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NZ Initiative – Bulk Funding Schools

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Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein.

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On 6 July, the  “NZ Initiative” – a re-branded right-wing think-tank previously known as the NZ Business Roundtable – released a propaganda-piece entitled, ‘Amplifying Excellence: Promoting Transparency, Professionalism and Support in Schools‘. The so-called “report” advocated more sly “free market” forces unleashed onto our constantly-changing education system.

The title of the  “report” sneakily implies our education system is not transparent; is un-professional; and our schools un-supported.

Amongst the several vague recommendations was this one;

True to New Zealand’s self-managed school landscape, the government largely lets school boards and principals get on with leading their schools. However, in other respects, school leaders can be hamstrung by bureaucratic restrictions; for example, the Ministry prescribes how school leaders should spend parts of their teaching resource budgets.

Recommendation 6: Effective leaders should be trusted as true professionals and granted total budget autonomy to lead their schools.

“Total budget autonomy” is code for bulk-funding – a favourite agenda from the New Right.

Bulk-funding had previously been introduced as part of National’s “Ruthenasia reforms” in the 1990s. It was done away with by the Labour-Alliance government in 2000.

In June last year, then-Education Minister Hekia Parata attempted to resurrect the corpse of Bulk Funding under a new guise, “Global Funding“;

The change would set a “global budget” for each school, delivered as cash instalments for school expenses, and a credit system for salaries.

According to the documents, this would mean:

• Principals would determine the split between cash and credit, with the flexibility to make adjustments during the year.

• Unspent credit would be paid out at the end of the year and a process for recovering credit overspends would be established.

• Teaching staff salaries would be charged against the “credit” portion at an average rate.

• Non-teaching staff salaries would be charged against the “credit” portion at actual cost.

The global budget system would not be the same as the controversial bulk funding of teacher salaries that sparked protests 20 years ago, the proposal said. The documents said: “This is a significant difference from historical bulk funding proposals which would have seen schools charged the actual salary.”

The reaction was predictable, and Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) president, Angela Roberts, spoke for many when she warned;

“It is bulk funding. It is minor technicalities that make it something different, and I think it’s very cynical of the ministry to think that they can con people with a change in language.”

The schools get to decide how they spend that, how many teachers they purchase effectively and how many teacher aides. So schools will be incentivised through the averaging out to have cheaper teachers or fewer teachers because they can cash that money up.

Bulk funding was resoundingly rejected by the community 20 years ago because everybody understood the cost would be borne by the school when the government couldn’t be bothered putting more money into the system.”

Opposition to Parata’s Bulk-Funding-In-Drag plan was met with heated opposition by parents, teachers, school principals. Donna Eden, a teacher with 20 years’ education experience explained why she was so vehemently opposed to “Global Funding”;

“Teachers really don’t like bulk funding, so much so that they have been out of the classrooms meeting and rallying. And they’re talking to anyone who will listen about how our kids will be worse off.

And they will.

Why? Well, it will mean bigger classes and fewer teachers. It will mean our kids have less time with their teacher because instead of sharing him or her with 15 other children there will be 30 or more classmates needing the attention of their kaiako. It will mean less support for the kids that need it. It will mean fewer teacher aides for fewer hours.

It will likely mean untrained teachers in the classroom because they will be cheaper to pay.

It will mean winners and losers, and that, my friends, is not okay. Every child deserves the best, all of them, all over our country.

It’s simply that schools will be given a lump sum of money. And from this lump sum they will pay teachers’ salaries (which are currently centrally funded, meaning they don’t cost schools) and for everything else (think the power, water, supplies, first aid supplies, the caretaker, the office staff , support staff like teacher aides, any class room resources…)

There will be a separate pool of money for maintenance – property repairs and the like.

Why is it bad news?

[…]

Firstly, because there is no new money. It’s just moving around the money that is already there. And it’s already not enough.

For the first time ever school operations grants, the cash that keeps schools running, have been frozen.

While costs rise, this budget won’t keep up. This means cuts to what schools can offer. It will start with trimming the extracurricular stuff. It won’t stop from there.

Hekia Parata is looking to remove the caps to class sizes and the guaranteed teacher funding this brings. It will mean that classes will get bigger – they will have to in order to stay within budget.

It’s like trying to do the grocery shopping with the usual budget when you have four extra people staying for the week. It just won’t stretch; something will have to give.

If it comes down to a choice between paying the power bill and paying a teacher, it is principals and boards of trustees that will have to decide who goes. What a horrible decision to have to make.”

On 18 November last year, Parata caved to mounting public pressure and announced that National would not proceed on it’s “Global Funding” policy;

“I have therefore recommended, and Cabinet has agreed, that the global budget proposal not proceed. The global budget was a mechanism for payment, not for determining the level of funding, so this decision will not affect the core purpose of the review.”

The successor to Ruth Richardson’s Bulk Funding, Parata’s “Global Funding”, was quietly returned to the Historical Rubbish Bin of Very Bad Ideas.

Barely a year later and the NZ Initiative/Business Roundtable has attempted to breathe life back into Bulk Funding/Global Funding. This time referring to the model as ‘Total Budget Autonomy‘. (No doubt  Crosky-Textor or some other tax-payer funded spin-doctor will come up with some new clever, shiny name.)

But it’s still a pig. Perhaps with a new shade of lipstick. But a pig still.

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The question is, why the Neo-libs keep beating the same drum?  Why keep trying to implement a policy that has been tried; failed; and almost no one wants.

More importantly, the evidence is that Donna Eden’s fears are well-based and grounded in reality.

New Zealand has had bulk-funding in another area of the State Sector – and it has proven to be a dismal failure;

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Analysing budget short-falls and DHB deficits two years ago, Fairfax journalist Stacy Kirk wrote;

Specifically, [Treasury]  documents say DHB underfunding will put pay increases for public sector health workers, including nurses and doctors, at risk.

Cost pressures mean DHBs have not been fully funded to cover wage increases for the 40,000 workers whose contracts are up for renegotiation shortly.

Ms Kirk reported Treasury officials as saying;

“The fiscal strategy presents some tough choices for Budget 2015, there are a number of fiscal pressures across the social sector, and Ministers will need to review options and trade-offs to determine an appropriate Budget package.”

The Treasury document that Ms Kirk quotes makes this observation on funding DHBs;

There are material cost pressures affecting the Ministry-managed NDE [non-
departmental expenditure] service lines that need to be managed as part of
this process. These cost pressures will include demographic demand growth,
wage and price inflation, and other factors. As for DHBs, it is unlikely that
these pressures can be fully funded, so we will be looking to the sector to
deliver substantial efficiencies. To maintain current levels of service
provision, it is likely that a reasonably large injection of new funding will
be needed – in addition to the $275 million already agreed for DHBs – or
Ministers will need to make choices on what services are to be altered or cut back.

Note this bit; “…cost pressures will include demographic demand growth, wage and price inflation, and other factors. As for DHBs, it is unlikely that these pressures can be fully funded, so we will be looking to the sector to deliver substantial efficiencies”.

Treasury’s admonition that “it is unlikely that these pressures can be fully funded” for DHBs is borne out by the number of Boards that are in deficit – and  worsening. A forecasted $58.7 million deficit has blown out to $89.9 million. Half of DHBs either in the red, or perilously close to it;

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In the case of Capital and Coast DHB – currently $28 million in deficit – it is noteworthy that there financial woes started in the mid-1990s;

In 1995-96 Capital Coast Health reported a deficit of $26m, which the following year grew to $70m. Chief financial officer Tony Hickmott said the $68m debt hole left by the construction of the regional hospital in 2008 had contributed to deficits for the past 10 years.

Increased demand for services, high labour costs, increased complexity of patients, and the increasing and ageing population had compounded the issue.

Building construction. Labour costs. Demand for services. Increased complexity. Increasing population. Each one of those factors can easily be translated into the education sector which also requires building upgrades or building entire new class-rooms; growing students rolls; increasing special-needs; and rising population due to National’s exploitation of migration to create the illusion of economic growth.

Now add Bulk Funding/Global Funding/’Total Budget Autonomy’ into the mix for schools.

How long would it be before schools found themselves in precisely the same precarious  financial woes that our DHBs are currently suffering?

As things currently stand, parents/guardians are having to dip more and more into their pockets to pay “school donations”, to make up for obvious shortfalls in the Vote Education budget;

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Of course, the National government still claims – without a hint of self-awareness of the Big Lie – that education is still free in New Zealand;

It’s free to go to a state school — but the school can ask for donations towards their running costs.

But at least one school – St Heliers – is unashamedly upfront in why school “donations” are necessary;

A donation is requested of parents to contribute towards the shortfall in funding from the Government.

Even with direct Ministry funding, schools are still having to make up a “shortfall in funding from the Government“. This dire situation has been compounded by National’s decision to freeze school operational funding this year;

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The above Herald story goes on to report;

The targeted approach means more than 1300 schools will get less money than they would have received, had that money been used for a general increase.

The difference ranges from a few hundred dollars up to $24,000.

About 816 schools will get more, and information on a further 242 schools is suppressed for privacy reasons because fewer than five students are at-risk.

Now imagine the funding constraints that  schools would have to deal with if Bulk Funding/Global Funding/’Total Budget Autonomy’ was re-introduced for their sector.

But we don’t have to imagine, do we? Because half the District Health Boards in this country have already shown us what would be in store for schools throughout the country.

Which is something that the  NZ Initiative/Business Roundtable seems to have studiously over-looked when they compiled their rubbish report, ‘Amplifying Excellence: Promoting Transparency, Professionalism and Support in Schools‘.

Never under-estimate the ability of the New Right to suggest policies that that been tried, tested, and failed. Just keep repeating the experiment over and over and over again.

One day the result will be different.

Of course it will. Just ask Albert Einstein.

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References

NBR:  Roundtable and NZ Institute morph into new libertarian think tank

NZ Initiative: Amplifying Excellence: Promoting Transparency, Professionalism and Support in Schools

Victoria University: The Bulk Funding of Teacher’s Salaries – A Case Study in Education Policy

NZ Herald:  New funding system for schools including a ‘global’ salary criticised

Radio NZ:  Teachers fear ‘bulk funding in new guise’

The Spinoff:  A teacher tells you what you need to know about bulk funding

Fairfax media:  Education Minister signals end of school bulk funding and decile systems

Fairfax media:  DHBs ‘considerably’ underfunded – and more deficits predicted

Treasury NZ: Treasury Budget 2015 Information Release Document July 2015

Fairfax media:  DHB deficits blowing to $90m. Health sector dying ‘by 1000 service cuts’ – Labour

Fairfax media:  Capital & Coast DHB’s debt hole deepens as boss admits 20 years of deficits

Fairfax media:  Parents prop up schools to tune of $250m

NZ Herald:  School costs – $40,000 for ‘free’ state education

NZ Herald: Parents fundraise $357m for ‘free’ schooling

NZ Herald: Parents paid $161m for children’s ‘free education

NZ Government: Education – school fees

NZ Herald: ‘At risk’ school funding revealed – with 1300 to lose out under new model

Other Blogs

Save our Schools:  Parata backs down on bulk funding plans

Chris Trotter: Morbid Symptoms – Neoliberalism’s Room for Manoeuvre Keeps Shrinking

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

Cutting taxes toward more user-pays – the Great Kiwi Con

The Legacy of a Dismantled Prime Minister

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 July 2017.

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Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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The last few weeks have produced some curious stories from the media, relating to the current government that, at first glance, have no common thread linking them.

Closer scrutiny yields a different perspective…

1 April 2009

National implements first round of tax cuts.

According to Dear Leader Key, the 2009 tax cuts cost the government $1 billion;

“…The tax cuts we have delivered today will inject an extra $1 billion into the economy over the coming year, thereby helping to stimulate the economy during this recession. More important, over the longer term these tax cuts will reward hard work and help to encourage people to invest in their own skills, in order to earn and keep more money.”

1 October 2010

National carries out second round of tax cuts.

According to information obtained from Parliamentary Library in May 2012, and released by the Greens, the 2010 tax cuts cost the country an additional $2 billion;

The Green Party has today revealed that the National Government has so far had to borrow an additional $2 billion dollars to fund their 2010 tax cut package for upper income earners.

New information prepared for the Green Party by the Parliamentary Library show that the estimated lost tax revenues from National’s 2010 tax cut package are between $1.6–$2.2 billion. The lost revenue calculation includes company and personal income tax revenues offset by increases in GST.

Cost of both tax cuts, in terms of lost revenue: $2.6 billion – $3.2 billion, per annum.

8 May 2014

Then-Minister for Housing, Nick Smith confirms in Parliament that National has been demanding multi-million dollar dividends from Housing New Zealand;

“The average dividend under the 5 years so far of this Government has been $88 million. The dividend this year is $90 million.”

The dividend payable does not include taxes paid by Housing NZ.

24 September 2014

Fonterra cuts payout to farmers for dairy milk solids  by 70 cents to $5.30/kg milk solids.

6 October 2014

Dear Leader Key reveals that the international fall in dairy prices will affect the government’ tax revenue. Key states;

It can have some impact because if that’s the final payout, the impact would be as large as $5 billion for the economy overall, and you would expect that to flow through to the tax revenue, both for the 14/15 year and the 15/16 year...”

Reported by TV3’s Brook Sabin on the same day;

“A big state-house sell-off is on the way, and up to $5 billion-worth of homes could be put on the block.

The shake-up of the Government’s housing stock will be a key focus for the next three years, with Finance Minister Bill English to lead it.

On the block is everything from a tiny 75 square metre two-bedroom state house in Auckland’s Remuera, on the market for $740,000, to a three-bedroom home in Taumarunui for just $38,000. Thousands more properties will soon hit the market.”

10 December 2014

Fonterra announced that payouts to farmers would drop from $5.30/kg of milk solids to $4.70/kg. A Fairfax report states;

The predicted payout could hurt the national economy for a couple of years, including tax revenue.

28 January

Dear Leader Key announced the sale of 1,000 to 2,000 state houses within the year, and suggested there might be further sales later.

30 April

Fonterra announces further reduction of milk solid payout to farmers from $4.70/kg milk solids to $4.50/kg of milk solids.

6 May

National announced that it’s entire stock of 370 state houses in Invercargill, and 1,250 in Tauranga, would be put on the market to be sold off.

22 May

National’s 2015 Budget included;

  • Dumping the $1,000 Kiwisaver ‘kick-start’ government contribution
  • $684 million deficit for 2014/2015
  • a new travel tax on arriving/departing airport travellers
  • extension of a telecommunications tax to fund government’s rural broadband expansion programme

31 May

A story in the NZ Herald by Lynley Bilby reported that schools throughout the country were cutting back on their activities due to funding constraints;

Financially strapped secondary schools are cutting back on classroom activities, dropping field trips, ditching science experiments and even removing courses after a crackdown on parent donation rules.

[…]

In one case a secondary school had to abandon an NCEA Level 2 biology field trip to the beach because it could not afford to hire a bus.

The science teacher had to apply to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to alter the data collection assessment so the students would not fail.

Another school was forced to alter its science curriculum by reducing experiments to trim costs.

One school said it had done away with activities outside the school gates, including a sea kayaking standard for year 12 physical education students.

Principals reported outdoor education programmes, food, hospitality and technology courses could be affected by the funding guidelines.

[…]

The recently released Budget saw the Government fund school operational grants to the tune of $1.32 billion for the 2015/16 financial year.

But the NZSPC  [New Zealand Secondary Principals’ Council] said that was not enough to meet costs, particularly for low decile schools.

It is apparent that state funding of education  is inadequate, and schools are either having to make drastic cuts to  “classroom activities, dropping field trips, ditching science experiments and even removing courses” – or raise “voluntary donations” from parents. Those “donations” and fundraising events by parents and teachers raised more than $357 million in  2012, an increase of  $16 million from 2011.

Nearly a third of a billion dollars – that is the shortfall of full funding of education in this country.

1 June

National announced the launch of so-called “social bonds“, where;

…the Government will pay a return to investors, determined by whether or not agreed social targets have been achieved.

The Government said social bonds were about the private and public sector organisations operating together to fund and deliver services.

This year’s Budget set aside $28.8 million to fund what is essentially contracting  out some mental-health services to private investors. As Health Minister, Dr Jonathan Coleman explained in Parliament the next day;

” One of the benefits of social bonds is that they protect service providers by shifting financial risk away from the providers and on to investors who provide the funding and who are better placed to absorb risk…

[…]

…social bonds are an exciting financial instrument with the potential to revitalise social policy delivery and inject private sector funding and innovation into the sector.”

Note the term used by Dr Coleman (quoting from a Dept of Internal Affairs report); “financial instruments”. According to investopedia.com, a “financial instrument is defined as;

A real or virtual document representing a legal agreement involving some sort of monetary value. In today’s financial marketplace, financial instruments can be classified generally as equity based, representing ownership of the asset, or debt based, representing a loan made by an investor to the owner of the asset.

[…]

Financial instruments can be thought of as easily tradeable packages of capital, each having their own unique characteristics and structure. The wide array of financial instruments in today’s marketplace allows for the efficient flow of capital amongst the world’s investors.

In effect, funding for mental health services is being transferred from the State – the traditional source – to private investors. Plainly put – National is seeking investment funding for mental health services.

These so-called “social bonds” appear to be a continuation of privatisation-by-stealth.

Interestingly, the right-wing think-tank, ‘New Zealand Initiative‘ (formerly the Business Roundtable and NZ Institute) published a report in March advocating the use of  social  bonds, and calling for the government to implement them. Three months later, National did precisely that.

As the government’s tax revenue was slashed by between $2.6 billion – $3.2 billion, per annum, after the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts, National’s tax-take and expenditure was further put under pressure by the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis; the resulting Great Recession; rising unemployment; tumbling dairy pay-outs; and the Christchurch re-build.

National’s much heralded prediction of a  $372 million Budget surplus this year collapsed into a massive $684 million deficit – a turn-around of nearly a billion dollars.

A billion dollars – the cost of the 2009 tax cuts.

But added to the fiscal deficit is another deficit; the hidden social costs which New Zealanders are slowly, belatedly, waking up to.

Community organisations are winding back, or closing down completely;

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Relationships Aortearoa - funding cuts - Anne Tolley - budget 2015

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State assets such as housing and schools are suffering a lack of maintenance, the likes of which we have seen only in Third World nations. The recent case of Northland College in Kaikohe revealed a badly run-down facility that was so delapidated that police  asked to use them for training simulations because they represented the closest thing available to a “ghetto environment”, according to school principal, Jim Luders.

Luders’ description of his school is hard to believe in 21st century New Zealand;

“The conditions are appalling. They’re unsafe. There’s water leaks, mould, asbestos in parts. It’s without doubt the worst school stock in New Zealand.

I would challenge any school to send in photos that are worse.”

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Northland College students stuck with 'worst classrooms in New Zealand'

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Back in 2008, an ERO report highlighted the poor state of Northland College. Seven years later, the problem remains unchanged.

New Zealand’s State housing does not fare better. TVNZ’s Corin Dann wrote this piece on 24 March, which should have raised alarm bells throughout the nation (it did not);

The Finance Minister is signalling a deferred maintenance bill for the country’s state houses of $1.2 billion will have to be met by the government in future.

Community housing providers looking to buy state houses off the government say they believe Housing New Zealand has failed to carry around $1.2 billion in maintenance on state houses.

[…]

Mr English says the lack of maintenance on state houses is concerning and that in the long run the government will need to invest the $1.2 billion dollars in state houses to get them up to scratch.

[…]

When asked why Housing New Zealand had not spent as much money as it should have on maintenance, Mr English put the blame partly on the previous Labour government saying they had chosen to build new state houses rather than fix up old ones.

However, when pressed he conceded that “looking back everyone could have performed better”.

$1.2 billion dollars. Half the cost of the 2010 tax cuts.

Which, in part, explained why the Salvation Army assessed National’s offer to buy some State houses – and promptly ran a mile. As the SA’s spokesperson, Major Campbell Roberts stated, with crystal clarity;

“We would be faced with significant maintenance issues, houses which have got the wrong tenants … we would also need to do extensive development.

We would be putting so much resource into this that we could not actually put resource into anything else.

We can’t guarantee that we would be able to improve things for the state tenants, which is exactly what we would want to do by taking [the properties] over at this stage, on our own.”

Community Housing Aotearoa director, Scott Figenshow, was even more to the point;

“Our members are very concerned about the families they work with, and are only interested if they can do a better job than Housing New Zealand. At the moment the sums simply don’t stack up.

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?” 

Figenshow suggested, instead, that Government reinvest the $220 million it was forecast to receive in tax and dividends from Housing NZ, back into much needed maintenance and upgrades.

For two year old Emma-Lita Bourne, tenant of a State house in Otara, South Auckland, the situation is academic. She died last August living in an environment that was clearly not conducive for human health and well-being;

Two-year-old Emma-Lita Bourne died in Auckland’s Starship Hospital in August last year following a brain haemorrhage.

She had been taken to hospital with a fever, which turned out to be a form of pneumonia.

In his findings, released on Thursday, coroner Brandt Shortland said pneumonia played a part in Emma-Lita’s death and the Housing New Zealand home in Otara where her family lived may have been to blame for her ill-health.

Other children in the family also became sick while the family was living there, with one suffering from rheumatic fever.

[…]

In May 2014, Emma-Lita’s family had been fast-tracked up the waiting list to be transferred to a better state house, because of the rheumatic fever risk.

Although they’re now living in a different home, the move didn’t happen before Emma-Lita’s death.

Housing Minister Nick Smith said the government’s policy to fast-track those at risk of rheumatic fever into better homes has helped 270 families.

As Radio NZ reported Coroner Brandt Shortland’s findings;

“In my view, the house unfortunately was unhealthy for this family.

I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to Emma-Lita’s health status.”

Housing NZ’s general manager of tenancy services, Kay Read,  accepted the likelihood of a link;

“Our responsibility is to provide warm, safe and dry housing and, from the reports in this situation, it appears that we’ve failed.”

The above Radio NZ story features photos of another Housing NZ property also in a delapidated condition, with mould and condensation streaming down the walls. The property is tenanted.

Interviewed on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘, Minister for Housing, Bill English,  denied that money was the core problem of run-down Housing NZ properties;

“They’ve done a very large scale programme – insulated every house that it can, which is 48,000 houses over the last four or five years.

It’s got to deal with the same limitations of process as everybody else, it’s got to get consents, it’s got to find a workforce, but it’s not short of money to do the job.”

English’s assurance that Housing NZ “not short of money to do the job” appears to be contradicted by Housing NZ’s  2013/14 Annual Report;

The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

Furthermore, on page 36 of the 2013/14 Annual Report, Repairs and Maintenance is given as $220 million for the period.

This is $1 billion less than the $1.2 billion quoted by Bill English to TVNZ’s Corin Dann on 24 March, this year.

Whilst clouded in waffle, English admitted that “the system” (ie; government and Housing NZ) was responsible for this little girl’s death;

“Regardless of the cause it’s a tragedy for this family. It appears that while the system worked to some extent, we’ve got to test whether it was responsive enough quickly enough to the very real needs of this family.

They didn’t really have the option of ordering a higher grade of insulation for the house.

We’ve got a strong focus on organising the government services around vulnerable families – and this is a vulnerable family – rather than expecting those vulnerable families to find their way around various government departments.

This type of case should illustrate I think to the people making public policy, including us, that we’ve got some way to go yet to be as responsive as we should be when there’s serious issues going on in this family.”

. English responds to criticism of state houses - radio nz - morning report - audio.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that New Zealanders have died for lack of adequate state funding of social services. For Minister Bill English, this is no doubt a matter of déjà vu, bringing back memories of late Northlander, Rau Williams, and late Southland farmer, Colin Morrison;

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Died waiting for by-pass - Otago Daily Times, 6 April  1998  (1)

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The 6 April 1998 ‘Otago Daily Times’ story stated;

Riverton dairy farmer Colin Morrison (42) has lost his race for a triple heart by-pass, dying of complications and leaving his widow, Christine, and his doctor blaming Health Minister Bill English and the health system for his death.

[…]

Mrs Morrison last night did not want to speak to Mr English, who is also her local MP. She said the minister and the health system had  failed her family and her husband.

“I don’t think I could cope. I know I can’t blame one person but I have got to have something or someone to blame. I wrote him a letter saying I blamed him [Mr English] but I blame the system as well”, she said.

His GP, Dr Russell Pridgeon, of Riverton, last night called on Mr English to resign, saying he held him morally responsible for Mr Morrison’s death.

A month later, then-Health Minister Bill English conceded that his government’s “booking system” was a failure – but not before others died on his watch as Health Minister;

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Bill English did not resign, though National were swept from office the following year by Helen Clark’s Labour-led coalition.

English is now Minister for Housing.

And once again, people are dying.

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Addendum1

The National government does not have money to spend on refurbishing state housing, but it does have money for other projects;

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Government accused of wasting $11.5 million on wealthy Saudi farmer

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Addendum2

The National government does not have money to spend on refurbishing state housing, but it does have money for other projects;

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Addendum3

The National government does not have money to spend on refurbishing state housing, but it does have money for other projects;

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References

Parliament: Hansards – Tax Cuts – Implementation

Scoop media: Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Parliament: Hansards – Housing, Affordable—Progress and Management of Housing New Zealand

Agrimoney.com: Dairy rout spurs $4bn cut to Fonterra milk payout

Hive News: Treasury re-crunching Budget numbers for low Fonterra payout

TV3 News: State housing sell-off worth $5B

Fairfax media: Slashed Fonterra payout will affect all NZers

Radio NZ: PM states housing intentions

Otago Daily Times: Fonterra cuts dairy payout forecast

Radio NZ: Tauranga, Invercargill state houses to be sold

Radio NZ: Budget 2015 – What you need to know

Fairfax media: International airfares will rise new departure tax

Radio NZ: Telecommunications tax will hit consumers

NZ Herald:  Secondary schools to slash spending

Radio NZ: Social bond system to target mental health

Parliament: Hansards – 5. Mental Health Services—Social Bonds

Investopedia.com:  Financial Instrument

NBR:  Roundtable and NZ Institute morph into new libertarian think tank

NZ Intiative: Social Impact Bonds

Government Economics Networks: The case for social bonds: A new way of financing and delivering social services

Fairfax media: Budget 2014 – The essential guide

Dominion Post: Women’s Refuge cuts may lead to waiting lists

NZ Herald: Govt funding cuts reduce rape crisis support hours

TV1 News: ‘Devastating news for vulnerable Kiwis’ – Relationships Aotearoa struggling to stay afloat

Fairfax media: Government may let Relationships Aotearoa fold

TV1 News: Relationships Aotearoa hanging on at ‘awful’ 11th hour

Radio NZ: Counselling service rejects claim it’s badly run

NZ Herald: Northland College students stuck with ‘worst classrooms in New Zealand’

Radio NZ: Northland ‘slum’ school fix-up very slow

TV1 News: English concerned by State House deferred maintenance bill

Radio NZ: Salvation Army won’t buy state houses

Fairfax media: Salvation Army says no to state houses

NZCity:  Girl’s death should spur action – Greens

Radio NZ: Damp state house linked to child death

Radio NZ: State housing criticism valid, says English

Housing NZ: 2013/14 Annual Report

Radio NZ: English responds to criticism of state houses (Alt. Link) (audio)

Dunedin Star: Death – the Northland Way

NZPA: English agrees system flawed

TV1 News:  Government accused of wasting $11.5 million on wealthy Saudi farmer

NZ Herald: PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto

NZ Herald: John Key defends cost of flag referendums

Additional information

Mana News: Housing under neoliberalism

NBR: Matthew Hooton – Gulf games fail to deliver

NBR: Matthew Hooton – Flying sheep endanger McCully

NZ Herald: Bryce Edwards – Political roundup – The bizarre ‘bribery’ and flying sheep scandal

NZ Herald: Dita De Boni – Kiwis hoodwinked over state housing

Radio NZ: Demand increasing on schools to fund out classroom activities

Radio NZ: Government hikes up Housing NZ dividend almost 20 percent (audio)

Previous related blogposts

That was Then, this is Now #6

Budget 2013: petrol taxes

“It’s fundamentally a fairness issue”- Peter Dunne

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Rua)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Toru)

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

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200000-abandoned-for-national-tax-cuts-ht-william-joyce.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 June 2015.

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Letter to the Editor: Business Roundtable up to their old tricks?

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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More right-wing nuttery…

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NZ Initiative

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But who is the “NZ Initiative”?

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FROM:      "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:        Thu, 01 May 2014 10:39:22 +1200
TO:            "Sunday News" <editor@sunday-news.co.nz>

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The editor
Sunday News



Dr Bryce Wilkinson, recently authored a report for the
so-called "NZ Initiative", calling for more unrestricted
"investment" in New Zealand - specifically allowing foreign
property speculators unfettered right to buy up housing.

At a time of falling home ownership - 49.8% in 2013; 53.2%
in 2006;  67.8% in 2001; 70.7% in 1996; and 73.8% in 1991
(Statistics NZ) - the last thing we need is for New
Zealanders to be competing against well-financed, wealthy
speculators from overseas.

In effect,  we are denying our own children the right to own
their own home.

So who, precisely, is "NZ Initiative" and what is their
agenda?

"NZ Initiative" is the Business Roundtable, rebranded, when
the BRT and right-wing think tank, New Zealand Institute,
merged in 2012.

I guess that puts things into perspective that this is the
same group of well-heeled oligarchs who would sell New
Zealand to the highest bidder from Boston, Berlin, or
Beijing.

It is high time to put an end to this neo-liberal dogma 
which has benefitted a small minority, leaving the rest of
us to pick up the scraps.After 30 years of "rogernomics", I
think it's safe to say that the Great Experiment in
neo-liberalism has been a spectacular failure.


-Frank Macskasy
[Address & phone number supplied]

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References

Fairfax media: NZ needs foreign money – NZ Initiative

NZ Herald: Census 2013: Property ownership keeps falling

Statistics NZ: Owner-Occupied Households

Wikipedia:  NZ Initiative


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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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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