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Roads, grandma, and John Key

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

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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.” – John Key, 28 May 2012

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In March of this year, rest home care workers went on strike throughout New Zealand, demanding an increase in their pay rate of $13.61 an hour.

That paltry sum is only 11 cents an hour above the minimum wage, which as Finance Minister said on TVNZ’s “Q+A“, on 6 November last year, was not liveable for any long period of time,

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

If $13 an hour is ‘ pretty damn tough’ and ‘people can live on that for [only]  a short time’  – then how much better is $13.61 an hour? Not by much, one would think.

But, as Dear Leader told the nation on 28 May,

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.

You could certainly change the proportion of where you spend money in health. We spend about $14.5 billion in the overall health sector.

What’s going to go to pay the increase in this area? If you said all of the increase is going to go into this area, that would be roughly $600m over the forecast period which is four years… So that would have left us $1bn for other things.

“We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right.”

See: PM: No money for aged care workers

“On balance”, I think National is about as incompetant as it was in the 1990s, and as it was under Rob Muldoon.

To make sure that the peasantry (ie, us) got the message,  he shifted blame on to Labour by insisting, that the former Labour government “had a lot more cash floating around and didn’t meet the bill“.

I wonder how many times he’s going to blame Labour?

I thought National was BIG on people  taking responsibility?

But just when the public get used to the idea that paying hundreds of  heroic careworkers in resthomes – who look after our grandmas, grandpas, the sick, and the infirm – a measely $13.61 is the best we can afford, we discover that National does have access to pots of  cash (our cash, by the way).

And boy, do they  know how to spend it like it’s going out of fashion by 2014,

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Full Story

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Full story

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A total of  $336 million spent on consultants, and various “fees” for selling our own state assets to “mums and dads”  (aka,  corporate investors).  Of that, $216 million has already been spent on “consultants” – and that’s without  one metre of tarseal being laid.

And yet, our smiling and waving Dear Leader has the cheek to say that we can’t pay resthome careworkers any more money? He insists that,  “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.”

When I found and collated these three media stories, my jaw dropped.

I have long since given up trying to understand John Key’s “moral compass” (if he actually has one).

But I wonder what those 1,058,636 New Zealanders who voted for this wretched Party must be feeling when they read this sort of thing? Does it even register with those 1,058,636, I wonder?!

But there is a delicious irony that will eventually fall upon most of those 1,058,636.  For they too, are growing older…

And eventually, they will end up in resthomes, being cared for by low-paid, exploited, careworkers.

I wonder if those careworkers, by then, will still be the conscientious, dedicated, saints that  Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor said of them,

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.”

See: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

Will Resthome careworkers still be Saint-like in their care for us?

Or will they have had a gutsful by then, and not give a damn? If we continue to pay them $13.61 an hour (or a future-equivalent) – is that the value of service we’ll end up receiving?

If so, I hope those exploited, burnt-out, angry workers will vent their frustrations on a specific group of 1,058,636 New Zealanders. After all, they will have paid for their care. All $13.61 of it.

Karma.

As for the rest of us – those who understand the utter futility of electing John Key into power – I hope that National’s apalling waste of our valuable tax-dollars will motivate you all for the next election.

I know that most readers who visit this blog are fair minded, decent, people. I know you will be voting to get rid of this rotten, morally-corrupt,  government in 2014 (if not earlier).

But that’s not enough. Simply voting is insufficient.

If, after reading this (and similar examples of National’s wretched policies)  you are angry and want to get rid of John Key – then at the next election, find one other adult who did not vote last year and encourage that person to walk to the nearest polling booth with you to cast his/her vote.

About a million people did not vote last year. We need to find them and explain to them why their vote is crucial.  The future of this country lies in their hands.

Our most powerful Weapon of Mass Democracy – our vote.

It is our vote that makes us powerful.

Let’s do it.

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Related Blogposts

No Rest for the Wicked

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

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers!

Additional

Service & Food Workers Union

NZ Nurses Organisation

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Immovable and Irresistable forces – combined!!

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Full Story

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Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant result. And for the first time, we have publicly witnessed Iwi power being flexed on behalf of the working class.

This blogger believes  we are seeing the birth of a new political force to be reckoned with – Iwi and Workers joining forces to fight excessive corporate and employer power.

It probably also didn’t help Talleys that;

  • social networking websites such as Facebook were being utilised to mount a boycott of Talley’s products, and if this took hold in the public consciousness, it could cause irreparable harm to their brand-name
  • centre-left bloggers were mobilising to assist locked out workers, outnumbering the few rightwing blogs  that were becoming increasingly drowned out by a clamour of pro-union voices
  • and David Shearer making an impromptu visit to support Talley’s workers,

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Full Story

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In a move that many people seemed to overlook – but in this bloggers opinion constitutes a major shift in Labour’s strategy – Shearer actually came out in full, unequivocal support for the locked out workers,

I’m very supportive of collective agreements. I think the issue here is they [union workers] are willing to negotiate but now what’s happening is they are being locked out. What we don’t want to see is those workers being locked out and not being given a real fair go.

Talleys have always had a strong opposition to union labour. Other meatworks we’ve gone to which have had unions and they’ve worked very effectively.”

Them’s pretty powerful fightin’ words, Jethro!

In effect, Shearer has put certain elements in the employers’ camp on notice: Labour is back in the game, and firmly on the side of workers. The message is clear; do not mess with us, or we will remember you when we get back into power.

Any employer that doesn’t heed the simple message that Labour Leader, David Shearer, made at Horotiu – may have it spelled out in terms they will not miss.

The power balance is shifting. It may be part of the quantum shift away from the mad neoliberal  experiment that  overtook the world in the 1980s  onwards. Whether the signs are in the Occupy Movement; the election of centre-left governments; and mounting public protest at  austerity economics – we are witnessing  the beginnings of the decline of neo-liberalism.

Historical times, people; historical times.

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20 May: End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails

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– End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails –

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Frank Macskasy - blog - Frankly Speaking

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Think Tank

TV3’s current affairs “chat” show,  “Think Tank” is  hosted by John Tamihere, on Sunday mornings. This half hour programme discusses critical issues confronting our nation, but in a low-key, constructive manner. There are no flashy graphics; no distracting backgrounds; and the guests are encouraged to offer their views without being talked over by other guests or the host.

The only slight criticism? that this excellent show is “ghettoised” on Sunday mornings (alongside TVs’s “The Nation” and TVNZ’s “Q+A”).

It would be a radical moment in our media history if “Think Tank” (as well as “Q+A” and “The Nation”) were re-scheduled for prime-time evening viewing. The public might actually be exposed to intelligent viewing for a change.

Shayne Currie (Editor, New Zealand Herald)

Who tweeted   (@ShayneCurrieNZH), ‘We wouldn’t want to be populist now would we Mr Key‘, after Dear Leader whinged on Newstalk ZB that  “the media are in a more aggressive and hostile mood towards us” . Key singled out the Sunday Star Times and NZ Herald  for special criticism.

Nice one, Shayne.  Sometimes it takes a gentle reminder for politicians to understand that the Herald is not Pravda, nor is  Sunday Star Times New Zealand’s own Izveztia.

AFFCO workers

Locked out by their employers, the Talley Brothers – millionaire businessmen  – who are hell-bent on driving down  staff’s wages and destroying the Meatworkers Union.

The AFFCO meatworkers are ordinary New Zealanders – they could be any one of us – who have been harrassed and persecuted by the Talleys.

In a display of sheer courage that our ANZAC forebears would be proud of, the workers have faced up to the bullies who are their employers.

These brave men and women should be hailed as true Kiwi battlers.

An incoming Labour-led government should not forget the AFFCO workers when they next review employment legislation.

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Frank Macskasy - blog - Frankly Speaking

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Paula Bennett (National MP

For planning to force welfare recipients to immunise their children for no other reason than they are receiving welfare assistance from the State. This has to be the worst case of State coercion since military conscription.

If National wants everyone immunised, by law, then make it compulsory for everyone. Yeah, right! There would be rioting in the streets, and this rotten government would fall within a week.

But it’s fairly obvious that Key, Bennett, and their  misguided mates are exploiting the vulnerability of New Zealanders who happen to be on welfare, for their own political ends.

This country’s economy is in dire straits; we are stagnating; unemployment is on the up; and kids are starving and going through pig-slop buckets to get a feed. Plus on top of that numerous scandals and dodgy deals, and National is desperate to focus public attention elsewhere.

In the 1930s, the nazi government used gypsies and jews as scapegoats.  We can’t use jews – Israel would kick Key’s sorry arse to the curb. And we don’t have gypsies.

But we do have welfare beneficiaries, and the public doesn’t mind if they’re ‘bashed’ around a bit.They are the 1930s “jews”  of our society.

This is shameful. For a New Zealand government to demonise a sector of the population in such a  cynical manner  is unforgivable.

Pita Sharples (Maori Party)

For citing that there had been a number of gains for Maori the upcoming budget, such as  “funding for treatment of cancer, funding for tackling rheumatic fever…”

Yes, Mr Sharples – but at the expense of raising prescription charges from $3 to $5, which will hurt welfare beneficiaries, superannuitants, and low income earners the hardest. Many of whom already have to make hard choices whether to pay the rent and electricity bill, or cut back on food, medicines, etc.

Many of those low-income earners are the Maori Party’s constituents.

By any definition, that is not a “gain”, Mr Sharples. This is robbing Pita to pay Paul.

Wally.

ACT Party

For not distancing itself from racist bigot, Louis Crimp, and returning his $125,520 donation.  Is ACT so desperate for funds that it willingly accepts money from a person who believes,

I don’t give a stuff what I’m called. You have to look at the facts and figures. This is the problem with New Zealanders. Most of them dislike the Maoris intensely – I won’t say hate – but they don’t like to say so.”

At what point does a Party draw a line and refuse to accept financial support because the donor is just so repugnant?

Act’s president, Chris Simmons, said he disagreed with Mr Crimp but respected his right to have a view,

One of the beauties of the Act Party is we believe everyone should have their say.”

That may be, Mr Simmons. But by accepting a racist’s money, you are giving tacit approval to their abhorrent prejudice.

It’s called tarred by association.

Think about it.

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And for the final category, the Epic Fail of the Week,

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Louis Crimp

Businessman and bigot.   Unfortunately, he may not be alone is holding such racist views.

We have a long way to go, in this country.

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Why wharfies are striking – in their own words (+ photos)

Simon Oosterman

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Articles and photos by Simon Oosterman. Hi-res photos are available here. Please feel free to distribute.

The media have given plenty of space to Ports of Auckland management, but nobody has canvassed the opinions of those most affected by the company’s decisions, the workers. Here we get behind the news to the men, their wives and the children affected by the Ports of Auckland actions and proposals.

For the background to the dispute read the Maritime Union of New Zealand and Council of Trade Union fact sheet and the Port of Auckland’s industrial dispute updates.

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The Thorton family: “They want drones when we are actually parents”

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FAIR ROSTERING: From the left – Max Thorton (5), Shaun (43), Nina (4), Amy (5), Leah (37) and Ben (9). Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Shaun Thorton, 43, drives a straddle at the Ports of Auckland where he has worked for 18 years. He met his wife Leah at the port where she worked before becoming a fulltime mum looking after their four kids: Ben (9), twins Max and Amy (5) and Nina (4).

“We want predictability so we can have a family life,” he says. “We only get one weekend off every third weekend meaning I work 35 weekends in the year. I’m striking for the kids.”

Leah interrupts: “and for the marriage”.

“Shaun’s work is a nightmare for me and the kids,” she says. “Dad only went to two soccer games last year and couldn’t come to the preschool Christmas party. We’ve learnt to live with it but it’s far from perfect.”

“It’s clear from the ports casualisation plan that they want drones, when we are actually parents. You can’t sustain a family as a casual and deal with the everyday stuff parents have to put up with. One of our kids has a chronic illness and another is getting progressively deaf in one ear. I should be able to count on partner to help out with hospital visits and specialist’s visits.

“Everyone complains about irresponsible teenagers going out on town and they wonder where their parents are. They are hereThe Wallace family: “It’s not just husbands affected, it’s our families too” and in other unsociable jobs. The only other option to this work is working on the minimum wage.

“It astounds me that they are trying to increase productivity by ruining our work life balance – do they want people sleeping on the job?” she says. “Can I complain to the company about not having annual leave or sick days?”

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The Wallace family: “It’s not just husbands affected, it’s our families too”

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FAMILY TIME: From centre left – Mark Wallace, Ashley (9), Rebecca (7) and Katrina. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Mark Wallace is a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland. He worked his way up from a casual to a permanent crane driver over 18 years. Mark and wife Katrina have two children, Ashley (9) and Rebecca (7).

“I’m trying to protect my family life,” he says. “The company wants the right to tell me at midnight, eight hours before a shift, that I don’t have the shift anymore. How can I plan a family life around that?”

“The company goes on about caring for its employees, but they treat us like shit. We’ve given them the best container rates ever. If they really cared about us, we’d be inside working. We had to strike at Christmas just to get time off with our kids.”

Katrina, is a self-employed dress-maker who works from home.

“I brought the kids down to the picket show solidarity with my husband,” she says. “But it’s not just husbands affected, it’s our families too. The company’s proposed changes would be hard for me and the kids. I couldn’t take on huge jobs because I wouldn’t know day-to-day what Mark would be doing. I wouldn’t even be able to count on him to pick up the kids from school.”

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The Witehira family: “Keeping family time is more important than a pay rise”

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POWER TO THE FAMILY: Jermaine Witehira (31), Jayda (1), Karine (2), Gabrielle (5) and Destiny. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Jermaine Witehira, 31, got his first ever job at the Ports of Auckland where he has been working as a stevedore for 14 years. Jermaine and wife Destiny have three children, Gabrielle (5), Karine (2) and Jayda (1)

“I’m doing this for my family and my mates,” he says. “A 10% pay rise isn’t worth the new casual roster system – family time is more important than a pay rise.

“The company says we earn $91k a year – I‘ve never earned that in the 14 years I’ve been here. I get around $64k but I have to work 24 hours overtime and that costs my family.”

Destiny says Jermaine doesn’t see his kids because he leaves for work at 5:30am and gets back at 11:30pm.

“Being a young family is hard enough, but with his hours it feels like I’m a solo mum,” she says. “If the company gets what it wants I’ll have to put my kids in day care and get a job. The thing is that the job would probably only just cover day care costs and I’d have to find a job that worked around casual hours.”

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Brandon Cherrington

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FAMILY PICKET: Brandon Cherrington and his 1 1/2 year old daughter. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Brandon Cherrington, 38, has worked at the Ports of Auckland for 1½ years. He is a permanent part-timer and is only guaranteed 24 hours a week. Brandon has a 1½ year old daughter.

“This strike is all about our families,” he says. “We are here supporting the boys to keep and improve our conditions. With the company’s [proposed] new flexibility, they want us to be on call and I won’t be able to plan activities with my daughter anymore.”

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Shaun Osbourne

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JOB SECURITY: Casual worker Shaun Osbourne on the picket line. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Shaun Osbourne works at the Ports of Auckland. Because he is a casual employee, he hasn’t had a single guaranteed hour in the eight years he has worked there.

“My shifts are allocated the day before I go to work,’ he says. “I could get anywhere between eight and 48 hours a week which could be in the morning, afternoon or graveyard or a combination of the shifts. I won’t be crossing over. We’ve got to make sure permanent workers don’t end up like us casuals.”

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Wayne Wolfe

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FACTS: Wayne Wolfe has done his research. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Wayne Wolfe, 58, works as a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland. He has worked on the ports for 35 years. Wayne has three adult children and two grandchildren, including a two-week old baby. Wayne is an executive member of Local 13 of the Maritime Union.

“Many of these young fellas are casuals and have had busted up marriages because of their casualised hours,” he says. “When I first joined, conditions were brilliant and I am doing my best to leave it that way.”

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Ron Bell

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PICKET: Local 13 member Ron Bell (53). Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Ron Bell, 53, is a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland. He will have worked on the waterfront for 31 years this coming April and has been union since he was 17. He has four daughters Jac (20), Katherine (18) and twins Samantha and Amanda (15). He is an executive member of Local 13 of the Maritime Union.

“I just want our guys to keep their jobs on decent hours and not get shat on waiting by the phone 24 hours a day,” he says. “People before us made our conditions what they are today and they should stay that way.”

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Ken Ziegler

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STAUNCH: Ken Ziegler standing tall. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Ken Ziegler, 49, has worked as a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland for 12 years. Ken is the main provider for his son Carlos (10). He is an executive member of Local 13 of the Maritime Union.

“It’s really simple,” he says. “The company is trying to casualise the entire workforce to keep labour costs down.”

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Napo Kuru

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SOLIDARITY: Casual Napo Kuru stands with permanent workers. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Napo Kuru, 27, has worked as a casual lasher at the Ports of Auckland for four years.

“I’m on $16 an hour as a casual and can get anywhere between 16 and 30 hours a week,” he says. “We have the same fight as the permanent boys. They want everyone to be cheap which will drive down everyone’s pay.”

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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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Additional photos

Simon Oosterman

Related blog items

At gunpoint, maybe?

Harbour battles & casual fear

Support workers & their families

Facebook: Support Ports of Auckland Workers

The Standard:  Meet the wharfies and their families

Facebook: Maritime Union of New Zealand

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That was Then, this is Now #1

20 August 2011 5 comments

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