Archive | December, 2012

Matt McCarten: The MPs who could and should have done better

30 Dec

By Matt McCarten Email Matt
5:30 AM Sunday Dec 30, 2012 John Key seemed to develop a political Alzheimer's when questions about tricky issues were put to him. Photo / NZ Herald
John Key seemed to develop a political Alzheimer’s when questions about tricky issues were put to him. Photo / NZ Herald

For these 10 prominent politicians, I believe events this year seal their fates. For all practical purposes their careers are over.

10. Tariana Turia: On her way out. Presiding over the imminent death of her Maori Party. Trying to force out her co-leader was clumsy. Was the deal she got with National over the foreshore and seabeds any different from what she was offered by Labour? Does anyone remember or care?

9. Brendan Horan: Political career stillborn. He didn’t understand rumours of him spending a little old lady’s money was a bottom line for Winston Peters. After all, little old ladies are NZ First’s core constituency.

8. Maryan Street: Hasn’t landed a single blow on her opposite number. The only time she got a mention was on her private member’s bill on euthanasia. I would have thought killing a patient wasn’t the best way to make your name as health spokesperson. She’s lucky Labour has a shortage of experienced women.

7. Nanaia Mahuta: Pretended to be a serious contender for the deputy leadership. Got education job instead and was never heard of again. Chris Hipkins now does all the lifting for Labour in education. Other employees get sacked for stealing their wages. So should she.

6. Tau Henare: Humiliatingly hawking himself for the Speaker’s job to his political enemies because his own party wouldn’t support him. When you started life as a working class hero and morph into someone who publicly offered to sweep the floor for Don Brash, there’s nothing else to say. Referred to these days as Uncle Tau. Sad and embarrassing.

5. John Banks: The guy from Struggle Street who spent a lifetime building a solid public reputation. Now the so-called Act leader is a pariah. There are things worse than death. Being a sniggering political joke comes close. Tragic and pathetic.

4. Pita Sharples: Being publicly shafted by his co-leader and his overly cosy relationship with the National leader makes his future bleak. It’s true that nice guys come last. His friends should beg him to retire with dignity.

3. David Cunliffe: This guy went from Helen Clark’s less-than-secret choice for leader to where even his closest allies pretend they don’t know him. Everyone says he’s smart. So why was he so easily out-manoeuvred and dispatched to the backbench without any internal backlash? The public have rewarded his leader and party by boosting both in the polls since. Disconnected from reality?

2. Hekia Parata: Just a train wreck. Spin will get you in the door but hard work and talent keeps you there. Everything she touches turns to shite. It’s her arrogance and lack of self-awareness that give her supreme confidence. Even the Prime Minister, master salesman himself, must see an incompetent bungler who will bring the whole party down around her. Cut her quick.

1. John Key: This year has finished him. His evasiveness over Kim Dotcom, his shonkiness over the SkyCity casino deal to give more pokies for a convention centre, his weakness managing his ministers and his forgetfulness on details of his job is starting to form real doubts that he’s on top of his job. We like nice guys but we expect them to know what they’re doing. This is the year he became a two-term prime minister.

By Matt McCarten Email Matt

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CTU: We could do much better

21 Dec

2012 was a hard year for many people. It didn’t need to be so hard. Bill Rosenberg, CTU Economist said “yes, we live in difficult times, but government policies should be judged by how it dealt with those difficulties, not by the lazy criterion: “we muddled through”.

In 2012 –

· We saw income inequality reach its highest ever in New Zealand despite increasing international evidence that it drives many economic and social problems. The Ministry of Social Development also showed that in 2011 two-thirds of households had falling incomes. Median weekly incomes in 2012 had their smallest increase since 1999.

· Levels of poverty among children continued at levels described by experts as “unacceptable” when our aging population makes it more important than ever that we should be helping all our children make full use of their abilities for their own and society’s wellbeing.


Queue at a Salvation Army foodbank before Xmas

· A just released report from the Tertiary Education Commission[1] showed that student numbers fell by an astonishing 11% in 2011 at a time when we should be increasing skills and encouraging people into education and training.

· Unemployment reached a high of 7.3 percent not seen since 1999, deteriorating from 3rd lowest in the OECD in 2006 to 15th lowest, with many more jobless or seeking more work, despite New Zealand escaping the bank failures that hit other countries. It is now not far below the falling 7.7 percent rate in the US – the heart of the bank failures.

· The economy continued to stagnate, with little sign of rebalancing away from reliance on property investment and low value commodity exports towards productive high-wage high-value industry and exports.

It doesn’t need to be like this. The Government could be

· Moving from employment relations which see workers and good pay, job security and working conditions as costs to be reduced, to treating workers as valuable assets and encourages collective bargaining, skill creation, and cooperation between unions and employers to increase productivity as a way forward – as it is in the highly successful Nordic societies. It should be scrapping its proposals to further reduce work protections and union rights.

· Taking its focus off an unrealistic budget surplus target to job creation, raising benefit levels to take children out of poverty, encouraging more people into tertiary education including industry training, building more good quality low cost houses and increasing the quality of private rental housing, providing food in schools, and taxing high incomes and capital gains (excluding the primary home) to bring in more revenue and reverse growing gaps between rich and poor.

· Greatly expanding programmes to assist people who are jobless through community job schemes, more help in retraining, matching skills to jobs, and relocation assistance.

· Assisting manufacturing and other local employers through government procurement, expanded support and funding for research and development, export marketing, and venture capital to create good jobs.

· Intervening to manage the exchange rate to make exporting more profitable and less risky.

Bill Rosenberg said “unfortunately, instead we are likely to see damaging asset sales, further attacks on working conditions, unions, and beneficiaries, and industry policies which look more like a repeat of the failed policies of the 1990s than learning the lessons of those policies and the global financial crisis. But with the right policies, New Zealand could do better.”

ENDS

[1] 2011 Tertiary Education Performance Report, Tertiary Education Commission, 20 December 2012, p.24. Available at http://www.tec.govt.nz/Documents/Reports%20and%20other%20documents/TEC-Tertiary-Education-Performance-Report-2011.pdf

For further information contact:

Bill Rosenberg, Economist, CTU

04 802 3815 / 021 637 991

CTU: Season’s Greetings and leave entitlement

21 Dec

21 December 2012

The CTU wishes everyone a safe and happy summer holiday, and wants to remind workers of their rights during the holiday season.

Peter Conway, CTU Secretary, said “the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for some businesses, and many people will be working over the holiday period, especially in the retail, hospitality and tourism industries. Essential industries will also be busy. Employers need to ensure that all workers are treated fairly.”

Peter Conway said “more and more people are working less and less structured hours – this increase in insecure work, combined with the added pressure of families needing to earn extra cash, means that people can often find themselves working over the holiday period and wondering what their rights are.”

This includes wages, health and safety, but also leave entitlements.

“If you work on a public holiday – this year that is Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th December, Tuesday 1st and Wednesday 2nd January, then you are entitled to a paid day off, if you would usually work these days.”

“If you are at work on these days then you must be paid for hours worked at a rate of at least one and half times your normal pay rate and, if you normally work on that day, get another paid day off at a later date.”

Peter Conway says “people should look at what is in their employment agreement – it may have in it whether you have to work and what you should be paid. You cannot be made to work a public holiday, unless your agreement says so.”

Peter Conway said each year there are questions about whether a holiday is on a day that you would usually work. “For most workers this is obvious, but in some cases where there might be changing shift patterns and days of work, it is less clear.”

Employers can, and often do close down over the Christmas- New Year period. They can only do this once every 12 months, but they can require employees to take annual leave to cover the time. The employer must give workers at least 14 days’ notice if they intend to have a close down period.

Unions will be able to assist with queries as will the Labour Department.

Peter Conway said that the best protection for all workers is to join a union, be covered by a negotiated collective employment agreement, and speak up over any workplace issues.

ENDS

For further infomation call Unite 0800 286 483

Or see http://www.dol.govt.nz/er/holidaysandleave/publicholidays/index.asp for further information.

Union News 14/12/12

14 Dec

WORKRIGHTS NZ

Five arrested in migrant labour exploitation probe http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/five-arrested-in-migrant-labour-exploitation-probe-5264340/video

Forestry bosses have blood on their hands http://iso.org.nz/2012/12/10/forestry-bosses-have-blood-on-their-hands/

Being fired for union membership is disgraceful http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00128/being-fired-for-union-membership-is-disgraceful.htm

Streamlined wage scrutiny makes smaller pay rise likely http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10852254

Insecurity picket on TV1 (at 5m 15s) http://tvnz.co.nz/one-news/2012-12-05-video-5263949

Regulate Security Firms – Union http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2540571/regulate-security-firms-union

Govt Cannot Absolve Themselves Of Hillside Responsibilty http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00068/govt-cannot-absolve-themselves-of-hillside-responsibilty.htm

Home carers launch case for travel pay http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/home-carers-launch-case-travel-pay-5235787

Worker clocks up 160km to go to jobs http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/8006085/Worker-clocks-up-160km-to-go-to-jobs

Campaign against youth minimum wage launched http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10850452

Carter Holt Harvey job losses averted http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00098/carter-holt-harvey-job-losses-averted.htm

MPs told starting-out wage repugnant to justice http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/122737/mps-told-starting-out-wage-repugnant-to-justice

Raw Audio: Tour Guide Fired Over Hobbit Incident, Union Membership http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1212/S00063/raw-audio-tour-guide-fired-over-hobbit-incident-union-post.htm

Kill the Hobbit Subsidies to Save Regular Earth http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-04/kill-the-hobbit-subsidies-to-save-regular-earth.html

The Hobbit – tainted love by Helen Kelly Trades Union Council President http://robin.hosts.net.nz/~admin219/helen-kellys-column-3/#more-24647

Govt ignored SME worker warnings http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/small-business/8019152/Govt-ignored-SME-worker-warnings

Court backs worker on Kiwisaver http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/8030688/Court-backs-workers-on-KiwiSaver

Company fined $50k after teenage worker crushed http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10852548

NUPE: Fishery Officers Undervalued http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00192/fishery-officers-undervalued.htm

Immigration New Zealand Shatters Migrants’ Holidays & Future http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00190/immigration-new-zealand-shatters-migrants-holidays-future.htm

POVERTY & WELFARE DEBATE

Report on child poverty a breakthrough for kiwi children http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00159/report-on-child-poverty-a-breakthrough-for-kiwi-children.htm

Raising family income key to addressing child poverty http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1212/S00164/raising-family-income-key-to-addressing-child-poverty.htm

More investment needed to reduce cost of child poverty http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00156/more-investment-needed-to-reduce-cost-of-child-poverty.htm

EAG Report Highlights Lack of Access to Financial Assistance http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00157/eag-report-highlights-lack-of-access-to-financial-assistance.htm

Downturn making kids sick, Govt urged to act now http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10853044

Bare Your Soles for Child Poverty http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00077/bare-your-soles-for-child-poverty.htm

Beneficiary Impact – Come get what is rightfully yours http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00133/beneficiary-impact-come-get-what-is-rightfully-yours.htm

So many sick Maori and Pacific children – Government must http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00129/so-many-sick-maori-and-pacific-children-government-must.htm

HRC: Call for national plan to end child poverty http://www.hrc.co.nz/2012/call-for-national-plan-to-end-child-poverty

Feed the Kids http://mana.net.nz/2012/12/feed-the-kids/

Poverty Watch 15 http://thestandard.org.nz/poverty-watch-15/

Beneficiary Impact sees ‘shocking need for food grants’ http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/beneficiary-impact-sees-shocking-need-food-grants/5/143033

NZ ECONOMY

New Zealand’s big four banks are the developed world’s most profitable, ahead even of their Australian parents http://www.interest.co.nz/news/59937/new-zealands-big-four-banks-are-developed-worlds-most-profitable-ahead-even-their-austral

TPP PROTESTS

Unions ask the tough questions about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00187/unions-ask-the-tough-questions-about-the-tppa.htm

Comment by Mike Treen, Unite National Director at TPPA protest 8.12.12

Policeman shoves Mike Treen in the throat

Two thirds of New Zealanders wary of TPP that allows foreign investors to sue http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00188/two-thirds-wary-of-tpp-that-allows-foreign-investors-to-sue.htm

Jane Kelsey: Secret talks breed scepticism http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10853401

Protesters condemn ‘secret trade deals’ http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/8059002/Protesters-condemn-secret-trade-deals

Gordon Campbell: NZ’s embarrassing TPP overtures to the US http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1212/S00068/gordon-campbell-nzs-embarrassing-tpp-overtures-to-the-us.htm

Plea for Government to prove commitment to democracy http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00161/plea-for-government-to-prove-commitment-to-democracy.htm

Secret trade deal will affect the cost of health care in New Zealand http://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/un-doctored/2012/december-2012/10/secret-trade-deal-will-affect-the-cost-of-health-care-in-new-zealand.aspx

Mana: TPPA Negotiations = Giving Away our Sovereignty for Pie in the Sky http://mana.net.nz/2012/12/tppa-negotiations-giving-away-our-sovereignty-for-pie-in-the-sky/

Citizen A TPP Special with Martyn Bomber Bradbury, Mike Dolan from Teamsters & Professor Jane Kelsey http://livenews.co.nz/2012/12/citizen-a-tpp-special-with-martyn-bomber-bradbury-mike-dolan-from-teamsters-professor-jane-kelsey/

Al Jazeera backgrounds TPPA – potential ‘corporate coup d’etat’ http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/pacific-media-watch/global-al-jazeera-backgrounds-tppa-potential-corporate-coup-detat-8171-0

Police presence high http://www.3news.co.nz/Police-presence-high-at-Auckland-Trans-Pacific-Partnership-protest/tabid/423/articleID/279698/Default.aspx

http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/protesters-try-force-way-into-free-trade-talks-5273255

Policing stupid and provocative http://www.voxy.co.nz/national/policing-tpp-provocative-and-stupid/5/142910

Copyright clampdown – How we use the internet and access to music, books, and films are at risk in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, sector groups claim. Geoff Cumming hears their concerns http://www.nzherald.co.nz/technology/news/article.cfm?c_id=5&objectid=10852640

The TPP – what does it mean for science? http://sciblogs.co.nz/griffins-gadgets/2012/12/05/the-tpp-what-does-it-mean-for-science/

TPPA a threat to the environment https://climatejusticetaranaki.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/media-release-tppa-a-threat-to-the-environment/

Briar Mannering: Put NZ’s health before interests of big pharma http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10852419

TPPA Secret Deals http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=DcozSFrY-_I&NR=1

Video: NZ Police Assault Woman Protester At TPPA Protest http://livenews.co.nz/2012/12/video-nz-police-assault-woman-protester-at-ttpa-protest/

D8 TPPA Shutdown Protesters Refuse To Be Ignored http://occupysavvy.com/2012/12/08/d8-tppa-shutdown-protesters-refuse-to-be-ignored/

"Like GI in the Sunshine"- Police Thuggery at #D8 #TPPA protests. http://socialistaotearoa.blogspot.co.nz/2012/12/like-gi-in-sunshine-police-thuggery-at.html

Marama Davidson Speaks for Maori Against the TPPA

Ports Of Auckland Fined $40,000 For Illegal Actions Against Its Workforce

13 Dec

Ports Of Auckland Fined $40,000 For Illegal Actions

Maritime Union of New Zealand media release Thursday 13 December 2012

The Employment Relations Authority has fined the Ports of Auckland $40,000 for illegally employing strike breaking contractors during industrial action at the Port earlier this year.

Ports of Auckland Limited (POAL) broke the law when they employed an overseas engineer at the cost of $10,000 a week to undertake the work of MUNZ members.

In addition, local contractors were illegally used to carry out engineering work at the Port.

At the time when the multiple breaches of the Employment Relations Act took place in February and March 2012, MUNZ members were on strike and locked out in their battle to stop management contracting out their jobs.

In her decision released yesterday, Employment Relations Authority Member Anna Fitzgibbon said “It is my view that POAL was aware of s97 [editorial note: Section 97 of the Employment Relations Act regarding the Performance of duties of striking or locked out workers] but in order to keep the port operating during the strike, made calculated decisions to breach the provision.”

In deciding the breach of the Act was deliberate and serious, she imposed penalties totalling $40,000 against POAL.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National President Garry Parsloe says the ERA decision places POAL management in an untenable position.

“Instead of focussing on settling a fair collective agreement, the Port embarked on an unprincipled plan to sack their entire stevedoring workforce and replace them with contracted labour.”

He says that now in addition to all the costs of the dispute, Auckland ratepayers are continuing to pay for POAL management’s deliberately unlawful actions.

“Ultimately the costs of POAL’s actions impact on the return to the people of Auckland.”

Mr Parsloe says this week at the Auckland Council Accountability and Performance Committee, the so-called Council Controlled Organisation Auckland Council Investments Ltd (ACIL) indicated that they were not responsible for monitoring the costs of the dispute.

“Someone must hold POAL to account for the costs of this dispute. Who is responsible?”

Despite continual legal findings against them, POAL management are continuing (with the support of the Board) to try to remove employment security from port workers, including by demanding a collective agreement that removes all certainty of rostering and even the current guarantee of every third weekend off.

This dispute has gone on for too long and has cost too much, it is time for POAL to settle a fair and balanced collective agreement with us, says Mr Parsloe.

He says MUNZ members at the Port simply want to have an agreement that provides job security, not sign an agreement that allows their jobs to be contracted out.

“We need an agreement that provides increased flexibility while providing security and certainty to our members to enable them to have time with their family and to work in a safe manner. It is time for the madness to stop and for the Port to be run by a management that values its workforce. Heads must roll – deliberate illegal actions by management compel a firm response from the Board and from the Council.”

ENDS

CTU: Vital importance of minimum wage review

13 Dec

The CTU is releasing its submission to the Minimum Wage Review.

CTU Economist Bill Rosenberg says “we are calling for an immediate increase to $15 an hour for the minimum wage, and for an increase to $18.44 in April 2014. The figure of $18.44 represents 66 per cent of the average wage, which we argue should be the level at which to benchmark the minimum wage.”

“The minimum wage review is of vital importance as it is an opportunity to address the problem of low pay and its effects on poverty”.

Bill Rosenberg said that the comprehensive CTU submission addresses major questions such as research on the effects of minimum wage increases on employment, the gender pay gap, and widening income inequality.

“The CTU is also concerned that minimum wage review is usually a broad and inclusive process with submissions coming in from a wide range on perspectives. This year the Government has cut back consultation to just CTU and Business NZ, and we were only given one week to prepare our submission.”

The CTU submission on the minimum wage review can be found here.

ENDS

For further information contact:
Bill Rosenberg, Economist, CTU
04 802 3815 / 021 637 991

Georgina McLeod, Communications and Campaigns Advisor,
027 501 6880 / 04 802 3817

Matt McCarten: Lax legislation extends far beyond Pike River mine

12 Dec

There should be a commitment not to allow disasters like Pike River to happen again. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

By Matt McCarten December 9, 2012

Prime minister John Key sent a letter on Thursday to families of the Pike River Mine apologising for the deaths of their loved ones.

His letter admitted that the lack of Government safety regulations, that allowed greedy owners to cut corners to make money, caused the deaths.

Anyone who has read the findings on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the 29 workers would be hard pressed to claim it was an accident.

Based on the findings, I believe it was manslaughter – or worse.

Labour MP Andrew Little, the former head of the union to which some of the dead had belonged, was attacked when he proposed that New Zealand needed legislation where corporates that have their employees or the public maimed or killed through their gross and deliberate negligence should be liable for criminal charges.

We have a system in this country that the police tend to defer to labour inspectors when it comes to work-related deaths and injuries.

The problem is that there are few inspectors and they are out of their depth when it comes to laying blame where it lies. It seems every death or serious injury is an “accident” where an ambulance picks up the victims. Then it is left to the public hospital system and the Accident Compensation Corporation to pick up the pieces.

There’s always some other person to fill the vacancy.

I believe the owners and management of Pike River have gotten away with murder.

All the families of the miners get is the Prime Minister popping down this week to say how sorry he is and promising it won’t happen again.

But it will. Not necessarily in mining, but the same lack of regulation that caused the tragedy at Pike River is rife everywhere. That’s because this Government ideologically believes in less regulation in everything. It looks good on an election bumper sticker but it’s nonsense.

In my day job as a union official I have a bit to do with the security industry. Last year a young man, Charanpreet Dhaliwal Singh, started as a security guard. On his first night he visited a work site. Hours later he was found dead and a man is facing a murder charge.

The fact that this young man had no training, yet was sent out on his first night alone, was, in my view, appalling.

Our novice was sent out without a torch, phone or walkie-talkie. Was his employer charged? In a rare move, yes, though they have denied failing to secure his safety. The case is yet to be heard.

Our union at the time called for regulation of the security industry and a clampdown on cowboy, fly-by-night security companies. What happened? Nothing. Today, any charlatan can set up as a security firm as long as they have a cellphone, a cheap vest and a car. Most businesses are required by their insurer to have security.

The cowboys will undercut each other to get any job. They literally employ warm bodies. Very few companies have any training. If a security guard is attacked they have no back-up.

Even the established security companies have joined the race to the bottom. They tell me if they don’t compete with these cowboys they will go out of business. I’ve even heard that to save costs their staff are instructed to only go to work sites where a client checks they are there. The rest aren’t visited.

Some in the industry treat it like a racket. Security employees who raise concerns can find their hours reduced. I have a current case for a worker who raised safety breaches with her company and has now been “restructured” out of the job.

It’s not the same impact as Pike River where so many deaths occurred at once. But on a regular basis security guards are being killed or badly injured. And everyone turns a blind eye.

When we raised this matter this week, the minister responsible for this industry, Chester Burrows, professed to know nothing about the problem.

Really? If the Prime Minister is genuinely sorry about the lack of safety rules and enforcement by his officials then he can make a commitment not to allow the same thing to happen again. Otherwise his apology to the families of the Pike River miners means nothing and he’s just an empty vessel.

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