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Posts Tagged ‘raising wages’

Tips from Paula Bennett on how to be a Hypocrite

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Recent comments by Paula Bennett regarding introducing tipping to New Zealand are more revealing of National’s contempt for workers than most realise.

On 22 May, Bennett was reported as promoting tipping for reasons that – on the face of it – sound reasonable, but are questionable;

“ If you receive excellent service, you should tip.  I don’t think that tipping should be mandatory in New Zealand, but I do think that we shouldn’t tell people not to tip when they come here, which we did for a while.

 People will enjoy their work more and get paid more – it’s plus plus plus.
I don’t want us to turn into that mandatory tipping for people just to survive, but I do think if we reward good service it’s going to make everyone smile a bit more.”

“Smile a bit more”? “People will enjoy their work more”?

Perhaps in Bennett’s narrow world, hermetically-sealed in Parliament with her ministerial salary; perks; golden superannuation; and tax-payer-funded housing.

To put Bennett’s comments into some context, in March 2012 NZ Herald journalist, Fran O’Sullivan gave us a glimpse of her privileged life;

My sense is that Bennett always knew how to work the system to her advantage – and good for her. Let’s face it, at the time she went on to the domestic purposes benefit in 1986, knowing how to rort the system was a national sport.

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At just 17, she gave birth to her only child, a daughter she named Ana. Just two years later, she got a Housing Corporation loan to buy a $56,000 house in Taupo. All of this while on the domestic purposes benefit.

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Bennett was also fortunate in getting a training allowance to go to university when her daughter was 8. Her backstory suggests that she was still on a benefit while studying.

The Training Incentive Allowance that paid for Bennett’s university education meant she was not lumbered with any of the $15 billion debt that 728,000 other Kiwi students are now facing. Her tertiary education was free.

This would not be a problem – except that one of Bennett’s first acts on becoming social welfare minister was to remove the same Training Incentive Allowance that she used to put herself through University;

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Evidently, Bennett’s working life was “too exhausting” and she made a “career move” back onto the DPB;

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

In opting to chuck in her paid job and return to the DPB, she became an oft-parroted cliche that  many on the Right – especially National/ACT supporters – often accuse welfare beneficiaries for.

From being an on-again-off-again beneficiary on the DPB, in 2005 Bennett became a beneficiary of the Parliamentary Service and she entered Parliament on the National Party List.

Today, as Deputy PM, the tax-payer is responsible for meeting her $326,697 p.a. salary, plus free housing, and other perks.

It would be a fair guess that Bennett does not require tipping to make up her weekly pay packet, to meet the necessities of life that many other New Zealanders find challenging in the 21st Century;

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In 2007 – and for the following five years – the former Dear Leader, John Key, constantly made eloquent speeches on raising the incomes of New Zealanders;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who would have thought that Key’s goal of raising wages would be achieved… with tips.

It speaks volumes about National’s disconnect with the working men and women of this country, that the best that our generously paid Deputy Prime Minister can come up with is that raising wages should be dependent on the largesse of others.

Is this the essence of National’s ambition for New Zealanders?  That not only should we be tenants in our own country

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– but that we should be paid as such?

On 18 April, our new Dear Leader, Bill English announced a $2 billion pay increase for under paid care and support workers in the aged and residential care sector.

However, there appears to be a ‘fish hook’ in the much trumpeted announcement;

Cabinet today agreed to a $2 billion pay equity package to be delivered over the next five years to 55,000 care and support workers employed across the aged and residential care sector.

The pay increase will be “delivered over the next five years“.

On 22 April I wrote to Health Minister Coleman asking, amongst  other things;

” You state that the amount of $2 billion will be  “delivered over five years” and  increases will be implemented incrementally over an annual basis. If so, how will that incremental amount be determined?

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

To date, Minister Coleman’s office has put off replying, stating that his office was busy and “response times vary between 4 – 6 weeks but also depend on the Minister’s schedule and availability“. (More on this later.)

Perhaps aged and residential care sector workers  should ask for tips in the meantime, from their clients?

According to the website Numbeo.com, New Zealand wages have not kept pace with our nearest neighbour;

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Former Dear Leader Key’s grand ambition of matching Australia’s income levels have remained illusory.

In fact, despite heightened economic activity through immigration and the Christchurch re-build, wages have remained suppressed. As Head of Trade Me Jobs, Jeremy Wade, said in April this year;

We’re seeing small increases in average pay across growth industries such as Construction and Customer Service, but overall wages aren’t matching demand.

The number of roles advertised has exploded in recent months which in turn means that the average number of applications per role has dropped 13 per cent on this time last year. Job hunters can be more selective, which makes it harder to fill these roles.

Some employers have looked to immigration channels to address this shortage. Immigration alone won’t correct the shortfall, though it may be suppressing wage growth…

Immigrationmay be suppressing wage growth“.

There is no “may” about it.  Immigration is suppressing wage growth.  The simple laws of market supply & demand dictate that in times of “low” unemployment, wages will rise as the supply of workers does not meet demand.

This is not some marxist-leninist tenet. This is core doctrine of the Free Market;

The law of supply and demand is the theory explaining the interaction between the supply of a resource and the demand for that resource. The law of supply and demand defines the effect the availability of a particular product and the desire (or demand) for that product has on price. Generally, a low supply and a high demand increases price, and in contrast, the greater the supply and the lower the demand, the lower the price tends to fall.

The only way that the price of labour can be suppressed is to increase the supply of labour. National has opened the floodgates of immigration, increasing the number of workers, and hence the price of labour has remained suppressed (also incidentally fuelling increasing housing demand, ballooning prices, and construction in Auckland).

There is a grim irony at play here.

National has exploited high immigration to generate economic activity and National ministers continually boast to the electorate that they have boosted economic activity;

Despite the dairy sector continuing to be under pressure, other sectors are performing well and contributing to an overall solid rate of economic growth.” – Bill English

We are the fifth fastest growing economy last year in the developed world. That’s unexpected.” – Steven Joyce

That’s why the good economic growth we’re seeing with rising incomes and a record number of jobs available is the best way this Government can help New Zealanders. ” – Paula Bennett

The New Zealand economy is diverse and dynamic. Strong GDP and job growth, together with the impact of technology, is driving change in every sector.” – Simon Bridges

But the same immigration that has generated that economic “growth” has also suppressed wages. National’s exploitation of high immigration to pretend we have “high economic growth” may have worked. But the unintended consequence of suppressed wages is now starting to haunt them.

What to do, what to do?!

Enter Paula Bennett and her desperate plea for New Zealanders to tip each other.

Unfortunately, tipping each other is simply a band-aid over low wages. In the end, like a pyramid scheme, the money-go-round of tipping fails to generate long term wage increases and we are back at Square One: low paid jobs and no prospects for improvement.

To compensate for chronic low wages, Labour introduced Working for Families in 2004. This became a means by which the State subsidised businesses to ensure that working families had some measure of a livable income.

Bennett’s lame suggestion – tipping – does not even pretend to come close to Labour’s solution.

Perhaps that is because National are in a quandry; cut back immigration to raise wages? That would wind back economic growth. Increase immigration to boost economic growth – and have wages stagnate.

This is what results when a political party with the unearned reputation of being “good economic managers” is revealed to being a fraud. Their short-term, unsustainable, “sugar-hit” policies eventually catch up with them.

Here’s a tip for you, Paula; saying silly things in election year is not helpful.

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References

Fairfax media:  Deputy PM Paula Bennett calls for more tipping

NZ Herald:  Fran O’Sullivan – Bennett knows about life on Struggle St

Scoop media: John Key – Speech to the Bluegreens Forum

Beehive: Key Notes – Boosting Science and Innovation

Beehive: John Key – Speech from the Throne

Fairfax media: Key wants a high-wage NZ

NZ Herald: PM warns against Kiwis becoming ‘tenants’

TVNZ News: Cabinet agrees to $2 billion pay equity package for ‘dedicated’ low-paid care workers

Numbeo: Cost of Living Comparison Between Australia and New Zealand

Trade Me: New Zealand job market booming but wages languish

Investopedia: Law Of Supply And Demand

Fairfax media: Record migration sees New Zealand population record largest ever increase

Fairfax media: New Zealand’s economic growth driven almost exclusively by rising population

Radio NZ: Billions for infrastructure reflects booming economy – Joyce

Fairfax media: Minister Paula Bennett – Challenge to house more people on taxpayer dollar

Kapiti Coast Chamber of Commerce: Minister of Economic Development Announces New Economic Data Tool

Wikipedia: Working for Families

Additional

The New York Times: Why Tipping Is Wrong

The Huffington Post: 9 Reasons We Should Abolish Tipping, Once And For All

Wikipedia: Paula Bennett

Other Bloggers

Martyn Bradbury – Paula Bennett’s call to tip is National’s new plan to subcontract out lifting wages without raising minimum wage

The Standard: Tipping vs fair wages

Previous related blogposts

Paula Bennett shows NZ how to take responsibility

Letter to the Editor: Was Paula Bennett ever drug tested?

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Why is Paula Bennett media-shy all of a sudden?

Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?

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Hat-tip for above cartoon: Anthony Robbins

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2017.

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Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?

28 April 2017 3 comments

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Some Context

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The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ — paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion.

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When National claims it must cut spending for vital public services like health and education to control its borrowing, it carries much of the blame.” – former Green Party Co-leader, Dr Russel Norman, 14 May 2012

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The reliance of New Zealand, of all of us, on the emotional umbilical cord between women working as carers and the older people they care for at $13-14 an hour is a form of modern-day slavery.” –  Judy McGregor, Equal opportunities commissioner, 28 May 2012

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It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

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We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right.” – John Key, former Prime Minister, 28 May 2012

 

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Cabinet today agreed to a $2 billion pay equity package to be delivered over the next five years to 55,000 care and support workers employed across the aged and residential care sector.”- Bill English, current Prime Minister, 18 April 2017

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The Announcement

On 18 April, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman and Finance Minister, Bill English, announced that healthcare workers in the disability, residential care, and home/community support sector had successfully won their pay-equity claim;

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The response from the trade union movement was positive;

Unions representing care and support workers are pleased to be jointly announcing with government a proposed equal pay settlement to 55,000 workers across the aged residential, disability and home support sectors.

The proposed settlement is a huge win and will make a real difference in valuing the work of care and support workers and the people they support, workers in the sector say. It is a significant step in addressing gender inequality in New Zealand.

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E tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall says the offer once ratified will mean a “once in a lifetime pay rise which will end poverty wages for this mainly female workforce and set them on the path to a better life. We’re delighted today’s proposed settlement recognises the justice of Kristine’s case and the wonderful work of Kristine and other professional carers.”

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne says that “This equal settlement delivers pay rates that truly reflect the skills and importance of the work that care and support workers undertake every day. Decent pay rates and the right to achieve qualifications will grow and retain skilled workers to care for our elderly. This will build public confidence that high quality care will be delivered to our families’ loved ones in our rest homes and hospitals.”

PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says: “This settlement will make a real difference to our members.  Our members in home support and disability support play a vital role in empowering people to live independent lives in their own communities. This settlement recognises the value of the work they do – and the people they support.”

Unions say the government is to be commended for agreeing to negotiate this settlement offer, rather than waiting for years before the legal process was finally exhausted.

However, there remain unanswered questions to this “deal”.

Questions raised

On 22 April I wrote to Health Minister Coleman;

On 18 April you announced that disability, residential care, and home and community support services will  have their pay increased in a pay-equity settlement costing $2 billion over five years.

In your 18 April press release you stated;

“A care and support worker on the minimum wage with three years’ experience and no qualifications will receive a 27 per cent increase in their hourly wage rate moving from $15.75 to $20 per hour from July 1. That rate would progressively increase to $23 by July 2021 and would rise further if they attain a higher qualification.”

I have some questions regarding this issue, namely;

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

2. Will workers who are deemed to qualify for pay-equity wage increases  be determined solely by their employer?

3. What measures will be put in place to ensure that workers are paid appropriately and pay increases not arbitrarily with-held by employer(s)?

4. You state that the amount of $2 billion will be  “spread over five years” and  increases will be implemented incrementally over an annual basis. If so, how will that incremental amount be determined?

5. If the answer to Q4 is “yes”, will the planned increases be inflation-adjusted, to prevent any increase being watered-down by inflation?

6.Will the settlement amount be increased over time to compensate for annual rises to the Minimum Wage?

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

8. Will NGOs who qualify for the pay equity settlement for their workers have their Budget-allocations cut in other areas?

9. How will pay rises for workers who quality for pay equity settlement impact on contract negotiations with relevant NGOs?

10. You state that “The $2.048 billion settlement over five years will be funded through an increase of $1.856 billion to Vote Health and $192 million to ACC.  ACC levies are set for the coming years, but may possibly increase over the next decade to support this”. If ACC levies rise, will workers who qualify for the settlement be compensated for having to pay an increased ACC levy?

Call me a cynic, but I sense fish-hooks in the detail. When National cut taxes in 2010, they gave with one hand;

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– and took with the other;

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When it comes to fish-hooks, National has prior ‘form’. Even when National announces an ‘increase’ in social spending, it often takes that funding from other areas. Even special-needs children are not exempt from National’s shell-scam, as reported in The Daily Blog  in August last year;

Education Minister, Hekia Parata, revealed that primary and secondary schools’ funding for special needs students would be slashed, and the money re-directed to under-fives. As Radio NZ explained;

The [Cabinet] documents also indicated the government would reduce the amount of special education funding spent in the school sector, and dramatically increase the amount spent on those under the age of five.

“Analysis of the spend by the age range of the recipient indicates that a disproportionate amount of the funds are for school-age children. This is despite clear evidence in some areas that early support can have greater benefits in terms of educational outcomes.”

As implications of Parata’s scheme began to percolate through the education sector, reaction was scathing.

I won’t be celebrating until I read the fine print and get some answers.

Watch out for…

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References

Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Dominion Post: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

TVNZ News: Cabinet agrees to $2 billion pay equity package for ‘dedicated’ low-paid care workers

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

NZCTU: Historic day as caregivers offered equal pay settlement

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

NZ Herald: Budget 2010 – Experts praise tax cuts for all

NZ Herald:  GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Young workers out of pocket

Fairfax media: Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

Radio NZ: Govt to phase out ‘special needs’

Additional

Radio NZ: Settlement could help rest homes attract workers

Employment New Zealand: Previous minimum wage rates

NZ Herald: MPs’ pay rise officially confirmed

Radio NZ: MPs given 2.5 percent pay rise

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: A victory for women

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

The Standard: Thank you health care workers

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on the aged-care settlement

Previous related blogposts

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

No Rest for the Wicked (23 March 2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2017.

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Aged Care: The Price of Compassion

16 November 2012 21 comments

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Rest home care workers are amongst the lowest paid in the country. At around $14-$15 an hour, they are paid a pittance for the important work they do; caring for aged New Zealanders in the twilight of their lives. They tend to our parents and grandparents, keeping them safe, clean, and offering human  companionship at a time when many elderly have less and less contact with the community.

On 1 March of this year, rest home workers went on strike, campaigning to raise their wages from the pathetic $14.61 an hour they were being being. The following pics were of striking rest home workers in Upper Hutt,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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See previous blogpost: 1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers!

A month and a half later, Ryman Healthcare – one of the largest providers for aged care in New Zealand – announced a record $84 million profit, for the year ending 31 March 2012. This  was  an increase of  17% on the previous financial year.

For ten years in a row,  Ryman had posted  record profits. Quite clearly this industry is not short of a ‘bob or three’.

Chairman Dr David Kerr said “the company faced some major challenges in Christchurch over the past 18 months given the earthquakes, and had responded with a performance which had exceeded its own targets “.

See: Record profit for Ryman

So obviously productivity was not a problem for Ryman.  A 17% increase in products – in an otherwise stagnant economy and continuing global financial downturn – shows that the aged care industry is doing very nicely.

On 28 May, Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor, did something that few office-bound  state sector workers do; she went undercover to discover for herself what kind of working conditions rest care workers put up with for $14.61 an hour,

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Full Story

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As Dr McGregor stated,

The complexity of the job was actually a surprise for me. It’s quite physical work, and it’s emotionally draining because you are obliged to give of yourself to other people.  Saint-like women do it every day so that older New Zealanders can have a quality of life.

I’m not sure if I could have. I’m not sure I had the physical stamina and I didn’t want to hurt someone.

On any given shift you would be in charge of six, seven older people, and you would have to wake them, get them up, get them showered, get them toileted, feed them, and the whole time you were conscious that you had another five to go on your shift. It’s like working constantly to deadline.

The reliance of New Zealand, of all of us, on the emotional umbilical cord between women working as carers and the older people they care for at $13-14 an hour is a form of modern-day slavery,” she said in the report.

It exploits the goodwill of women, it is a knowing exploitation. We can claim neither ignorance nor amnesia.”

See: Ibid

National’s Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew replied,

It is important that we take this seriously, that we look at it carefully and we look at what we are doing and what we can do before we provide a considered response.”

However, Dear Leader Key would have none of that, and firmly squashed any suggestion of paying rest home care workers decent wages.  Only a few hours after Jo Goodhew announced that this was a problem demanding that “ we look at it carefully “, her boss stated bluntly,

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Full story

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So there we have it. According to Dear Leader,

It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.”

Falling in line,   Goodhew, conceded that whilst aged care workers were paid at  “lower end“,  she  rejected suggestions that they were being exploited,

I personally don’t believe we should be describing it as modern-day slavery.”

See: Ibid

Gosh, that’s ‘big’ of her. It’s not “ modern-day slavery “.

I wonder what she’d call it?

Especially when it was announced todat that Lo! And Behold! Ryman had posted yet another profit!?!? This time a record half-yearly profit (from 1 April),

The company added another notch to its 10-year sharemarket performance of climbing profits by posting a record half-year profit after tax of $69 million. Its share price rose 6 cents to close at $4.14.

Shareholders will receive an 18 per cent higher dividend for the half-year of 4.6 cents a share. All up, about $23 million in dividends is going to shareholders in the first half. “

See: Ryman plans cautious Aussie debut

Since listing in June 1999, Ryman Healthcare has delivered its shareholders a total return, which includes share price appreciate and dividends, of 1,043%, or 24.3%pa. By cracking the 1000% mark (i.e. returning 10 times the original investment) brokers will, with a good deal of admiration, refer to Ryman as a’10-bagger’.”  – Craigs Investment Partners

Wouldn’t it be nice if the $23 million being paid to shareholders was  instead paid  to the care workers who actually did the hard work?

Who is it that looks after granny and/or grandad – the “Saint-like women do it every day so that older New Zealanders can have a quality of life“?

Or some shareholders sitting on their arses and sipping  chardonnay?

Here’s a thought for Middle Zealand, politicians, and Ryman shareholders; the course of  Nature will not be deviated. Every one of us is growing older.

(You can see where I’m heading with this.)

There will come a time when Middle Zealand, politicians, and Ryman shareholders, and the rest of us will eventually require the services of aged care facilities.

Do we really want to be cared for by underpaid workers who may eventually give up any semblance of dedication to their job, and lose any measure of empathy for  aged folk in their charge? That rest home workers may finally one days have a gutsful of being exploited?

If we want to be treated well in our twilight years – shouldn’t we first be looking after those workers who will be caring for us?

John Key sez that paying rest home care workers is “one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash“.

Rubbish. The money is there.

It’s just going to the wrong people.

C’mon New Zealand – sort it out!

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Previous related blogposts

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

No Rest for the Wicked (23 March 2012)

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

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

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

Sources

Record profit for Ryman (17 May 2012)

PM: No money for aged care workers (28 May 2012)

Resthome spy hails saint-like workers (28 May 2012)

Ryman plans cautious Aussie debut (16 Nov 2012)

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 10. A New Government’s Response

11 November 2012 4 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 9. Conclusion

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Hopefully someone in Labour, the Greens, NZ First, and/or Mana, is  keeping careful track of every one of these nasty, neo-liberal,  “reforms”.

Once in power, a Labour-Greens-NZ First-Mana Coalition must act decisively to undo and repeal every single one of these “reforms”.

Not one strand  of their repugnant legislation must be allowed to stand – not one.

Only a fool could still believe that National’s labour “reforms” are in any way designed to raise wages. They are not.

The true intent of   so-called “labour market reforms” is to make the workforce more “flexible” (exploitable); undermine the last vestiges of Unionisation; and drive down wages so that our workforce is a cheaper option than Australia.

It is a plan to turn this country into an “anglocised China” or “Southseas Mexico“.

The good news is that undoing National’s legislative obscenities should be a reasonably easy task.

The harder job will be for an incoming government to enact new legislation to enshrine workers’ rights forever. We simply cannot afford  National coming to power ever few years and repeating their destructive policies  against workers.

It’s one thing for Middle Class New Zealand to have a rush of blood to their heads and vote for a National “government” that will eventually end up screwing them over. But workers should not have to pay for this kind of Middle Class masochism.

Not if we want,

  • fairness in the workplace
  • real high wages (not National’s fantasy-variety)
  • and young New Zealanders encouraged to stay here, instead of migrating to Australia

We went through this batshit in the 1990s and now we’re going through it all again now.

Enough already.

It’s time for sanity to prevail.

Otherwise…

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Addendum 1

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Date: Sunday, 11 November 2012 3:11 PM
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Industrial relations, raising wages,  and worker’s rights in this country
To: Darien Fenton “Darien.Fenton@parliament.govt.nz”,
    Denise Roche “Denise.Roche@parliament.govt.nz”,
    Brendan Horan “brendan.horan@parliament.govt.nz”,
    John Minto “Hone.Harawira@parliament.govt.nz”

Kia ora Darien, Denise, Brendan, and John,
I have blogged a critique of John Key’s pledge to raise wages for New Zealand workers. John Key has made numerous statements in 2008, ’09, ’10, ’11, and this year, endorsing wages being raised.
I have matched reality with his rhetoric, and comes up with the following results, here, with these eleven short blogposts;
John Key’s track record on raising wages – preface
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-preface/John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-1-the-hobbit-law/John Key’s track record on raising wages – 2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-2-the-90-day-employment-trial-period/John Key’s track record on raising wages – 3. Ports of Auckland Dispute
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-3-ports-of-auckland-dispute/John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-4-rest-home-workers/John Key’s track record on raising wages – 5. The Minimum Wage
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-5-the-minimum-wage/

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 6. Youth Rates
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-6-youth-rates/

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 7. Part 6A – stripped away
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-7-part-6a-stripped-away/

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 8. An End to Collective Agreements
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-8-an-end-to-collective-agreements/

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 9. Conclusion
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-9-conclusion/

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 10. A New Government’s Response
https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/john-keys-track-record-on-raising-wages-10-a-new-governments-response/

As this country’s natural coalition-government-in-waiting, I would welcome your comments on the critiques I have written. Specifically, please outline your Party’s policies,
1.  regarding National’s track record thus far,
2. your policies regarding the issues I have raised,
3. what aspects of National’s so-called “reforms” you intend to repeal.
Any response you provide will be added to my above article as an addendum to “A New Government’s Response”, with full acknowledgement of your Party, spokesperson, etc.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter and I look forward to your reply,

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy,
Blogger

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Previous related blogposts

The betrayal of our young people

“I was wrong about rising unemployment” – Blogger

Additional to “The Hobbit” Law

Radio NZ: Parliament debates Hobbit law change

Helen Kelly (NZ Council of Trade Unions): The Hobbit Dispute

Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill

Legislative History: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 No 120, Public Act

Labour vows to repeal Hobbit law

Additional

Parliament: Employment Relations Act 2000, Section 67A – the 90 Day Trial Period (March 2009)

Fairfax: Low wages ‘advantage’ for NZ – English (10 April 2011)

Fairfax: ‘We need more cheap foreign fishermen’ (17 Oct 2011)

TVNZ: Aussie wage gap now 40% – Brash (7 Nov 2011)

TV3:  Raising minimum wage won’t cost jobs – Treasury (10 Nov 2011)

Fairfax: Jackson pulls back from port comments (12 March 2012)

Fairfax: Calls to end shipping lines’ price fixing (25 April 2012)

TV3: Aus wage rise increases gap with NZ: Union (2 June 2012)

Otago Daily Times: Minimum wage increase: results may surprise (22 Aug 2012)

That was then…

NZ Herald: Salary and wage rates increase by record amount (5 May 2008)

NZ Herald: The miracle of full employment (7 April2008)

This is now…

Fairfax: Wage rises lowest since 2001 (3 Feb 2010)

TV3: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high  (8 Nov 2012)

Other blogs

No Right Turn: Turning a blind eye to exploitation

The Standard: John Key Selling (out) New Zealand

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Categories: The Body Politic Tags:

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 9. Conclusion

11 November 2012 4 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 8. An End to Collective Agreements

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Thus far we have seen no concrete  indications that John Key is implementing his  promises in 2008, 2009, 2010,  2011, and this year,   to raise wages.

Instead, Key and his cronies in National have been studiously  implementing law-changes that will inevitably result in the opposite;  a dismantling of hard-won working conditions; an  undermining of worker-representation in negotiations, and an eventual lowering of wages .

The only conclusion  that can be made is that Key has wilfully deceived voters. His public statements advocated raising wages whilst in back-rooms, he and  National Party ministers have been contriving to achieve a diametrically opposite agenda.

It serves National’s undisclosed agenda to lower wages, to attract international ‘investment’, and to allow corporations to increase profits on the backs of low-paid workers.

The process has already begun. As Bill English said on TVNZ’s  Q+A, last year,

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…

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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.” – Bill English, 10 April 2011

See: Low wages ‘advantage’ for NZ – English

The result was wholly predictable, and the headlines tell the story,

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How does this raise wages?

Answer: it doesn’t.

Next and final chapter: 10. A New Government’s Response

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 8. An End to Collective Agreements

11 November 2012 7 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 7. Part 6A – stripped away

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8. An End to Collective Agreements

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National’s covert agenda to resurrect the Employment Contract’s Act involves the following,

  1. The Employment Relations Authority can declare in certain circumstances that collective bargaining has ended.
  2. A duty of good faith does not require the parties to conclude a collective agreement.
  3. Employers can opt out of multi-employer bargaining.
  4. Partial pay reductions in cases of partial strike action.
  5. Removing the 30-day rule that forces non-union members to take union terms and conditions.

Items 1, 2, and 3 have only one purpose; to ensure that an employer can walk away from the negotiating table; scrap any collective agreement; and re-hire workers on individual contracts.

It is solely designed to destroy unions once and for all.

Had Items 1, 2, and 3 been in force this year, POAL (Ports of Auckland Ltd) would have been able to abandon the bargaining table after a mock “negotiation”; locked out any worker on strike; and issued take-it-or-leave-it individual contracts.

The worker’s negotiating agent,  the Maritime Union, would have been dis-empowered and destroyed.

Only the current provisions of good-faith bargaining in the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Employment Relations Authority were able to stop POAL from unilaterally walking away from the negotiating table. (On 27 March this year, the Employment Court issued a judgement severely admonishing POAL for their actions, and ordering them to return to negotiations.)

The same happened when Talleys locked out workers. Talleys was demanding that workers quit their Union and sign individual contracts.

See previous blogpost: If anyone wants to see the Working Class

See previous blogpost: Help Talley’s Affco Workers!

See previous blogpost: Immovable and Irresistable forces – combined!!

See previous blogpost: The Talleys Strikes Back

All this will change – and not fot the better –  if National proceeds with implementation of their draconian law-changes.

They will serve the purposes of business – whilst leaving employees totally vulnerable and at the mercy of their employers.

This is Third World banana republic stuff.

This will drive wages down, and will send more New Zealanders packing for Australia.

Item 4 is self-evident, and is designed to dissuade employees from strike action. Using financial pressure to control workers would be the inevitable outcome of this law-change.

Again, it would leave workers totally vulnerable to employer demands.

Item 5 – What better way to prevent workers from learning about the benefits of union-membership – than by denying workers the benefits of Union-won  conditions? It means that an employer can hire staff at lower pay, or sub-standard conditions.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson’s own cabinet paper confirmed that the 30 Day Rule  would permit  employers to offer lower wages to new workers than those on the collective agreement. What other reasonwould there be for such a radical  change in our labour laws?

With unemployment now at 7.3%, more than 175,000 people are now competing for fewer and fewer jobs. If National proceeds with it’s miserable labour “reforms” it will simply result in unemployed job-seekers willing to accept lower and lower pay, and reduced conditions. It will become a dog-eat-dog labour market.

This may satisfy free market fanatics, but it does nothing to fulfill Dear Leader’s pledges to raise wages, or create new jobs.

As usual, Key promises one thing whilst his Minister work quietly in the background to achieve the polar-opposite.

In polite society, this is called duplicity.

How does this raise wages, one may rightly ask?

Next chapter: 9. Conclusion

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

11 November 2012 7 comments

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

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5. The Minimum Wage

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From 2004 to 2008, the minimum wage rose from $9 to $12 – an increase of $3 in four years.

From 2009 to 2012, the minimum wage rose from $12 to $13.50 – an increase of $1.50 over three years.

See: Dept of Labour – Previous minimum wage rates

Last year, Labour, the Greens, NZ First, and Mana campaigned to raise the minimum wage to $15 ($16 for Mana).

When a worker at a fast-food outlet asked John Key to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, he  rejected the proposal, saying,

It will go up, but it won’t go up straight away.”

See:  Raising minimum wage won’t cost jobs – Treasury

Key’s right. At the glacial speed that National increases the minimum wage, it will take another three years to deliver $15 an hour.

Yet it took only a couple of years to implement two massive taxcuts that gave hundreds, thousands,  of dollars a week, to the top income earners.

Priorities, eh?

The real insult is that  Key and English both admit that the minimum wage is difficult to live on.

Key said,

Look, I think it would be very difficult for anyone to do that.”

See:  Ibid

GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on?

BILL ENGLISH:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL ENGLISH:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.

See: TVNZ’s Q+A: Transcript of Bill English, David Cunliffe interview

The Department of Labour claimed  a rise in the minimum wage  would cost 6,000 jobs.

But Treasury disagreed, saying,

This has not been true in the past. The balance of probabilities is that a higher minimum wage does not cost jobs.”

Raising the minimum wage would certainly benefit SMEs (Small-Medium Enterprises), as low-income earners spend their entire wages on goods and services. Any rise in paying wages should be offset by increasing till-takings with customers spending more.

So it appears blatantly obvious that no good reason exists not to raise the minimum wage.

After all, in 2009 and 2010, National gave away far more in tax cuts for the rich.

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

Next chapter: 6. Youth Rates

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

11 November 2012 11 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

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4. Rest Home Workers

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Amongst the lowest paid workers in this country, Rest Home caregivers earn around $13.61 an hour – just barely above the minimum wage of $13.50.

Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor, found out first-hand what the job entailed,

Spending hours on her feet, lifting, hoisting, feeding, bathing, dressing and toileting her charges took its toll – and for just $14 an hour, the Human Rights Commission’s equal opportunities commissioner compares it to a form of modern-day slavery.

“The complexity of the job was actually a surprise for me. It’s quite physical work, and it’s emotionally draining because you are obliged to give of yourself to other people,” she said.

“Saint-like women do it every day so that older New Zealanders can have a quality of life”.”

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When this was point out to John Key, the following exchange took place on morning TV,

Key acknowledged there were problems with rural rest homes workers paying for their own travel, effectively reducing their wage below the minimum wage of $13.50 an hour.

“Travel is one of those areas where we are looking at what we can do,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

However, the Government could not afford to give DHBs the $140 million required to enable rest homes to pay their staff more.

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash”.”

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But there seemed plenty of cash – taxpayer’s money – to give politicians some fairly generous salary increases,

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And a “lack of money” certainly didn’t stop the country from spending over $200 million of public money on a sporting tournament,

Budget blowouts have pushed public spending on the Rugby World Cup well above $200 million – without counting $555 million in stadium upgrades and $39 million in direct losses from hosting the tournament. “

See: Blowouts push public Rugby World Cup spending well over $200m

If  Key was serious about raising wages, he should clearly have made the lowest paid his Number One Priority. The 2009 and 2010 tax cuts would have made an excellent opportunity to give the biggest tax cuts to the lowest paid workers.

Instead, those tax cuts went to the very top. On top of that, the rise in GST from 12.5% to 15% would have impacted the hardest on those on minimum wage.

Double whammy.

So precisely how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises? (Or could it be that when Key promised to raise wages – he was referring to his own?)

Next chapter: 5. The Minimum Wage

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

11 November 2012 5 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

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3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

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“The average income has been about $90,000, so it hasn’t been a badly-paid place. But the problem is flexibility when ships arrive and when staff get called out, how they can cope with that.” – John Key, 12 March 2012

See: Jackson pulls back from port comments

Putting aside from the myth of  POAL maritime workers earning $90,000 – so what?

Even if it were true (which is doubtful) – POAL has never released the workings of how they arrived at that sum, despite requests), isn’t such a good wage precisely what Dear Leader was advocating in his quotes above?

POAL management sought to reduce costs;  casualise their workforce; and compete with Ports of Tauranga for shipping business. Unfortunately, competing on costs would, by necessity, involve driving down wages.

There is also a high degree of price-fixing by shipping cartels, as was pointed out by the Productivity Commision in April,

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Rather than supporting the workers, Dear Leader bought into a situation where international shipping companies were playing New Zealand ports off against each other, to gain the  lowest possible port-charges.  Even local company, Fonterra, was playing the game.

Here we have a situation where New Zealand workers were enjoying high wages – something John Key insists he supports – and yet he was effectively allowing international corporations to create circumstances where those wages could eventually be cut and driven down.

As with the “Hobbit Law”, our Dear Leader appears to pay more heed to the demands of international corporate interests than to fulfilling his pledges to raise wages.

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

Next chapter: 4. Rest Home Workers

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

11 November 2012 5 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

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2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

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An amendment to the Employment Relations Act 2000, Section 67A, allows for employers to sack – without just cause or a chance for an employee to improve performance – within a 90 day period.

It gives unbalanced power to employers who can blackmail an employee or get rid of them at the slightest whim.

It also makes workers less willing to be mobile in the workplace. Why change jobs at the risk of being fired within 90 days of taking up a new position?

When the 90 Day Trial period was first introduced in April 2009, it applied only to companies employing 19 staff or less.

See: Will the 90 Day trial period make a difference?

By April 2011, this was extended to all companies regardless of staff numbers.

Has it helped  generate more jobs as National claimed it would?

Evidence suggests it played very little part in creating employment, and indeed unemployment went up after both legislative changes,

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Source

So aside from empowering employers and disempowering workers, what exactly was the point of enacting this piece of legislation?

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

Next Chapter: 3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

11 November 2012 8 comments

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Continued from:  John Key’s track record on raising wages – preface

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1. The “Hobbit Law”

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On 20 October 2010, Peter Jackson released this statement to the media,

“Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.”

See: Warner preparing to take Hobbit offshore – Sir Peter

It was the opening shot of a public war-of-words between Jackson and his camp, and Actor’s Equity.  An industrial dispute had been elevated to DefCon One, and things were about to ‘go nuclear‘.

Almost overnight, a mood of hysteria gripped the country; we were about to lose ‘Our Precious‘ movies to Eastern Europe, Mongolia, or Timbuktu.

Public panic reached levels unseen since the 1981 Springbok Tour, or the satanic child abuse-ritual stories of the early 199os. There were patriotic street marches (flaming torches were considered but rejected because of OSH concerns.) Union officials were harassed in public; vilified; and threatened with death. A well-known  actress – popular up till this point – considered leaving for Australia after receiving death threats, because of her pro-Union stance.

See: And everybody take a deep breath – please

It was the nastier side of New Zealand’s collective psyche which we’ve come  to be familiar with. We do ‘mob hysteria‘ very well.

John Key and National would have none of it, of course. Dear Leader acted with authoritarian style not seen outside ex-Soviet republics, African, and Middle East  dictatorships.

As the Dominion Post reported,

The Hobbit dispute was resolved after Warner Bros executives jetted into New Zealand for a meeting with Government ministers at Mr Key’s official Wellington residence, Premier House.

After two days of tense days of talks with Warner Bros bosses, who were chauffeured around Wellington in Crown limousines, the Government agreed to a raft of measures including a $20 million tax break to keep the two Hobbit movies in New Zealand.

An agreement to change New Zealand’s employment laws clinched the deal after studio bosses and Jackson threatened to move production off-shore over a stoush with the actors union. Labour lawswere were [subsequently amended].

See: PM’s ‘special’ movie studio meeting

The labour law that the Dompost piece referred to was the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill which made film industry workers independent contractors by default – thereby changing the definition in employment legislation of what constitutes an “employee”.

See: The Hobbit law – what does it mean for workers?

Even if the nature of your employment mirrors that of an employee with a boss who determines your hours of on-site work; supplies all your tools and work materials; dictates your workplace requirements, including meal breaks – your employer can still treat you legally as a “contractor”.

A worker under these conditions has all the obligations of an employee – but none of the rights.  That same worker may be deemed a “self employed contractor” – but has none of the usual independence of a contractor.

A worker in this “limbo” has had all his/her security of employment; minimum wages;  holidays; and right to collective bargaining stripped away.

In effect, for the first time in our democracy, a government has legislated away a  workers right to choose. They no longer have any choice in the matter.

All done at the stroke of a pen. No consultation. It was all decided for you, whether you wanted it or not. Only a totalitarian, One Party, regime could match such dictatorial powers.

The “Hobbit Law” took precisely two days from First Reading to Royal Assent. An Olympic record in law-making.

See: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history

By 21 December 2010 – two months after Jackson had sent the entire nation into a spin with his first press release –  an email dated 18 October, to Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee, revealed a startling new picture,

There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit”.

“What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”

See: Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

Peter Jackson and John Key knew precisely how to pull this country’s strings and make workers and the public dance to their tune. They managed to con workers to demand losing their own rights as employees. Well played, Mr Jackson, Mr Key.

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

Next chaper:  2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

See also previous blogposts:Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’, Roosting chickens

Additional

Tech Dirt: The Hobbit Took $120M From Kiwi Taxpayers – Maybe They Should Own The Rights (5 Dec 2012)

Fairfax Media: To save regular earth, kill Hobbit subsidies (6 Dec 2012)

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – preface

11 November 2012 19 comments

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Preface

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By now, I think most readers of this blog (and other sources of  political information) will recall certain statements made by Dear Leader over the last four years,

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

See: National policy – SPEECH: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

“One of National’s key goals, should we lead the next Government, will be to stem the flow of New Zealanders choosing to live and work overseas.  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

See: National policy – Speech: Environment Policy Launch

“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

See: Speech: Key – business breakfast

“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

See: National policy – Boosting Science and Innovation

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

See: Statement to Parliament 2011

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

See: Parliament – Speech from the Throne

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

See: Key wants a high-wage NZ

Key has repeated the same pledge every year since 2008. It has become a mantra, “raise wages, raise wages, raise…”.

But words are easy. What has been Key’s actual track record? How does Dear Leader’s words reconcile with his actions? What have been the results?

The following chapters give an insight into the rhetoric and reality of the National Party and it’s leader, John Key.

1. The “Hobbit Law”

2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

4. Rest Home Workers

5. The Minimum Wage

6. Youth Rates

7. Part 6A – stripped away

8. An End to Collective Agreements

9. Conclusion

10. A New Government’s Response

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Dear Leader: No plans, no credibility, no shame!

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2008…

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Prime Minister John Key - Twat

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

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2011…

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Prime Minister John Key - Prat

“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, Prime Minister, 21 December 2011

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2012…

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Prime Minister John Key - Dick

“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, Prime Minister, 19 April 2012

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2013…?

2014…?

Is it me… or… am I hearing an echo?!

We seem to be getting more repeats from John Key – than summertime viewing on television.

Perhaps his comments would not be so bad, except for the industrial disputes around the country from workers from industries as diverse as resthome workers; meatworkers, and port workers.

In the case of rest-home workers, their pitiful wages are as low as $13.61 an hour – whilst being charged with the responsibility of caring for our aged and infirm. Poor recompense for such responsibility, one would think?

In the case of meatworkers and Auckland portworkers, hundreds have been locked out by two ruthless employers that are focused solely on de-unionising their respective workplaces and casualising the workforce.  Talleys AFFCO and Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) have one agenda; to  drive down wages and increase their own profitability.

It was not long ago that Finance Minister Bill English let slip on TVNZ’s Q+A that our 30%  lower wages gave New Zealand a competitive advantage over Australia,

“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.” – Bill English, 10 April 2011

And in October last year, the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) told a ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels that their industry needed more cheap foreign labour,

SeaFIC says FCVs hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

“Many New Zealand businesses have exported jobs previously done in New Zealand to other countries with wage rates considerably less than minimum wage rates in New Zealand.” ” – Source

Australian businesses duly obliged, and several corporations moved some of their operations here to New Zealand,

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Full Story

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Some folk reading this may be scratching their heads in bewilderment, wondering what’s wrong if our Aussie cuzzies decide to relocate some aspects of their operations here to New Zealand. After all, that’s good isn’t it? It’s more jobs, isn’t it?

After all, isn’t that what Hollywood did – sent their biggest film productions down under for Peter Jackson to produce?

No, not quite.

Peter Jackson offered a production services of  a highly-skilled, talented workforce.

The Australians are exploiting our cheaper wages – just as Bill English anticipated back in April last year.

If foreign companies come to New Zealand in pursuit of a low-waged , “flexible’, workforce – then expect pressure to be brought to bear on National to maintain these low wages, and to suppress any union activity that would try to raise wages.  National has already demonstrated it’s unreserved willingness to bow to pressure from local and foreign businesses.

Just as it’s happening now.

  • National changed the law to satisfy Warner Bros, so that Peter Jackson’s workforce would become “contractors”, rather than employees. This had the immediate effect of de-unionising every film crew member, with the result that  wages would be negotiated as IEAs (Individual Employment Agreements) rather than collective contracts.
  • National is willing to change the law to allow Sky City to install 350 to 500 more pokies and gaming tables, in return for a $350 million convention centre.
  • National has resisted raising the minimum wage from $13 to $15 an hour, citing employer “unnaffordability”. This ignores the reality that even Bill English agreed that living on $13 an hour was not possible “in the long term”,

GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

There is nothing desirable about attracting businesses from overseas that are keen and eager to employ people at low wages. Aside from the fact that none of us (except for some rightwing extremists) would like out children to face such a prospect – it will not grow the economy, nor help raise wages.

It will, though, maximise profitability for those companies.

This, folks, is what happens in Third World countries where,

  1. Wages are low
  2. Legislation is weak, or is easily changed
  3. Unions are powerless or non-existent

Welcome to New Zealand, 2012AD.

Is this what we have to look forward to? Becoming the “Mexico” of the South Pacific?

No wonder that 53,000 New Zealanders leaving for Australia in the last year.  These are our fellow kiwis, voting with their feet for better wages, working conditions, Union protection, longer paid parental leave, and probably more valued as citizens than in their own country of birth,

Aucklander Shane Ball is moving to Western Australia for a better life and will be joined by his wife, Kelly, and their children by Christmas. “I’m leaving because the economy here sucks … I can’t afford to buy a house here, or even have any savings, and I need to have a different lifestyle,” he said.
“I’ve been working like a dog here and getting hold of that first home is still an impossible dream.”
Auckland-born Mr Ball said he was following in the footsteps of his sister, who had gone to Australia before him and was now “far better off”.
“I have seen how much my sister’s kids have progressed in school too, and decided my kids deserved a better future too,” he said.
Mr Ball does not have a job lined up but is confident of getting one, having worked as a mental health support worker in Sydney in 2005.
“Then I was working half the hours and earning twice as much.”
Mr Ball, who was living in Manukau, said he chose Kalgoorlie because it had a “more relaxed pace” and “affordable housing”.

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People like Shane and Kelly cannot wait for John Key’s pie-in-the-sky promise of higher wages. For all we know, Dear Leader will make the same empty promises next year, and the year after, and…

Because John Key and his fellow National ministers have no plans for job creation and higher wages. They are reliant solely on an economic ideology called neo-liberalism that says quite plainly that only the private sector can create jobs and only the free market can  raise wages.

One problem though. That ideology doesn’t work.

Or rather, it works only for a small sector of society – those who control wealth and the means of production. Neo-liberalism is not geared to do anything except facilitate “market responses”. Neo-liberalism is certainly not an ideology that concerns itself with  society, communities,  nor the needs of families.

One would think that after 27 years of neo-liberalism here in New Zealand and it’s many failures, that our elected leaders would conclude that it is a failed ideology. (But then again, it took our Russian cuzzies 70 years to learn that their opposite ideology, marxist-leninism, was also a failure. Do we really need another 43 years of neo-liberal dogma controlling our lives?!)

While my fellow New Zealanders make up their minds, I’m going to start on writing John Key’s speech for next year. It goes something like this,

We, my government and I, will be striving  to dedicate ourselves to raising wages and standards of living for all New Zealanders. We will endeavour to stem the flow of  our children to Australia by creating a wealthy society that will draw them back to our shores, to share in our prosperity and bright new future… “

It amazing how easy it is that write that kind of crap. And more amazing how many people  believe it.

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= fs =

Harbour battles & casual fear

13 January 2012 2 comments

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Why is newbie National MP, Jamie Lee-Ross, getting involved in pay negotiations that don’t concern him personally?

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Full Story
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Ports of Auckland is not a state Owned enterprise. Therefore, Mr Lee-Ross has as much to do with that company and it’s employer-employee negotiations as he might with any other company in the country.

Is he intending to comment on the next wages-negotiation between Fulton Hogan and it’s staff? Fletcher construction and it’s employees? Perhaps he might feel inclined to comment on Wattie-Heinz negotiations with their workers?

While we’re about it; Mr Lee-Ross has a very generous tax-payer funded salary; with free travel perks; and a gold-plated superannuation fund that tax-payers (again) subsidise.

His  salary comes to $141,800 – quite generous for these recessionary times. In fact, on 17 November last year, it was increased from $134,800, and back-dated to 1 July 2011.

In which case, so what if maritime union workers are well remunerated? They do a hard, dangerous, dirty job – one that most of us would think twice before doing. Being highly paid is also National Party policy, as John Key outlined in 2008;

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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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Perhaps Mr Lee-Ross is unaware that the Maritime Union appears to be fulfilling National Party policy?

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With a full-blown propaganda war now in effect between the Ports of Auckland management; right wing politicians; and various reactionary groupies on one side, and the Union, workers, their families,  and  supporters on the other – the first casualty has indeed been truth.

Specifically, the amount earned by maritime union members. First of all, I would point out that the wages paid to maritime workers is actually irrelevant.

It’s really no one’s business what Port of Auckland’s employees are paid. That is a matter between bosses and workers.

After all, how many other New Zealanders would really welcome the glare of public scrutiny on their incomes? (Especially self-employed – many of whom have a tradition of doing “cashies”, which they fail to declare to the IRD.)

The spotlight on maritime workers’ incomes seems to have emanated from the Ports of Auckland, CEO, Tony Gibson, who said,
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“…the average wage for a stevedore is more than $90,000 a year and the lowest rate is $17.12 an hour.” – Source

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Catherine Etheredge, Port of Auckland’s Senior Manager Communications, posted this statement on The Standard,

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I can confirm that the average remuneration for a full time stevedore, in the year ended June 30, 2011, was $91,480. The average remuneration for a part time stevedore (guaranteed at least 24 hours work a week) was $65,518.

53% of full time stevedores (123 individuals) earned over $80,000. 28% (43 individuals) earned over $100,000 with the highest earner making $122,000.

The averages were calculated by POAL’s payroll team based on actual payments, including for leave days, medical insurance and superannuation contributions. (For employees covered by the collective agreement, POAL matches their superannuation contributions up to a maximum of 7%.) We excluded those who had worked for less than the full 12 months e.g. had left part way through the year.

Employees are also entitled to 15 days sick leave per annum, accruing up to 45 days. All shift workers are entitled to five weeks annual leave. Training for all stevedoring tasks (crane driving, straddle driving and lashing) is undertaken in house and is paid for by the company.

One question that has been asked is how many hours you have to work to earn that $91,000. Stevedores who earned the average $91,000 in the 2010/11 financial year were paid for an average of 43 hours per week, excluding leave days. If you factor leave days in, that increases to 49 hours per week.

This leads to the key issue for the company – the high amount of paid downtime – an average of 35% of total hours paid. An employee getting paid for a 43 hour week is only working around 28 hours; for a 40 hour week, 26 hours. In a busy week, employees get paid for 66.5 hours but can only work for a maximum of 44.5.

On Monday 9 January, to give a recent example, we paid 26 staff a total of $5,484,80 for downtime, because they were entitled to be paid until the end of their set eight hour shift even though the ship had finished & they had gone home. In another example employees worked two hours of an overtime shift but were paid for the full eight hours.

This is not a cost-efficient nor sustainable labour model, especially when the company is not covering its cost of capital, cannot therefore justify further investment in order to grow, and its closest competitor has a labour utilisation rate in excess of 80%. (At Port of Tauranga stevedores start and finish work when a ship arrives and departs).

The company has offered an upfront 10% increase to hourly rates along with the retention of existing terms and conditions in return for more flexible rosters which would significantly reduce the amount of paid downtime. Employees would have the opportunity to plan their roster a month in advance. This proposal would result in a people being remunerated for fewer overall hours at a higher rate than they would currently get for the same paid hours. To be fair, until such time as container volumes recover/improve, the 10% increase to hourly rates would not (as some commentators have suggested) push average remuneration over $100K.” – Source
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Yet, at least one blog-poster at “The Standard”  noticed a discrepancy in Ms Etheredge’s statement, and questioned her figures,

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I’m not sure this bit adds up – would appreciate someone to check my math 🙂 .

For 123 workers to be 53% of the workforce, that gives a work population of 232. But for 43 individuals to be 28% of the workforce, the population is 153. I assume there’s a typo in there somewhere. If 43 workers are indeed on more than $100k out of a population of 232, then that means an actual top-echelon level of 18% of the workforce.

And I’m not familiar with the organisational structure on the port – does this average include only personnel with no personnel that report to them, or does is include the shift leaders or even a tier above small-team supervision?” – Source

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It is further worth noting that Ms Etheredge states,

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This is not a cost-efficient nor sustainable labour model, especially when the company is not covering its cost of capital…

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“Not covering its cost of capital“? Yet, according to the National Business Review, Ports of Auckland posted a $24.9 million profit in  the year to June – up 2.1% on the previous year.

And in October 2010, Managing director Jens Madsen said that “overall container volumes in the three months to September 30 were up nearly 8% on the same period last year“.

The Maritime Union states,

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A stevedores guarantee for 40 hours per week is $1,090.40 = $56,700.80 per annum @ 260 shifts per year.  To earn the money being quoted by Mr Gibson, stevedores would have to complete an extra 1,377 hours.  Stevedores are required to work days or nights, weekends, public holidays – basically any shifts 24/7 often 16 hour shifts.” – Source

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Helen Kelly, from the CTU says on the same blog-page,

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The first position was that Port workers earn an average of $91,000 for a 26 hour week. This was widely publicised and is now being so seriously challenged they have been flushed out to provide the correct information.

Now it appears the $91,000 is for a 49 hour week and this includes superannuation, medical insurance etc. Assuming the superannuation is 7% then $6,370 of this is a super subsidy, leaving an avearage annual salary of $84,000. Given these “average” workers are working 22.5% more hours than a “normal working week” of 40 hours, then $20,475 of this salary can be considered payment for the extra working hours.

This leaves an avearage wage of $64,155 which includes medical insurance.

The union says a stevedores guarantee for 40 hours per week is $1,090.40 = $56,700.80 per annum @ 260 shifts per year. Regardless, the position has changed dramatically since the Ports first shots rasing questions about the other information they are using to disguise the agenda to make permanent workers into casuals.

It would be great if the Port could provide the avearage salary of the 20% of casuals workers they employ at the port by hours worked?” – Source
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The figures quoted by the Ports of Auckland appear to have been somewhat “massaged” – ie, presented in such a way as to present the best possible “message” for management. Of course, it is difficult to verify what the workers are paid without sighting payslips.

But the wording of Ms Etheredges statement and her reference to “average”, indicates that there is more to this matter than we’ve been told.

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But this isn’t even about a wage-increase – that is a mis-representation by the Ports of Auckland – as the 10% wage-increase was an offer from MANAGEMENT to the Union, in return for casualising the work-force. As the Maritime Union stated,

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The union position is clear. It does not want the 10%; it wants secure, ordered and transparent rosters for its members.”  – Source

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Casualisation would mean that instead of having a 40-hour job (which most New Zealanders aspire to), it  would be part-time, and on-call. Workers would be  sitting at home, waiting for a phone call to come to work.

No one can raise a family; put food on the table; and pay a mortgage with a “McDonalds”-style casual-job.

Jamie Lee-Ross states,

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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. ” – Source

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Three points:

1. Whilst ratepayers most certainly do own the Ports of Auckland, there is no risk to them, nor the shareholding Auckland City Council.

Ports of Auckland posted a $24.9 million profit in  the year to June 2011. So it is a self-funding operation, and quite a profitable one at that.

2. It is disturbing that Jamie Lee-Ross is not as concerned about the “destruction in value” of jobs. Maritime workers face losing their full-time jobs, and instead turned into casual workers.

How can a workers raise their family when they don’t know what they’ll be earning from day to day; week to week?

3. It’s nice to see a National MP recognising the fact that Ports of Auckland is owned by the people of Auckland. Hopefully, Mr Lee-Ross will remember this when his government colleagues vote to sell the first state owned enterprise, Mighty River Power – which is also owned by the people.

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Despite John Key’s pledge in 2008, it seems clear that National and their business fellow-travellers are content to see wages cut.

Bill English stated as much on “Q+A”, on  10 April 2011, when he seemed to express satisfaction that New Zealand’s wages were more “competitive”, by around 30%, to Australia’s,

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BILL 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.

GUYON So it’s part of our strategy to have wages 30% below Australia?

BILL Well, they are, and we need to get on with competing for 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.

GUYON But is it a good thing?

BILL Well, it is 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.

GUYON So let’s get this straight – it’s a good thing for New Zealand that our wages are 30% below Australia?

BILL No, it’s not a good thing, but it is a fact.  We want to close that gap up, and one way to close that gap up is to compete, just like our sports teams are doing.  This weekend we’ve had rugby league, netball, basketball teams, and rugby teams out there competing with Australia.  That’s lifting the standard.  They’re closing up the gap.

GUYON But you said it was an advantage, Minister.

BILL Well, at the moment, if I go to Australia and talk to Australians, I want to put to them a positive case for investment in New Zealand, because while we are saving more, we’re not saving more fast enough to get the capital that we need to close the gap with Australia.  So Australia already has 40 billion of investment in New Zealand.  If we could attract more Australian companies, activities here, that would help us create the jobs and lift incomes.

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Bill English seems to want it both ways; lift wages – but yet keep wages “competitive” with Australia. I guess one day he might make up his mind.

De-unionisation is currently proceeding throughout the country. Another industrial dispute is at CMP Rangitikei where contract negotiations between the ANZCO-owned plant and the NZ Meat Workers Union has resulted in one hundred and eleven  workers locked out at their  plant when they resisted pay cuts of up to 20% and reductions in conditions.
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Full Story

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There is a silent war going on in this country. It is a war to destroy any and all  remaining unionised-protection for workers and to increase “flexibility” and “competitiveness”. Such moves will have the consequences of driving down wages even further, and which will increase business profits, and dividends for shareholders. Tough luck, I guess, if it’s done at the expense of staff.

Businesspeople and shareholders: two of National’s core constituents.

Little wonder that employment confidence has taken a steep nose-dive,
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One thing should be perfectly clear to every worker in this country; if a strongly unionised workforce such as Ports of Auckland workers, and ANZCO freezing workers,  can have their employment conditions arbitrarily changed, and casualised against their wishes – the question on everyone’s mind must be, “Who is next in line? Is it me?”

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As well as attempting to drive down labour costs by destroying the Maritime Union, there appears to be another, lesser-known agenda at work in the backrooms of various “movers and shakers” – privatisation.

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Full Story

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Note that the above article came out on the same day as the NBR published a report, “Imports drive Ports of Auckland profit higher“.

It would appear that this is not just a battle for the control of worker’s pay and conditions – but for the  Ports of Auckland itself.

As the National Business Review reports  stated, the Ports of Auckland is a growing, highly-profitable business.

The attack on Maritime port workers by PoA management is, I believe, designed to achieve a single goal, exploiting several methods,

  • Attack workers’ rights and conditions; create chaos on the waterfront; paint the Union as “lazy greedies”; and stir up Auckland ratepayers’ anger, until they’ve had enough and want the Ports of Auckland sold off. Result: easy privatisation of a very valuable asset.
  • Change the current, permanent, workforce into a casualised workforce. Result: reduce wage costs for new, private owners.
  • Drive the Maritime Union of the Ports of Auckland. Result: greater casualisation if the workforce; lower wages even further; eliminate all workers’ protection.

This, I believe is the real agenda.

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Previous blog story

At gunpoint, maybe?

Sources

Scoop: Union Biting the hand that feeds

National Party MP: Jami-Lee Ross – Biography

John Key  SPEECH: 2008,  A Fresh Start for New Zealand

TVNZ Q+A: Guyon Espiner interviews Bill English (transcript)

Wanganui Chronicle: Overseas labour concerns union

NZ Herald:  Sentiment on work prospects gloomy

NBR:  Imports drive Ports of Auckland profit higher

NBR: Plea for ratepayers to give up port control

NBR: Increased traffic at Ports of Auckland

NBR:  Ports of Auckland profits hold steady

Additional

Scoop: POAL documents show senior management running own agenda

Chris Trotter:  The Auckland Ports Dispute: An Injury To All

Chris Trotter:  Port bosses sensitive to show of union power

Tumeke: The Manufactured Crisis at Ports of Auckland and why did Len Brown walk into it?

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That was Then, this is Now #9

28 October 2011 2 comments