is a relatively simple one. For twentytwo years working-experience in rest-home facilities she earned just barely above minimum wage. Since the 1990s, her wages have risen by $5.

Ms Bartlett’s profession is predominantly female, and like many female-dominated professions, it is paid less than male-equivalent jobs.

As Fairfax media Christie Hall wrote  on 19 January;

On  23 August 2013,  the Employment Court ruled that Ms Bartlett’s was in fact underpaid because she worked  in a female-dominated industry. (The document is well-worth reading and provides sound, rational, and carefully-constructed argument for advancing equal pay for women.)

Subsequent Court decisions have upheld the Employment Court (see Timeline above).

The NZ Aged Care Association (NZACA) has expended large sums of money on legal action to thwart  the cost of raising wages for aged-care workers. NZACA fears the increased cost of a ballooning wages-bill impacting on it’s members, which has traditionally relied on low-paid labour to operate.

In October 2014, in a press release published on nzdoctor.co.nz, NZACA stated;

Unfortunately the Government subsidy for aged care is not enough for providers to make a profit. Over the last decade, 200 aged care facilities have closed primarily for financial reasons. The majority of these facilities relied on the government’s subsidy for their revenue.

[…]

The existing aged care sector cannot afford to increase all aged care worker’s wages at an estimated cost of $120 – $140 million alone – the sector will need increased Government subsidies to prevent further closures of our aged care facilities.

In an undated statement on NZACA’s website, the Association states;

The Government contract undervalues the worth of caregivers working in the private aged care sector. A caregiver working in a District Health Board geriatric hospital receives on average $17.50 an hour compared with an average hourly rate of $15.30 in our sector.

NZCA has been lobbying Government for many years to put more money into this sector which cares for New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens.

And in November 2014, NZACA’s CEO, Martin Taylor, stated;

“Another reason why we need to appeal is that there are hundreds of rest homes operated by individuals and community trusts from Kaitaia to Bluff who have told us they would close if wages went up significantly and funding stayed the same.

When you understand this reality we have no option but to appeal, despite everyone agreeing caregivers are worth more.”

On 23 December last year Service and Food Workers Union National secretary, John Ryall, said it was about time the Government  took responsibility to achieve gender pay equity;

“The Government is the sector funder and it is really up to it to decide whether it wants a resolution to the long standing pay equity issue,” he said.

Encouraging National to act will be no easy task to achieve.

Bronwen Beechey, writing for Fightback! on 17 April 2015, pointed out National’s apalling track record when it came to implementing equal pay legislation;

The Employment Equity Act was passed in 1990, but repealed within months after the National Party came to government.

In 2009, the current National government abolished the Pay and Employment Equity plan of Action and the Pay and Employment Equity Unit that had been set up in the Department of Labour in 2004.

A cynic would suggest that low wages assist National to reduce the amount it has to pay to subsidise aged-care workers. It is providing a service ‘on-the-cheap’, in a way similar to  fast-food chains employing staff at minimum wage, to produce  high-carb, fat-laden, ‘fast food’.

In fact, it would not be the first time that National has been exposed as supporting low wages – despite Key’s pious utterances otherwise.

Three and a half years ago, on  10 April 2011, on TVNZ’s Q+A, English made his now-infamous comments justifying a low-wage economy;

“Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well…

… we need to get on with competing with Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.”

Three years later, on 30 July 2014, John Key appeared to ‘forget’ his earlier pronouncements on increasing wages when he responded to a question in Parliament from David Cunliffe;

Hon David Cunliffe: Will the Prime Minister support the pay increase for the quarter of a million workers who would directly benefit from Labour’s minimum wage changes, which will provide a significant boost to the economy through boosting workers’ spending power?

Rt Hon John Key: In a word, no. The reason for that is I am not so irresponsible that I would say to 6,000 New Zealanders that they are losing their jobs because the Labour Party is polling at 25 percent—

No wonder E Tu  union spokesperson, Alistair Duncan, was wary of how National would respond to the Court rulings, as he said on 21 October;

“This is a well-timed and very smart move – if we can deliver genuine equal pay, it will be a very good thing.  But it’s not certain and we now need to work very hard to make sure we get equal pay for equal value.”

Meanwhile, as aged-care workers (and low-paid women workers in other industries) have had their case validated by the Courts, employers are not so happy. A new ‘bogey-man’ was erected by the Employers and Manufacturers Association CEO;

Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell said the task force would need to establish clear terms of reference, because comparing the relative value of different jobs was complex.

He said any decision to boost pay rates in some industries would come with a cost.

“The government has the greatest interest in this because they’re paying for most of the aged care and hospital workers and they must be concerned that if you increase their salaries, people’s taxes may go through the roof.”

This argument that, by increasing wages, people’s taxes “may go through the roof” is not just over-the-top scare-mongering – but is instructive of the mentality of individuals like Kim Campbell.

The argument that Campbell is putting forward is that taxpayers are entitled to cheap labour.

Is this the inevitable consequence after seven tax cuts, spanning twentynine years?

Because if reduced tax revenue has resulted in central government being unable to pay fair wages for workers (whether as state sector employees or subsidised workers in the private sector), then we have created a rod for our own backs.

Regardless whether sufficient tax revenue exists or not, Campbell’s suggestion that taxpayers are somehow justified in expecting an exploited workforce is odious. It is attempting to re-create a quasi-modern-day slave work-force.

The Employment Court addressed this very issue in it’s 22 August 2013 Judgment:

History is redolent with examples of strongly voiced concerns about the
implementation of anti-discrimination initiatives on the basis that they will spell
financial and social ruin, but which prove to be misplaced or have been acceptable as
the short term price of the longer term social good. The abolition of slavery is an old
example, and the prohibition on discrimination in employment based on sex is both a
recent and particularly apposite example. [pg 32]

If successive governments were foolish in cutting taxes (usually as election bribes) to such a level that the State can no longer afford to pay for services New Zealanders expect as of right, then the solution is crystal clear: raise taxes.

Or go without.

I doubt many National-voting New Zealanders will happily contemplate a future in their dotage without a workforce of aged-care staff who are remunerated sufficiently to wipe the spittle from their wrinkled chins; change their faeces-and-urine-soaked underwear; and all the other myriad tasks associated with necessary good care.

Just how much do New Zealanders want aged-care in their twilight years?

If we do, we should be prepared to pay for it.

National Prompted to act

The successful court cases supporting Kristin Bartlett’,  equal-pay case has prompted National to finally move on the problem;

The government has set up a taskforce to look into pay equity issues, which could lead to a change to the current law.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse said unions and employers had agreed to a working group to establish principles for dealing with pay equity claims.

It had been prompted by a recent Court of Appeal decision on pay rates in the aged care sector, which found women in predominantly female workforces were paid less.

Mr Woodhouse said there were other cases before the courts.

“We believe the most efficient way to deal with that, and to step back and take a look at what the principles for pay equity might look like is to get this working group together, and I’m very pleased we’ve been able to do that.”

Unions had agreed to put legal action on hold until March 2016 to allow the working group to proceed, he said.

This problem could never be resolved without government involvement. By subsidising aged-care workers, it is in effect, a secondary employer, and therefore has responsibilities to make good an untenable and unfair situation.

Otherwise, if National cannot resolve this decades long problem, more radical and direct solutions need to be considered.

Possible solutions

  1. Where aged-care facilities are non-profit, increase subsidies paid directly to workers or change their employment status to State employees, with similar pay rates, benefits, and protections.
  2. Where an aged-care company, are profit-making ventures that return a dividend to shareholders, such Oceania (45 facilities), Ryman (25 facilities), and Radius (19 facilities), they should be made by law to increase the wages of their staff first and foremost.
  3. Nationalise the aged-care industry. Looking after the elderly should not be an “industry” where the profit motive (in many instances) is the guiding principle. This should be no more acceptable than having primary schools or hospices run as businesses.

If private enterprise cannot pay it’s workers a fair wage, as well as operate effectively, then the State has a responsibility to intervene and assume a more direct role.

Neo-liberal activists and fellow-travellers may balk at such a suggestion, but they should consider one important factor they may have forgotten: we all grow old eventually. Including free-marketeers.

Appendix1

Legislation.

Equal Pay Act 1972

Court may state principles for implementation of equal pay
  • The court shall have power from time to time, of its own motion or on the application of any organisation of employers or employees, to state, for the guidance of parties in negotiations, the general principles to be observed for the implementation of equal pay in accordance with the provisions of sections 3 to 8.

Appendix2

Employment Court.

[108]

Reference was also made to the likely high costs of adopting a broader
approach, if it leads to a significant wage increase for the plaintiff members.
The Aged Care Association made the point that it receives funding from the Government,
via the Ministry of Health, on a per bed basis and that it would not be able to absorb
any increase. Although the Ministry was invited to appear as intervener it apparently
declined to do so. Accordingly, we did not have the benefit of hearing from it. In
any event, it is apparent that the Government of the day, in promoting the Bill, was
aware of the potential financial implications of the legislation. The Minister
of Labour made the point that female industries would feel the greatest impact in terms
of cost, a point later echoed by the Hon E S F Holland. [pg 31]

[109]

Further, and more fundamentally, the expressed concerns relating to cost
overlook one important point, namely the unquantifiable cost (including societal
cost) of adopting an approach which may have the effect of perpetuating
discrimination against a significant and vulnerable group in the community simply
because they are women, doing what has been described as undervalued women’s work. [pg 32]

[110]

History is redolent with examples of strongly voiced concerns about the
implementation of anti-discrimination initiatives on the basis that they will spell
financial and social ruin, but which prove to be misplaced or have been acceptable as
the short term price of the longer term social good. The abolition of slavery is an old
example, and the prohibition on discrimination in employment based on sex is both a
recent and particularly apposite example. [pg 32]

Employment Court – Judgment: 22 August 2013

Appendix3

Employment Court.

Never let it be said that the Employment Court is bereft of a sense of humour, as this comment suggests;

[31]
The purpose of the Equal Pay Act is plain, and is reflected in its long title. [p 9]

Appendix4

On 2 April, Aged Care Association’s CEO, Martin Taylor, left his role at NZACA and assumed a new position  as Labour leader, Andrew Little’s,  director of research and policy. The nzdoctor.co.nz press release refers to Taylor’s role in the Kristin Bartlett equal-pay case.

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References

Ministry for Women: Gender pay gap

Radio NZ: Caregivers back equal pay campaign

New Zealand Aged Care Association: Equal Pay Case

TV3 News: Landmark ruling on equal pay welcomed

NZ Herald: Landmark pay equality case decision reserved

Scoop media: Court dismisses appeal by Hutt rest home, supports decision on equal pay

Scoop media: TerraNova Case Appealed To Supreme Court

Scoop media: Supreme Court denies Terranova leave to appeal in pay case

Radio NZ: Equal pay on the way for women?

Radio NZ: Landmark ruling for women

Fairfax media: Where next for equal pay

Nzdoctor.co.nz: Understanding caregiver wages in aged residential care

Fightback!: Fight for Equal Pay continues

TVNZ Q+A: Guyon Espiner interviws Bill English (April 2011)

Parliament: Hansards – Wage Rates – Growth, Inequality, and Minimum Wage

Legislation: Equal Pay Act 1972

Employment Court: Judgment: 22 August 2013

Nzdoctor.co.nz: Andrew Little headhunts Aged Care boss Martin Taylor

Additional

NBR:  National bows to minimum wage myths – ACT

NZ Herald: Battle to close the pay gap

Previous related blogposts

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

Roads, grandma, and John Key

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 October 2015.

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Employers and Manufacturers Association – wishing for cheaper power is not enough

1 January 2014 5 comments

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Recently, EMA CEO, Kim Campbell, issued a media statement condemning the current high power prices and promises of a “price freeze” by Mighty River Power as inadequate. Campbell’s own words were that the so-called price freeze is  “simply not enough”.

By the way, I refer to MRP’s price freeze as “so called” because, as CEO,  Doug Heffernan stated,

We are now confirming that for our customers there will be no increase in our energy prices for a further 15 months. However, there will likely be changes in customer pricing from April 1 due to variables over which we have no control that we pass through on our bills – such as transmission and distribution charges and any increases in metering costs due to regulatory requirements.”

Source

Unfortunately, the Employers and Manufacturers Association – whilst calling for a drop in power prices – offers nothing constructive in making it happen.

Indeed, in May 2013, soon after the combined LabourGreen announcement on the creation of a single-buyer desk called NZ Power, the EMA (and others) roundly condemned the move.

The EMA was a co-signatory to an open letter  on 2 May, from BusinessNZ and the heads of several chambers of commerce. The letter said, that the policy would harm jobs, growth and investment, causing interest rates to rise, reducing KiwiSaver retirement savings and making people less well off (source).

The associated media release stated,

The signatories to the letter offer to work with the Labour and Green parties to help increase public understanding of the operation of the electricity market and in ensuring consumers have better choice as the electricity market becomes more competitive.”

IBID

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly, stated,

More price competition – rather than damaging price controls – is needed to drive down electricity prices.”

IBID

Well, that “price competition” has worked so amazingly well that seven and a half months later, on 16 December, one of the signatories to that letter condemning NZ Power wrote,

With power supply clearly outstripping demand, electricity prices are now too high and should come down, the Employers and Manufacturers Association says.

“New Zealand clearly now has an excess of installed electricity capacity,” said Kim Campbell, EMA’s chief executive.

“Demand for power is well below the country’s generation capacity and its price should reduce to help stimulate New Zealand’s economic recovery and offset inflationary pressures forecast in other parts of the economy.

“At present projections the savings available to business and residential consumers would be at least $67 million a year, but we suspect it could be much more.

“Stating as Mighty River Power has, that they will not increase the electricity price for three years is simply not enough.

“The Major Electricity Users Group notes the futures price for wholesale power for the year from 1st April 2014 is 7.14 c/kWh, down 0.17 c/kWh for the year. In a competitive market this reduction would be reflected in wholesale costs which would be passed through to retail customers.

“MEUG calculates that an average household using 8,000 kWh per year would save at least $13.80 per year or $23 million for all households.

“For all businesses and residences the potential cost reductions amount to $67 million in 2014/15.

“To maximise competitiveness our electricity market structures need to ensure the lowest possible power price while signalling the right time to invest in future generation and transmission.

Source

Unfortunately, Campbell then shoots himself in the proverbial foot by adding,

The Labour/Greens electricity proposal to underprice our existing power assets is no answer.

“To spur on market competition businesses should seek out the best power deals at www.whatsmynumber.org.nz/mybusiness

As I said, hasn’t that worked out well?!

So, if I understand Campbell’s stance on this problem; the LabourGreen proposal for NZ Power “is no answer“.

Instead, begging the power companies to drop their prices is Campbell’s only solution?!

Pathetic.

His “solution” is a do-nothing, beg-for-the-best, whilst New Zealanders are having to pay for higher and higher power prices.

To remind Campbell and his fellow businessmen and women; the more that we consumers pay for electricity –

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MED Prices-httpwww.med.govt.nzsectors-industriesenergyenergy-modellingdataprices

Source

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the less disposable income we consumers have to spend on their goods and services.

Without drawing a bright, pretty, picture with crayons, I can’t make that simple truism any clearer to understand.

Which is why, when the EMA joined BusinessNZ in an ideological vendetta against the LabourGreen proposal, they were not only doing consumers a grave disservice – but also slitting their own financial throats.

The. More. We. Spend. On. Power, The. Less. We. Have. To. Spend. On. Other. Goods. And. Services.

Perhaps Campbell and his supposedly astute business colleagues should re-visit their position on NZ Power?

Who knows – it might actually be good for business!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 December 2013.

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References

Otago Daily Times: Lower power prices coming says Bradford (3 June 1999)

MoBIE: Power prices

Statistics New Zealand: The history of electricity reform

NZ Herald: Labour, Greens make power promise

Scoop media: Open Letter to Labour, Greens: Please Withdraw Your Policy

TV3: Mighty River Power promises price freeze until April 2015

Scoop media: Electricity prices should come down

Fairfax media: Business urges Opposition to dump power plans

Previous related blogposts

The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Tahi

The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Rua

The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Toru

The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Wha

It’s Official, The Sky Will Fall – Phil O’Reilly

Labour, Greens, NZ First, & Mana – A Bright Idea with electricity!

History Lesson – Tahi – Electricity Sector “reforms”

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National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

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National MP -  Jami-Lee Ross - The Nation - TV3 - 23 June 2013 - strikebreaking bill

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National MP (Botany), Jami-Lee Ross, has  admitted that he has colluded with POAL (Ports of Auckland Ltd) bosses to draft his proposed  strike-breaking amendment, the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill. On TV3’s The Nation on 22 June, Ross confirmed that he had been in talks with employers during the height of the industrial dispute between the POAL and MUNZ (Maritime Union);

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Source: Youtube – Ports behind bill

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At 0:50, Rachel Smalley asks Ross,

“Do the Employers and Manufacturers Association support it?”

Ross’s answer was not at all truthful, and his response was utterly mis-leading. Smalley has to point out to him that the Employers and Manufacturers in fact do not support Ross’s Bill.

This is the first indication that Ross is prepared to ‘spin’ lack of support or outright opposition, in a sly, dishonest fashion.  Smalley, who is aware of the Employers and Manufacturers Association position, corrects him,

“I don’t think they support it though, do they, which is quite interesting.”

In fact, the Employers and Manufacturers Association said in a media statement, that “while its principles are worth exploring it could prove very divisive.”

Acknowledgement: Scoop Media – Balloted Bill possibly a bridge too far

The same media release went on to slate Ross’s Bill,

“New Zealand communities place a high value on fairness and the Bill could have consequences that would be considered unfair.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

When even employers start perceiving a piece of anti-union legislisation as unfair, then that speaks volumes.   Employers are not stupid. They understand that it only takes one unjust law  to make workers more militant. That, in turn would generate increased support for a much-weakened trade union movement in this country.

At 1:40, Smalley asked,

“Does the NZ Initiative support it?”

Ross again evaded giving a straight answer, and Smalley pointed out to him that even the right-wing think-tank is dubious about the worth of the Bill.

Then at 2:18, Ross gets to the nub of the matter,

“There’s the potential  once the economy really picks up again that we could seeing a whole lot more strikes.”

Ross’s statement is his first candid admission that the raison d’être of  his Bill is not the “fairness”, “balance” or “choice” that he has been espousing.

Ross’s  sole agenda is to crack down on strikes.  Ross is targetting the most fundamental rights of  human beings;

  1. to work together collectively, for mutual benefit
  2. to with-hold labour when workers deem it necessary

Working together collectively is not just a worker’s prerogative. Collective action is also used by employers who have their own groupings,

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Business NZ

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employers and manufacturing association

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Wellington chamber of commerce

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Ross’s next admission was political dynamite. At 3:26, Rachel Smalley asked Ross,

“Where does this Bill have it’s origins?”

Ross deflected with waffle about “the rights of New Zealand”.

Smalley persisted,

“Or is it on the wharves of the ports of Auckland, is that where it’s origins lie?”

Ross side-stepped by remarking that “a drawn out strike can have a quite a  big impact on the wider economy“.

Then, at 4:00, Smalley asked the million-dollar question,

“Have you discussed this Bill with Ports of Auckland [Ltd]?”

At last, Ross could not evade the questioning and admitted,

A long time ago. That was an issue that was raised.”

Smalley asked,

“How long ago?”

Ross replied,

“Oh, might have been when the industrial dispute was in full swing…”

This blogger has a fairly good idea when Ross and Ports of Auckland Ltd bosses had their little “chat”: around

On 11 January 2012, Jami-Lee Ross wrote this anti-union  opinion piece for Scoop Media,

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union-biting-the-hand-that-feeds - header

The latest development in the protracted Ports of Auckland industrial dispute must give all parties to the issue pause for thought. Continued industrial action would adversely affect the Port even further and could undermine the Maritime Union’s very reason for being.

The announcement by Fonterra recently that it is moving the company’s business from Auckland to Tauranga and Napier was a blow for the Queen City. While the negotiations between the Maritime Union and Ports of Auckland management may be a distant and removed matter for the average Aucklander, they must know the issue is now one of a fight for their port’s survival.

Every Aucklander has a stake in the Ports of Auckland. It is not a privately owned company. Nor is it listed on any stock exchange. Each and every share in the company is owned by the Auckland Council on behalf of 1.4 million Auckland residents and ratepayers. The destruction in value in one of our city’s largest public assets is alarming and has to be of concern to us all.

I don’t use the term “destruction in value” lightly. It is a strong term, but one that is appropriate for this issue. Just as losing the business of Maersk in December was no laughing matter, losing Fonterra can not be ignored. At a reported weekly trade value of $27million, annualised the loss of Fonterra’s custom represents around $1.4 billion of export business.

But numbers aside, it is obvious that losing the trade of New Zealand’s largest company, only a month after losing the business of one of the worlds largest shipping lines, has to be a wakeup call. Yet sadly for the Maritime Union, it isn’t. Sadly for port workers and Aucklanders alike, the Maritime Union continues to be unphased.

This isn’t a story of a greedy corporate hammering the little guy. This isn’t a story of a David versus Goliath battle where workers are being ripped off or paid a pittance. Few could call poverty on an average annual wage for a wharfie understood to be north of $90,000, with a proposed 10 percent hourly rate increase and performance bonuses of up to 20 percent, sitting on the table. To the average person on the street, the latest Ports of Auckland offer to the Union would almost seem generous.

This is in fact a story of the Maritime Union biting the hand that feeds them. It is a story of industrial action that, if left to go on much longer, could have disastrous consequences for the Ports of Auckland.

For commercial users, it is a simple matter of certainty and continuity Union action, and the threat of further strikes, have put a serious dent in the Ports of Auckland’s ability to provide their bread and butter services Customers are now voting with their feet. The value of Ports of Auckland and the value of the investment that every Aucklander has in the company will continue to suffer if resolution to this matter is not swift.

Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.

Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

As the fight for Auckland’s waterfront reaches the tipping point, for ratepayers and workers alike this present stand off must come to an end. The city’s $600 million port investment and worker’s jobs are now on the line. Also on the line is the country’s acceptance of the role of trade unions. It can not be tolerable or acceptable for a union to demonstrate continued disregard for the economic consequences of their actions.

*Jami-Lee Ross is the Member of Parliament for Botany. He was formerly a member of the Auckland and Manukau City Councils.

Acknowledgement: Scoop Media – Union biting the hand that feeds

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Four months after his statement,  Jamie Lee Ross spoke in support of the  Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill, allowing secret ballot’s before workers decided to take strike action.

Ross put it thusly,

“Today is liberation day. Today is liberation day for New Zealand workers who are members of unions that have not yet embraced the democratic principles of holding a secret ballot when strike action is being considered. I say it is a shame that members of the Opposition are not supporting this bill, the Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill.” –  Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,

Acknowledgement:  Hansards, Parliament

Ross further advocated for secret ballots prior to strike action,

If members want to stand in this House and say that they do support the concept of secret ballots, which is what a number of speeches have been saying in both the first and second readings—and we have heard it a few times this afternoon as well—and that they think it is a good thing that a number of unions already have secret ballot provisions in their rules, then they should go the step further and support this bill, and do the right thing by giving workers the freedom that they deserve.” –  Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,

Acknowledgement:  IBID

(Irony of ironies,  all MPs votes on legislation are a matter of  public record, and recorded in Hansards. There is no secret ballot when MPs vote.)

The Bill passed and became law on 14 May 2012

So what was the relevance between the law that Ross supported and the Ports of Auckland dispute? It seems that the POAL dispute was weighing heavily on the MP’s  mind during the third reading of this Bill,

I want to also touch on the Ports of Auckland for a moment, because I think it is important that we talk a little bit about what has become the key and well-known industrial dispute this year. It is fair to say that the Ports of Auckland dispute probably would not have got as bad as it did if there was the opportunity for those Ports of Auckland workers to have a secret ballot for their strike.” –  Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,

Acknowledgement:  IBID

It should also be noted that the Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill was a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by National backbench MP, Tau Henare – also noted for his hostility toward the trade union movement.

As is the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill – sponsored by Jami-Lee Ross.

The government, it seems, does not want to get it’s hands dirty with Union-smashing legislation. Dear Leader John Key made his feelings abundantly clear in March 2012 when he played the positive-sounding propagandist mouth-piece for POAL bosses,

“I think they went through a genuine good faith process,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

The company believed it was losing business, primarily to the Port of Tauranga, because it wasn’t competitive.

“Their view is unless they change, it will be death by a thousand cuts.”

Demand from the council for a 12 per cent return from the company within five years, up from a current 6 per cent, had not lead to the dispute, Key said.

The port had struggled with financial problems for some time and cash flow issues had forced it to sell Queens Wharf to the Government.

“Unless that’s an efficient workplace, unless it’s competitive, ultimately they will continue to lose business.”

The company was trying to make savings at the port to protect all its jobs, he said,

“And I guess they have moved to this issue where they want to go to outsourcing.”

The company needed to find almost 300 workers and would take people with experience.

“I suspect quite a lot of the people who have been made redundant will actually reapply and funnily enough get their job back just through a different vehicle… the conditions will be different.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Jackson pulls back from port comments

So how involved was the Ports of Auckland Ltd bosses in  motivating, encouraging, or actively sponsoring  Ross to write his strike-breaking Bill?

Rachel Smalley put that question to Ross in the same interview. At 4:28 she asked,

“What was the Port’s input into the Bill?

Ross replied,

“The Ports [of Auckland Ltd] indicated that during a strike like every organisation that is affected by a strike, they’re unable to keep their business going…”

So the bosses at POAL indicated  to Ross that they  were  unable to keep their business going – and the MP for Botany duly obliged with a Bill that he fully admits POAL mananagement had input into.

This is commonly known as collusion.

What makes it all the much worse is that POAL is a publicly-owned company (by Auckland ratepayers) – and it’s own management acted against the interests of the community, as if it were some predatory trans-national corporation.

Indeed, that is precisely how Ports of Auckland Ltd management have behaved during the long-running industrial dispute;

  • 12 January 2012 – Leaked POAL papers showed that  management were running their own agenda  “of ramping up the current industrial dispute while saying they want to resolve it.The draft management plan sets out a comprehensive contracting out plan, disparages the ports owners and board of directors, and predetermines there is no intention of seeking a negotiated solution.”  (source)
  • 22 March 2012 – Ports workers were served a lockout notice from Ports of Auckland LTD management just hours before a vote to bring to an end  strike action. (source)
  • 22 March 2012 – A POAL manager involved in  negotiations with the  Maritime Union was linked to a company, Pacific Crew Holdings Ltd, recruiting non-unionised wharfies  for a new company,  registered with the Companies Office only a month earlier. (source)
  • 27 March 2012 – Employment Relations Authority issued a judgement in favour of Maritime Union not to harass workers; not to make union member redundant;  not to hire scab labour; not to engage Drake New Zealand Ltd or Allied Workforce Ltd or any other person to perform the work of striking/locked-out employees; not to pressure union members to sign contracts with Drake or Allied Workforce, etc. (source)
  • 12 April 2012 – POAL bosses admitted leaking private details of a port worker to a right wing blogger. The maritime worker  had lost his wife to cancer. The blogger was closely connected to POAL, and may have been paid for writing pro-management propaganda on his blog. (source)
  • 13 August 2012 – Maritime Union outlined cases of bullying by POAL management,  ”every time somebody coughs there is a disciplinary hearing, they are attacking people continuously, making their lives miserable. There are people getting disciplined for all sorts of things, – it’s ridiculous for infinitesimal little things. They [workers] think it’s part of their [management] campaign to undermine the workforce to try and get them a little bit weakened so they will agree to what is put to them.”  (source)

It should be obvious to all by now that POAL management had no intention whatsoever of negotiating with the Maritime Union in good faith, as the Employment Relations Act requires.

It was also suggested that POAL management were setting up the Ports company for eventual privatisation (see: NBR – Plea for ratepayers to give up port control).  Rationalising a workforce is usually a precursor to a  privatisation agenda.

Whether or not Jami-Lee Ross’s strike breaking Bill becomes law is by no means guaranteed. Even if National finds the couple of votes needed to pass it into law, this blogger has no doubt that an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government will consign it to the rubbish bin of political history. Where it rightly belongs with other laws that threaten the livelihoods of New Zealanders and their families.

Make no mistake, this Bill has nothing to do with “fairness”, “balance”, or “choice” , etc.

This Bill has only one goal; to force workers not to strike, by fear-threat of losing their jobs and replaced by strike-breaking scab labour. With unemployment at 146,000 unemployed according to a recent Household Labour Force Survey, there would be many desperate to get into a job – even if it meant displacing a striking worker. This is the dog-eat-dog world of the “Free” Market, and which Jami-Lee Ross wants to aggravate for the ordinary working man and woman.

It is fairly clear that Jami-Lee Ross and Ports of Auckland Ltd management have colluded  to draft this Bill.

It is further clear that POAL had this Bill in mind to break the authority of the Maritime Union to negotiate on behalf of it’s members.

And it’s further clear that POAL had in mind this strike-breaking Bill as part of it’s over-arching agenda.

For Jami-Lee Ross, he is in a no-lose situation. If his Bill becomes law, he cements his reputation as a willing tool of the employers to do their bidding. (Much like Simon Lusk advocated in his far right plan to make MPs beholding to donors. See: National turns on hard right advisor)

And if the Bill fails, he still builds a reputation as a right wing politician willing to work with fiscal conservatives; employers; and any others who advance the neo-liberal agenda.

Jami-Lee Ross – willing servant of  bosses; conservatives; and cashed-up donors.

Finally,

“Going on strike cannot be easy. It can be financially and morally devastating.” –  Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,

Acknowledgement:  Hansards, Parliament

Yes, indeed. Very “financially and morally devastating“. Especially if Mr Ross get’s his way.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 July 2013.

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References

Scoop Media: Union biting the hand that feeds (11 Jan 2012)

Fairfax Media:  Port workers claim bullying continues (13 Aug 2012)

Fairfax Media: Bosses bypass new era (11 Nov 2012)

Fairfax Media: Kiwi bosses’ attitude repels expats (15 Dec 2012)

Fairfax Media:  Unionist slams ‘assault on workers’ (27 April 2013)

Scoop Media: Balloted Bill possibly a bridge too far  (14 June 2013)

Youtube: Ports behind bill (22 June 2013)

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road:  The Right To Say – “No.”

Waitakere News: National’s generic press release for introduction of new bill

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The Right has a new media voice

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Fairfax Media has a  ” new columnist for the Waikato Times” (see:  Bill denies kids what they need). Narelle Hensen’s first piece appeared in the Waikato Times on 18 March, followed five days later by another piece, Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers.  (Note: Ms Hensen has previously written and worked  under her maiden name; Narelle Suisted, for the Auckland publication, “Auckland Now“, and TV3′s “The Nation“.)

Her first column-piece was a thinly-disguised, homophobic lecturing against gays, lesbians, marriage equality, and their fitness (or lack thereof) as parents.

The second was a nasty little smear against the unemployed.

(This blogger is waiting for her next target. Solo-mums? Maori? There are plenty of minorities available.)

What Fairfax hasn’t disclosed is that Ms Hensen also worked as a Communications Officer for the right-wing think-tank, Maxim Institute (see: Wikipedia Maxim Institute). The Maxim Institute is virulently opposed to marriage equality, as outlined in their submission to Parliament  on the Marriage Amendment Bill (see:  Submission to the MarriageMaxim Institute).

It appears that the right-wing in this country have a new voice in the msm (mainstream media).

In her first article,  Bill denies kids what they need, Ms Hensen railed against marriage equality.  She used children as her weapon-of-choice, and started of with this bizarre statement,

“Most of us, no doubt, would agree, and would find it difficult to decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad. But that is what the Marriage Amendment Bill will require of some kids in generations to come. That is why I don’t support the bill.”

Did I read that right? She condemns the Marriage Amendment Bill because  a child “would find it difficult to decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad” ?!

Why would marriage equality demand that of children now? And in what way would that be different to divorce as it is presently?

As most of us are perfectly aware, it is the Family Courts that determine access to children – not the concept of marriage equality.  I doubt if Ms Hensen could point to any aspect of the Marriage Amendment Bill that would demand that a child has to “decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad”.

She offers another justification to oppose marriage equality,

“That means some kids will be denied the right to either a mother or a father, while their peers, by luck of birth, will be allowed both.”

Really? And what about the thousands of children who already have only one parent? What about the thousands of heterosexual couples who have separated and their children are “denied the right to either a mother or a father”? Or one has died through illness or accident – that’s real bad luck!

And just why is it “luck” to have heterosexual parents as opposed to gay or lesbian parents? The implication being that having gay/lesbian parents is “bad luck”. Perhaps being born to a mixed-race couple is also “bad luck” for a child? Or born to parents, one of whom might have a disability?

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racism cartoon

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Not to mention the bad luck of being born to right wing parents…

If a child is ‘lucky’, it is that they have a stable family, with love, attention, set boundaries, support, respect, nutritious food, warmth, good housing, access to education; healthcare,  etc.  The gender/orientation of parents and caregivers doesn’t really seem to factor as a life-giving necessity.

Indeed, Ms Hensen seemed eager to dismiss love as a trivial matter not worthy of consideration,

Of course, a lot of people argue the Marriage Amendment Bill is about love, and equality. But love or equality for who? These terms sound great, and they capture our emotions, but taking a moment to think about them makes us realise that in practice, they demand compromise from someone – either gay couples who must compromise the right to raise children, or children, who must compromise the right to have both a mum and a dad.”

It is unclear why gay (or straight) couples need to “compromise” – except in Ms Hensen’s mind where, for some reason, having gay or lesbian parents is a lesser option than heterosexual parents. Is  love a transaction that “demands a compromise”? She doesn’t explain what she basis that idea on.

What a strange world that Ms Hensen inhabits.

Except…

Ms Hensen referred to a particular group to justify her prejudices,

That is why the group Homovox started in France. It consists of homosexual couples who disagree with same-sex marriage, and same-sex adoption. As one contributor says: “The law should seek what is best for a child, and that is to have a mother and a father“.”

It took only a few clicks and poking around on a Search Engine to find out a little more about “Homovox“.

For one thing, it is not a LGBT organisation at all. It’s a front group set up by the Catholic Church, as GAYNZ reported on their website,

When is an LGBT organisation not an LGBT organisation? When it has been established by an antigay French conservative Catholic to make it seem as if there is “French LGBT” opposition to marriage equality. Thus it is with France’s  “Homovox”, allegedly a “French” gay organisation of  “LGBT” marriage equality opponents. However, on his website, Joe. My. God’s commenters uncovered who was actually behind the website, which turned out to be someone from the French Catholic Right. To  be more precise:

[redacted information]

A google search of Maillard Jean-Baptiste turned up this:

http://www.jesusprems.com/

He appears to be an anti-gay French Catholic.

[…]

Doing some more research on these guys–they are all Catholics, some are ex-gay, most are right-wingers, and some can’t be found online.

None of these men–an no women–give their full names, where they work, and the man who claims to be the mayor of a “village” doesn’t actually name his village. 

Source: “Homovox” Exposed

It seems that the Catholic Church in France has copied the tactics of the Unification Church and Scientologists, who also  employ front-organisations as  smoke-screens to the parent-church.

Did Ms Hensen know this? If  she didn’t, she’s not much of a journalist.

If she was aware of the true nature of “Homovox” – and chose not to disclose it – then she has an agenda of her own. And the presentation (or lack) of facts is not part of it.

Ms Hensen is not above claiming  statistics to back up her prejudices,

“Of course, there are those who argue it is better to bring up a child in a loving homosexual relationship than it is for them to be raised in an antagonistic heterosexual relationship. But if we are going to make comparisons, they must be fair. And when you compare a loving, heterosexual marriage with a loving homosexual union, the statistics paint a very clear picture.”

– but tellingly, she refuses to disclose any such statistics for the reader. So much for her comment that “if we are going to make comparisons, they must be fair”.

We are, I guess, expected to take her word that such statistics exist? Perhaps they are held by her former employers at Maxim Institute – an organisation known for it’s  hostility toward gays and lesbians having full equal rights.

The point of that last paragraph, I suggest to the reader, is to undermine any notion that having loving parents who care for children should not  be judged on the basis of  sexual orientation. Note her reference,

“And when you compare a loving, heterosexual marriage with a loving homosexual union…”

What about comparing a dysfunctional heterosexual household with a loving gay/lesbian household? God knows there are plenty of the former. Our newspapers are full of stories where children, infants, babies were mercilessly ill-treated until their fragile bodies could no longer cope with dad’s punches whilst mum looked on, or vice versa.

The parents of Delcelia Witika were good, solid, heterosexuals who engaged in  Maxim Institute-approved,  heterosexual, sex. Then they killed their little girl.

I submit to Ms Hensen, that at such a point in a brutalised child’s life, they are not really  going to give a damn if the wearer of  steel-capped boots kicking their heads to pieces,  is heterosexual or not.

Ms Hensen’s says,

It is often very difficult to decide whose rights win, which is why there are so many court cases, and indeed courts, all about human rights. But when it comes to adults’ rights conflicting with the rights of children, most of us would agree that children should come first.”

Except when good parents are gay or lesbian, right, Ms Hensen?

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Ms Hensens next article on  job seekers, was nothing less than a hate-fest on one of society’s minorities; the unemployed. (See: Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers)

Her entire article was dedicated to a simple premise; that  job seekers in this country are unemployable, with anti-social personalities and severe behavioural flaws consisting of;

“Drunkenness
Absenteeism
Failing drug tests
Physicality when told to leave site
Not turning up for interview
Smoking throughout interview
Chewing gum throughout interview
No CV prepared
CVs full of basic spelling mistakes”

Her column  mercilessly depicted the unemployed as unfit for employment. One of her commentators even questioned their right to be citizens.

She quoted anecdote after anecdote of unemployed people with allegedly poor personal habits and poor work ethics – though she gave few details what the jobs were or any other specifics.

Employers and Manufacturers Association Northern chief executive, Kim Campbell, referred to New Zealand’s  unemployed as  being “the dregs” –  a theme typical  of Ms Hensen’s piece.

Dave Connell, vice-president of the New Zealand Contractors Federation and managing director of Connell Construction, was somewhat more subdued in his criticisms,

“We have dealt with absenteeism, drunkenness, drugs . . . We are persevering for three to six weeks sometimes.”

As a damning propaganda piece, with the purpose of vilifying the unemployed, it was masterfully done.

Other than that, though, one has to ask the question; what the hell was the point of it? What possible purpose did it serve? Because it sure as hell didn’t shed much light on the subject.

I have an idea.

Up till now, the unemployed have been painted as lazy, boozing,  and unwilling to go out and find work.

That myth has been well and truly dispelled with stories of thousands of unemployed queuing for a few jobs. Just recently, on 12 March, ‘Campbell Live’ did a series of stories of hundreds of workers lining up for just seven jobs at an Auckland factory (see: Sign of the times: hundreds queue for 7 jobs)

Or any of these stories of job seekers outnumbering vacancies,

10 applicants for every one shelf-stocking job

Applicants queue for 20 jobs at new KFC store

2700 applicants for 150 jobs

Demand Strong for New Jobs Up for Grabs in Glenfield

Jobseekers flood a new Hamilton call centre

1200 applicants for 200 supermarket jobs

Ms Hensen could not write a credible story desparaging the unemployed as “lazy”.  In these times of high unemployment, the public no longer accepts that generalisation. In fact, most people probably know someone who has lost their job, or, fresh our of school or University, cannot land a job, and has been turned down application after application.

So, for  Ms Hensen that avenue was closed off.

Instead, in the best tradition of right wingers who blame the victims of  this country’s on-going recessionary fall-out, she attacked and desparaged the quality of job seekers.

Repeating  anecdotal stories, without any supporting  context to offer a deeper understanding, she wrote a piece that painted job seekers as poorly educated; drug addicts; inarticulate – even chewing gum!

As a hatchet job, it  certainly perpetuated negative stereotypes about the unemployed. It also reinforced the unacknowledged class structure that has been developing in this country for the last 30 years; the unemployed are “riff raff, beneath our contempt; and not worthy of being treated as our equals”.

As a “dog whistle” it attracted 321 comments (as at the time of this blogpost being written) – many of which were little more than ill-informed, offensive, stereotyping.

Ms Hensen might care to reflect on the irrational hatred expressed by those who supported her story. Is that the readership she is pandering to?

It also showed of some of Ms Hensen’s sources as less than ideal unemployers, with barely concealed prejudices.

But even if Ms Hensen’s poisonous polemic was 100% accurate, reflecting an unvarnished reality – employers and government have only themselves to blame.

How many times have trade unionists, economists,  and leftwing commentators warned employers and government that if New Zealand continued to drive down wages – as National has been doing with it’s labour law “reforms” – what did they think would happen?

On 1 April, the minimum wage will rise by 25 cents to $13.75 per hour. In Australia the rate is NZ$19.96 an hour, though wages are usually higher than that.

On 1 May, young people 16 to 19 will also have a new youth rate, that will be 80% of the minimum wage. That’s $11 per hour. How will young New Zealanders react to what is effectively a wage-cut?

And employers are whinging their heads off that the best and brightest are buggering off to Aussie?

The reality, though, is more prosaic. People want work. The unemployment benefiit ($204.96/wk/net) is not sufficient to live on. Many looking for work will be University graduates. Others will be poorly educated. But they all want a job.

Perhaps the real purpose of Ms Hensen’s  article – dressed up as a “news story” –  was designed to serve as propaganda in a  prelude to relaxing immigration laws and allow immigrant workers to flood the country? By creating a new urban myth that unemployed New Zealanders are “dregs”, it gives National the excuse to bring in labour from overseas. Cheap labour. Workers who will not kick up a fuss about exploitation; lax safety practices; and abuse.

The abuse of workers on Foreign Charter Vessels fishing within our EEZ waters gives an idea what might be  our future (see previous related blogpost:  A Slave By Any Other Name).

I suspect Ms Hensen is not finished with excoriating minorities in this country. Her poison pen is poised. It’s only a matter of who is next in her sights. And what her agenda is.

What a waste of intellect.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 March 2013.

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References

Linked In: Maxim Institute Media and Communications Officer at Maxim Institute/Narelle Hensen

Bill denies kids what they need (18 March 2013)

Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers (23 March 2013)

“Homovox” Exposed.

Other blogs

The Jackal: National’s Campaign of Disinformation

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 6. Youth Rates

11 November 2012 6 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 5. The Minimum Wage

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6. Youth Rates

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When Labour was elected into government in 1999, replacing the highly unpopular Shipley-led National administration, one of their first actions was to radically reform the  Youth Rate,

  1. From 2001 to 2008 the adult minimum wage applied to employees aged 18 years and over. Prior to that, the adult minimum wage only applied to those aged 20 years and over.
  2. From 1 April 2008, the adult minimum wage applies to employees aged 16 years and over, who are not new entrants or trainees.
  3. The youth minimum wage applied to employees aged 16 and 17 years. From 1 April 2008, the youth minimum wage was replaced with a minimum wage for new entrants, which applies to some employees aged 16 or 17 years.
  4. The training minimum wage was introduced in June 2003.

See: Dept of Labour – Previous minimum wage rates

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Source

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It did not appear to unduly impact on unemployment, which consistantly tracked downward in the 2000s, until the down-turn caused by the Global Financial Crisis began to impact on our economy, in 2007/08.

On 9 October, Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson announced that National intended to introduce a new Youth Rate, to take effect in April, next year. The rate would be set at $10.80 an hour – compared to the minimum rate of $13.50 an hour currently, and would include 16 to 19 year olds.

As Scoop.co.nz reported,

That equates to $10.80 an hour, or $432 before tax for a 40-hour week. From April next year, the ‘Starting Out Wage’ will apply to 16- and 17-year-olds in the first six months of a job, to 18- and 19-year-olds entering the workforce after spending more than six months on a benefit, or 16 to 19-year-olds in a recognised industry training course.”

See: NZ teens face $10.80 an hour youth wage rate

It is doubtful if National’s Youth Rate will actually create new jobs. More likely, a drop in youth wages will simply create more ‘churn’ in employment/unemployment numbers.

As David Lowe, Employment Services Manager for the Employers and Manufacturers Association, inadvertently revealed,

Without an incentive an employer with a choice between an experienced worker and an inexperienced worker will choose experience every time.”

See: Starting-out wage will help young people onto job ladder

So there’s no new job for the  younger worker – s/he is merely displacing an older worker. Which probably results in  older workers joining the migration to Australia.

End result; a loss of skill and experience for New Zealand, and a gain for our Aussie cuzzies.

Nice one, Mr Key. Remind us when you took on the role of staff recruiter for Australia?

On top of this, we have this bizarre rationale from Kim Campbell, CEO of the Employers and Manufacturers Association, who is arguing that young people should be paid less because they have less to pay for. I kid you not.

She said,

Remember these people are not raising a family or running a household on this money –nobody expects them to – but it does give them some money to get started on.”

Campbell’s remark are offensive on several levels.

Firstly, National’s intention to return to  Youth Rates for 18 and 19 year olds, as well as 16 and 17 year olds, is simply unreasonable. These people are  young adults, and those studying  at  polytech and  University Students will soon be earning less,  even while having to pay Student fees; course-costs; and living expenses like rent, food, power, and other financial committments.

Secondly, 18 and 19 year old are as able to have families as their older counterparts.

Thirdly, by what logic is it of  Ms Campbell’s business  that “these people are not raising a family or running a household on this money“?! It’s none of her damned business what 18 and 19 year olds spend their wages on.

Conversely, does that mean Ms Campbell will encourage companies to pay a higher,  living wage,to those workers who do happen to have families?!

Yeah, right.

If  National has a secret agenda to motivate more young people to head overseas, such a plan will succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

18 and 19 years olds – old enough to get married; old enough to get drunk; old enough to get killed in a warzone – but not old enough to be paid the same adult rate as a 20 year old?

National should take note;  it’s true that 16 and 17 year olds can’t vote.

But 18 and 19 year olds can – and do. I bet they just can’t wait to vote at the next election.

And precisely how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises?

Next chapter: 7. Part 6A – stripped away

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Addendum

In June last year  Prime Minister John Key said the prospect of a new youth rate was unlikely,

“I don’t think there’s a high probability. Whether we’d actually bother embarking on that it’s far too early to say.”

Source: Govt reintroduces youth wage

Ten months and one election later, preparations are under way to legislate.

Is ten months “to early to say“?

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A job! A job! My kingdom for a job!

27 February 2012 5 comments

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“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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Despite John Key’s election-pledges in 2008 to see wages rise in New Zealand, the opposite seems to be happening; wages have either mostly stagnated, or, in some very public instances, are being actively driven down.

The maritime workers in Auckland and meat workers for meat-processing company, AFFCO, are facing an unprecendented attack on workers’ right and conditions which would see many (if not all) of them casualised and suffer a cut in wages.

This is hardly an “unrelenting… quest to lift… economic growth rate and raise wage rates“. It is, in fact, more akin to Bill English’s remarkable admission on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 10 April last year that having wages 30% lower than our Australian cuzzies was a “a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

Unions representing various  groups of workers have had a gutsful, and are asserting their right to strike,

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The casualisation and reduction of real wages is not just a threat to the families of working men and women – but a threat to our economy as well.

National and ACT voters might care to reflect that just recently, BERL released a report outlining the value of blue-collar workers to the economy,

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We simply cannot afford to lose  skilled blue-collar workers heading of to Australia, or elsewhere in the world. Australia already has plenty of our doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists, etc.

As Berl chief economist Ganesh Nana said,

If you reduce the amount of trained and skilled labour out there, not only are you reducing the quantity available to businesses, you are also increasing the cost of the labour … because it’s in short supply.”

Global finance and accounting firm Robert Half director, Andrew Brushfield, said recently,

 “Where there is currently a need for skilled people in Australia, that need is just as prolific in New Zealand.” – Source

So let’s be clear about this;

Instead of short-sighted, selfish,  employer-driven vendettas against their workers – which achieves nothing except a form of reckless  economic self-sabotage – this country should be looking at ways to increase wages, which then leads to increased business turn-over; generating greater economic growth;  and ultimately, a more prosperous society.

I do not believe – not for one micro-second – Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell, when he said,

Frankly, I think most employers would like to pay more if they can, I don’t know any employer who genuinely wants to pay less.” – Source

That is 100%, unadulterated crap.

It is crap because many employers can pay more,

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They just choose not to.

Once again, from Mr Key,

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"The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes." - John Key, 21 December 2011

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And as we all know, John Key is a Man of His Word. Right?


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