Tag Archives: EPMU

The Union Report with Rachel Mackintosh & Paul Goulter (15/10/12)

17 Oct

Issue 1: The EPMU call it a jobs crisis, Government calls it a challenge. What are the solutions?

Issue 2: National Standards are flawed and information used to judge school closures in Christchurch was wrong – is public education under attack?

Issue 3: If youth wages are the answer, what was the question?

Union News to 10/10/12

10 Oct

WORKRIGHTS NZ

 

Demolition derby: National’s approach to solving unemployment by Sue Bradford http://pundit.co.nz/content/demolition-derby-nationals-approach-to-solving-unemployment

Teens hit back over proposed youth wage http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/7794054/Teens-hit-back-over-proposed-youth-wage

Youth wage seen as sending ‘a poor message’ http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/nbnat/1055361113-youth-wage-seen-as-sending–a-poor-message-

Call for same minimum wage for all workers http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast-news/call-same-minimum-wage-all-workers-video-5124406

Dave Feickert: Dark day as coal mines shuttered http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10837523

Foot chopped off in accident at Port of Tauranga http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10839569

Indian workers keen to unite http://www.indianweekender.co.nz/Pages/ArticleDetails/7/3265/New-Zealand/Indian-workers-keen-to-unite

New Port union deal ‘inferior’ says MU http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/7775653/New-Port-union-deal-inferior-says-MU

Ports demo Teal Park Oct 5 http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151250774682889.519811.596362888&type=1

Govt’s ‘starting out’ wage rubbished http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7787031/Govts-starting-out-wage-rubbished

Lower wages no solution https://unitenews.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/lower-wages-no-solution/

So-called ‘free market’ thrives on the enslavement of others http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/opinion/227867/so-called-free-market-thrives-enslavement-others

Helen Kelly on the Health and Safety Taskforce

Union joins international campaign for decent work http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1210/S00086/union-joins-international-campaign-for-decent-work.htm

Govt needs to send clear message about migrant work abuse http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1210/S00121/govt-needs-to-send-clear-message-about-migrant-work-abuse.htm

Key’s Film Jobs Being Filled by Migrants http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1210/S00081/keys-film-jobs-being-filled-by-migrants.htm

Maritime Union laughs off rival in Auckland port dispute http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10838820

The Union Report with Syd Keepa & Laila Harre: Issue 1: How significant a step between Maoridom and the Union movement was the Tauranga hui last month? Issue 2: Solid Energy jobs on the line – what should Government do to protect them? Issue 3: How does publishing National Standards on line help parents make decisions? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM1gX89KdIs&list=UU7Jit_xt-bd0g_Z8CIneUeg

NZ probe into child labour claims http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10838723

Korean fishing firm gags crew with ‘peace’ contract http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7779794/Korean-fishing-firm-gags-crew-with-peace-contract

Tiwai workers want Govt intervention http://www.3news.co.nz/Tiwai-workers-want-Govt-intervention/tabid/421/articleID/271703/Default.aspx

Crew who fled fishing boat seek $917,000 http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/7754330/Crew-who-fled-fishing-boat-seek-917-000

POVERTY & WELFARE DEBATE

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: The politicisation of poverty http://www.nzherald.co.nz/best-of-political-analysis/news/article.cfm?c_id=1502734&objectid=10839172

Solutions sought to poverty http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/7777248/Solutions-sought-to-poverty

Protester’s plea to minister http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10839487

Hunger striker fights for kids http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/northland/northern-news/7788321/Hunger-striker-fights-for-kids

Harawira praises hunger striker http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10837346

Sam Kuha facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sam-Kuha-Campaign/466039110107129

Over 57,000 benefits sanctioned http://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/top-stories/15079608/over-57-000-benefits-sanctioned/

Nation-wide protests oppose welfare reforms http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/nation-wide-protests-oppose-welfare-reforms-5116865

Matt McCarten: No need to starve yourself, just give poor some more http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10838827

Child Poverty Special report: Searching for a way out http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10838726

Six of the best ideas for change http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10838701

Jonathan Boston: Three myths about child poverty http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10839028

National Day of Action against Welfare Reforms – Mana Party http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1210/S00107/national-day-of-action-against-welfare-reforms-mana-party.htm

Battle against beneficiary bashing http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7759711/Battle-against-beneficiary-bashing

The latest issue of the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services’ newsletter Kete Kupu is now online. Kete Kupu includes information and commentary on a wide range of social service issues and provides updates and commentary on social service policy and practice. Some of the higlights of this September 2012 issue include: Help the Children’s Commissioner do well for our kids; Liability or Citizen? Welfare Reform; Income Inequality Reaches News Heights; Taking Action on Reducing Inequality; Poor Quality Housing is making our children & older people sick; Watch Out For Burnout; Quality of Care in Rest Homes http://www.nzccss.org.nz/uploads/publications/KeteKupu%2024%20%28web%29.pdf

Govt signals it will feed hungry kids http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10838730

Homeless problem demands attention http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7779779/Homeless-problem-demands-attention

Business eye on poverty report http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10838658

1400 Kiwis try poverty for a week http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10837292

NZ ECONOMY

EPMU call urgent meeting to tackle job crisis http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10839181

Kim Hill interviews journalist Max Rashbrooke on his upcoming book about the increasing divide between rich and poor in New Zealand – listen to: Max Rashbrooke – social inequality and boarding houses. http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/sat/sat-20121006-0940-max_rashbrooke_-_social_inequality_and_boarding_houses-048.mp3

Income survey shows stagnant incomes for most New Zealand families http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1210/S00052/income-survey-shows-stagnant-incomes-for-most-nz-families.htm

Jane Kelsey: Hollywood lays down its own law http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10839218

CTU: New ideas to manage the exchange rate welcomed http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1210/S00077/new-ideas-to-manage-the-exchange-rate-welcomed.htm

TPPWatch Action Bulletin #18 – 29 September 2012 http://www.nznotforsale.org/2012/10/01/tppwatch-action-bulletin-18-29-september-2012/

Aus banks making more money from Kiwis – Greens http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/7773762/Aus-banks-making-more-money-from-Kiwis-Greens

So-called ‘free market’ thrives on the enslavement of others http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/opinion/227867/so-called-free-market-thrives-enslavement-others

The case for Financial Transaction Taxes in NZ: A FACT SHEET http://www.keepandshare.com/doc/3084113/the-case-for-financial-transaction-taxes-in-nz-pdf-august-18-2011-5-28-pm-454k?da=y

New Zealand Labour Letter (October 2012)

9 Oct

This is an abridged version of an online newsletter published as a service to the labour movement by AIL of New Zealand Ltd. Letter at www.ailnews.com

National Labour News

NZ labour unions fear more workers will be laid off after more than 500 jobs were cut in the latest round of layoffs. Recent job cuts announced at state coal firm Solid Energy will reduce its staff by 25 per cent to 1360 from 1899 at the beginning of 2012. Government-owned KiwiRail, meanwhile, began consultation after confirming that 158 jobs will be eliminated from its infrastructure and engineering division around the country. The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) led a march on parliament last month to protest the closing of Solid Energy’s Spring Creek and Huntly East operations and to plead for a $36 million one-off payout to keep the mines open. The EPMU also told the news media that paper maker Norske Skog is expected to announce soon120 job cuts. In other recently publicised cuts, Rio Tinto’s Tiwai Point smelter will eliminate 100 jobs by November, and North Island Mussel Processors 220 fulltime and seasonal staff.

More than 400 primary school teachers from across the country attended New Zealand Educational Institute’s (NZEI) annual conference in Rotorua October 1-4, where they expressed their displeasure over the government’s proposed education standards. Minister of Education Hekia Parata defended the policy changes on national standards, charter schools and league tables but faced heated questions from teachers. NZEI president Ian Leckie said it was unlikely that teachers will favourably accept the new policies. “We’ve got some very different views about what is going to make the biggest difference in New Zealand education,” he said. International experts who spoke at the conference criticised the imposition of national standards, saying they do not work. Pasi Sahlberg from Finland’s Ministry of Education said none of the countries with top performing educational systems have policies in place which the government is proposing. He said Finland got to the top of the rankings doing the opposite of what is now happening in New Zealand.

Maori union members and iwi leaders endorsed a call to halt national asset sales and to negotiate water rights. Council of Trade Union Maori Vice President Syd Keepa reported that more than 200 iwi leaders and CTU Maori members attended a one-day assembly (hui) at Baypark on Tuesday, September 18, where they “resolved to both strengthen the relationship between unions and iwi to progress the rights of workers.” Syd said Maori workers and their unions called for the Government to stop assets sales and for iwi to work together to define and negotiate Maori proprietary rights and interests over water. “They strongly urged iwi not to enter into negotiations with the crown until proprietary rights and interests were addressed. This is consistent with the ‘common interest’ recognition dominating the mood of the occasion”, he said. He called the hui “historic” and it also recognised the role iwi leaders in the settlement of the recent dispute at AFFCO.

NZ labour unions welcomed the release of the Health and Safety Taskforce’s Issues Paper last month. The Government in April authorised creation of the taskforce to undertake a review of the nation’s workplace safety and health conditions. The Issues Paper identified areas of policy that require change in order to improve the country’s workplaces. “It’s a disgrace that on average 100 people per year are killed at work. If there is something all New Zealanders would agree on it is that every worker who leaves home at the start of their working day should return home safe and healthy. This is a fundamental starting point”, said Council of Trade Union President Helen Kelly. The CTU urged New Zealand families to contact the Taskforce with their ideas and experiences. “We have five times the rate of workplace injury in NZ than that of the UK. Over 6,000 New Zealanders make notifications about serious harm in their workplace each year. The issues paper asks why this might be and what is needed to stop this including considering the role of government, employers, unions and workers as well as the adequacy of the legislation,” she said.

CTU President helen Kelly

National, Economic & Political Events

Technicians and trade workers in the 20-29 age bracket are leaving the country for Australia in record numbers, creating a New Zealand “trade drain,” charged NZ Labour’s deputy leader and education spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The government’s lack of investment in apprenticeships or other skills training programmes is exposing the gap being left in the economy. Along with the absence of a coherent economic plan, it’s a fatal combination”, he said. In the 12 months prior to June, a record 53,763 people left New Zealand for Australia for better paying jobs. Professionals made up 11 per cent and the number of technicians and trade workers nine per cent. But technicians and trade workers 20-29 years old accounted for the greatest numbers, 14.4 per cent of the total. “This is a disaster”, said Robertson. “New Zealand is on the way to a skills crisis.”

New Zealand workers really just want to have fun on the job, at least according to a survey conducted by HR consultancy Clarian Human Resources and Massey University. The survey found that “having fun at work” is the most important thing for job satisfaction among New Zealanders. Fifty per cent of the workers in a survey of 612 people listed “fun” as their top priority with pay seen as the second-highest priority. Employers thought pay was the second-lowest factor, while 71 per cent of employers said their product and brand reputation was the most important factor in attracting quality employees. “We’re seeing uncertainty in the economy, business strategies and operational tactics, and in employees’ states of mind relating to their choices for the future”, said Clare Parkes, managing director of Clarian. “While organisations have heavily invested in ‘right-sizing’ their headcount to accommodate the changing market forces, this leaves employees lacking clarity on what their future options are since the concept of career is no longer available to them in the traditional linear manner.”

International Labour

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, (PSAC) held a National Day of Action Sept.16 with rallies and events across the nation to raise public awareness of the cuts to public services proposed by the Conservative government. “Canadians from all walks of life are feeling the impact of federal cuts: we’ll be sharing their stories and protesting these cuts,” the union said in a statement. The Conservatives recently announced that about 19,200 federal jobs will be cut in the public service sector over three years as part of their austerity measures. The PSAC said that thousands of jobs could be lost and services drastically reduced. In St. John’s, Newfoundland, for example, a rally and march started at the Murray Premises. In Toronto, union activists held “The People’s Court,” which placed the austerity agenda and political leaders “on trial” for sweeping budget cuts.

America’s unions flexed their political muscle during the campaign season augmenting labor’s vaunted ground campaign with social media through new technology and expanding their volunteer base with groups once considered outside society’s mainstream. The AFL-CIO introduced new on-line technology called “Repurpose” which allows volunteers to earn points for their activism which can be “redeemed” to trigger spending by the labor’s Super PAC, called “Workers Voice.” Meanwhile, Pride@Work, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender affiliate of the AFL-CIO, themed their annual conference in September “Boots on the Ground” to emphasize their commitment to engage in the 2012 elections. The U.S. election is scheduled for November 6, although early voting in several states has already begun.

The Tunisian Industry, Trade and Handicrafts Union (UTICA) “firmly” condemned acts of violence perpetrated against the U.S. diplomatic mission to Tunisia last month after hundreds of protestors attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and stormed the grounds September 14. Violent clashes between the security forces and the mob resulted in four deaths and 50 persons wounded. “These acts of violence perpetrated against public and private properties and foreign residents in Tunisia are unacceptable and will harm Tunisia’s image,” said UTICA in a statement. “The Union advocates the freedom of expression and respects peaceful protest staged under the law, but condemns all form of violence as a means of protest,” UTICA asserted. The union also denounced the attack on Islam and Prophet Muhammad following the release on-line of trailers of the anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims.”

Tens of thousands of workers, young people, unemployed and retirees took part in demonstrations last month in major cities of Portugal and Spain in response to severe austerity policies. Dock workers also staged strikes in Portugal, where the biggest protests took place. They oppose changes in work rules that threaten jobs. The Portuguese economy was projected to shrink by 3 per cent this year and the official jobless rate is nearly 16 per cent. In Madrid, protesters marched on the parliament building chanting “Fire them, fire them,” in reference to Spain’s right-wing government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. But police sealed off access to the building. Rajoy’s government recently presented a 2013 austerity budget that will cut overall spending by €40 billion, freeze public employees’ salaries and reduce unemployment benefits.

Huge protest against austerity in Portugal

In another embarrassment for Apple, Foxconn, maker of iPhones and iPads, shut down production at a factory in China’s northern city of Taiyuan September 24 after a riot by some 2,000 employees at a dormitory injured 40 people. The facility employes 79,000 people. International labour groups pointed to the riot as yet another symptom of employee mistreatment at Foxconn. News reports said the riot first started as a “personal dispute” between a few security guards and workers that quickly escalated. Cars and store front windows were smashed during the melee. Interviewed workers alleged Foxconn’s security guards are often domineering and aggressive toward assembly-line workers. The Taiwanese-owned company is one of Chinas largest employers, with some 1.2 million workers in factories in Taiyuan, the southern city of Shenzhen, in Chengdu in the west and in Zhengzhou in central China. Unrest has occurred at other plants where workers complain of low pay and poor conditions.

Regional and Local Union News

NZ Bus, the Tramways Union and First Union reached a settlement for a new collective agreement at a “last ditch meeting” September 21, which averted industrial action that could have stranded 130,000 Auckland commuters and 10,000 school children. The agreement was announced in a joint statement by all parties. Drivers for NZ Bus, which operates lines including Metrolink, Go West, Waka Pacific, Northstar and the inner-city Link routes, including school bus services, were planning to strike every Monday for eight weeks over a pay dispute and recent contract and rostering changes. The first job action was planned for Monday, Sept. 24. “We welcome this development and are pleased that the buses will be on the road to carry the travelling public this Monday” said Gary Froggatt from Tramways Union. “Today’s meeting was positive, and we can see a way forward with some unity between the bus unions and the CTU, and NZ Bus,” said Karl Andersen from First Union.

Temporary employees who may not be up to speed with operational procedures create unsafe and stressful conditions for wharf workers at the Port of Tauranga, the NZ Maritime Union charged recently. “You’ve got to train them up and it’s really difficult,” Mount Maunganui Tauranga branch secretary Selwyn Russell said. “The sheer workload already contributes to high dangers … and then you’ve got casuals running around on the floors who do not know the standard operating practices.” Russell cited the death of a contract worker in August last year as an example of the dangers of working at the Port. He explained that the permanent staff already faced heavy workload pressures. Working with temporary employees with limited knowledge of the standard operating practices raised the stress and danger levels. “Worrying about whether the person next to them knows what they’re doing … is not helping”, he said.

The Union Report with EPMUs Rachel Mackintosh and Unites Matt McCarten (10/9/12)

11 Sep

Issue 1: From Tiwai Point to Spring Creek mines – how many more redundancies can communities take?

Issue 2: What does the BurgerKing dispute tell us about the real state of workers rights in NZ?

Issue 3: How do we tackle the overvalued NZ dollar that is hurting so many manufacturers and exporters?

Matt McCarten: Fine plan emerges amid aura of poised confidence

24 Jul

Green’s Russel Norman (left) and Labour’s David Shearer. Photo / Doug Sherring

By Matt McCarten,
Herald On Sunday July 22, 2012

This week the Labour Party finally got its act together and made public their long-awaited constitutional review.

We’ve had six MMP elections in this country. In every one Labour ran a first-past-the-post electorate-based campaign.

They pour their resources into incumbent MP seats at the expense of regional “get the party vote” campaigns.

Last election they had more local electorate candidate hoardings than party vote messages. Voters wouldn’t have known who the Labour Party leader was, let alone why they should flick him their party vote. No wonder the Greens got whopping party votes in strong Labour strongholds.

The spin was that Labour’s vote collapsed and went to smiley John Key. Any proper election analysis shows that isn’t true. Hundreds of thousands of Labour’s voters just stayed home. To win next time Labour doesn’t need to claw votes back off National. All they need is to get their working class base to believe it’s worth trundling down to the voting booth.

For that to happen nothing but a complete overhaul was required post-election. Despite his inexperience, David Shearer was the only choice. David Cunliffe was a better performer, but Labour had to break with the past and bring in a completely new face.

The election of Shearer signalled the party was prepared to do what was necessary. How far the review then went would be the next indication of the level of seriousness Labour was showing to right the ship.

I am amazed at the thoroughness of Labour’s review. Their working party has done a great job.

Assuming the recommendations pass at their conference, the Labour Party has the tools to become a formidable machine.

I spent 15 years as a fulltime political party boss and have, with a few others, managed more national and local campaigns – not all successfully – than I prefer to remember. What I learned is that if your opponent is vulnerable, then having enthusiastic volunteers well organised and directed wins every time.

Labour’s review got it right on what matters.

Leadership: Caucus coup speculation, which is very disabling, ends. The caucus can’t roll a leader by ambush. No challenger will ever reach the new 70 per cent threshold to roll a leader. Contenders get a shot after each election. If a leader wins government they get to rule without being undermined. If they lose they go.

Having the branches equalling the caucus by having 40 per cent of the vote gives the activists ownership. The affiliates get 20 per cent. Because every vote is preferential, no parliamentarian, union or faction boss can control the vote. Deals between factions can’t be delivered under this form of voting.

Policy: The party sets the vision and policy framework. Caucus must implement it, allowing for coalition practicalities. But meaningless remit-making is gone. A vision is set and everyone gets on with it.

Party organisation: The branch and electorate monthly meetings go quarterly. Everyone hates going to them anyway – except for losers without a life. All the action moves to newly-created regional organising hubs. Campaigns and actions are the norm. Winning party votes and Maori seats will be the focus.

Membership: Make a donation and you’re in. Groups, not just unions, can affiliate. More money, more activists.

Candidate selection: The old process was a joke. Faction bosses do deals. Talent is traded for loyalty. The huge unwieldy “moderating committee” is going. The ruling council takes over. Their new directive is: Don’t do tacky compromises, get the best candidate.

On the day this review came out I dropped into the conference of Andrew Little’s old union, the EPMU. I went to listen to the Greens’ Russel Norman and the new Labour leader.

I must have spoken to close to 30 Labour-aligned activists. They all enthusiastically supported the review’s recommendations. Their confidence must have rubbed off because both Shearer and Norman performed the best I’ve ever seen them. You could feel the chemistry and the poised confidence.

Everyone in the room felt they were in the presence of the next leaders of a new government-in-waiting.

This week’s report will give them the machine to make it happen.

By Matt McCarten Email Matt McCarten

NZ Labour Letter (July 2012)

4 Jul

This is an abridged version of an online newsletter published as a service to Labour by AIL of New Zealand Ltd. Letter at www.ailnews.com

NATIONAL LABOUR NEWS

The NZ Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union warned the Government that more good jobs will disappear unless a new jobs strategy is put into place. The recent closure of the high-end manufacturing firm Flotech, which will result in more than 70 redundancies at Flotech’s Manukau plant, follows similar mass redundancies at Summit Wool Spinners in Oamaru and Norman Ellison Carpets in Onehunga. “This is the third major factory closure in as many weeks. It’s time the government realised that its hands-off approach isn’t working,” said EPMU assistant director of organising Strachan Crang. He said the government needs to support manufacturing if it’s serious about protecting well paid, highly skilled jobs. “Unless the government is willing to step up with a plan to help manufacturing firms through the downturn, we’re just going to see more good jobs like these disappear,” he warned. EPMU said that all members affected by the job losses will receive a redundancy package as part of their collective agreement.

First Union (Finance, Industrial, Retail, Stores and Transport) transport and logistics secretary Karl Andersen called for law changes to stop unsafe practises by truck drivers on New Zealand’s roads. The union charged that some truck drivers are engaging in unsafe practices such as taking shortcuts and using stimulants. Andersen said owner drivers are under “immense pressure” to make a living, many were tied into contracts their boss could change at will and demands could not be met without compromising the safety of themselves and other road users. “This leads to drivers taking shortcuts, running bald tyres, breaking driver regulations and, in some cases, using stimulants to get through,” he said. “Drivers work very long hours and face significant disruption to their family time. They shouldn’t also have to work in an unsafe environment and put themselves and others at risk.” According to Ministry of Transport national figures, 57 people died and 871 were injured in road crashes that involved trucks in 2010, 15 per cent of the total road toll even though trucks made up only about 6 per cent of the road traffic.

Teachers’ unions urged schools to refuse to release national standards data to the media to prevent the information from being unfairly reported. Union leaders said schools should not individually give results to the news media and should instead refer any requests for the information to the Education Ministry. The ministry declined a request for data from the Dominion Post, but acting senior manager Dennis Cribb said individual schools could be approached. “We are entering a new era of ‘naming and shaming’ schools in order to sell newspapers and even worse, the publication of league tables will be unfair and based on faulty, misleading and valueless misinformation,” New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) president Ian Leckie said. In an “urgent” advisory, NZ Principals’ Federation president Paul Drummond also suggested schools should “consider reporting in general terms” to prevent misinterpretation of the data.

REGIONAL AND LOCAL UNION NEWS

The NZ Maritime Union supported heavy criticism of New Zealand in a U.S. Government report on the NZ fishing industry’s use of overseas labour. The U.S. State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report 2012”, released in June, identified areas “of strong concern for human trafficking in New Zealand” including the use of overseas labour in the fishing industry. The union said the criticism was “justified.” “This report confirms and vindicates the stance of the Maritime Union that the deregulated industry and exploitation of overseas labour has been a stain on New Zealand’s reputation. The Maritime Union has been pushing for action on this issue for a decade,” said Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood. The report charged New Zealand was a destination for foreign workers, who are subjected to forced labour and other abuses on fishing boats and in the agricultural sector.

Workers at Solid Energy’s Huntly East underground coal mine demanded the company agree to Australian mine safety regulations, including worker-elected check inspectors. Represented by the NZ Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, the 120 workers called for called for a system of worker-elected check inspectors, which is a key part of Queensland’s mining regulations. The Queensland regulations are considered the international best practice in mine safety, the union says. “Solid Energy can’t credibly claim it supports lifting New Zealand’s sorry mine safety regulations to international standards while it refuses to allow check inspectors and lobbies against law changes to make them compulsory,” EPMU assistant national secretary Ged O’Connell said. Solid Energy, a state-owned miner, has taken over the Pike River Coal mine on the West Coast of the South Island where 29 workers died in an explosion. The company opposes a mandatory role for worker-appointed check inspectors.

The NZ Council of Trade Unions said in a statement that “action” must be taken to stem the exodus of workers to Australia. Statistics NZ recently reported that 53,400 people left permanently or long term for Australia in the year ending May 2012 which serves as “a stark reminder to employers and the Government that we need to create more decent jobs in New Zealand,” said CTU Secretary Peter Conway. “Action needed includes a lift in the minimum wage, and a lift in wages in general through improvements to collective bargaining, including the development of industry-wide agreements, and renewed efforts to lift productivity and share the benefits with workers,” he said. Conway pointed out that the steady outflow at a very high level also shows that the 2010 tax cuts which gave $2.2 billion to the top 10 per cent of income earners was not only grossly unfair but has made Australia even more attractive for many New Zealand workers.

NATIONAL, ECONOMIC & POLITICAL EVENTS

Faced with an open rebellion from teachers’ unions and the public, New Zealand’s National Party-led government in June dropped plans to increase class sizes throughout public schools. The government had proposed to increase the student-teacher ratio from 23 to 27.5 over the next ten years as a way to cap the numbers of teachers. Teachers and school communities had been joined by parents and students in bitterly denouncing the move. The cuts were part of the government’s “zero budget” in May, which froze expenditures and deepened attacks on public services. The announcement sparked an outcry from educators, parents and students. Polls showed 80 per cent opposition to any increase in class sizes. For the first time since it assumed office in 2008, the government began losing substantial poll support to Labour and the Greens. On June 7, Education Minister Hekia Parata suddenly announced that the class size increases would be rescinded.

New Zealand faces an acute shortage of skilled labour, said a recent Department of Labour report. Even though New Zealand gained 1,500 more skilled workers than it lost last year, acute shortages still exist in some trades. According to the Department of Labour, skilled jobs where shortages exist include drainlayers, fibrous plasterers, metal fabricators and crane, hoist or lift operators. More professions also are likely be added to the long-term list such as engineering and mechanical trades and truck drivers. The report explained that some deficits are an aftershock of the Christchurch quakes, others due to the brain drain. Most projected skills shortages are in jobs for the Christchurch rebuild. The projected skill shortages are likely to impact immigration policy as pressure builds to ease entry rules for foreign workers.

New Zealand government workers are the most demoralised about their jobs than at any time in a least six years, according to the April-June Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence index. The Public Sector Employment Confidence Index sank 3.8 points to 89.7, the lowest since the public sector measure was started in March 2006. Readings below 100 mean pessimists outnumber optimists. “Public sector employees are caught in an on-going process of public sector restructuring and job losses,” said Richard Miller, director of strategy planning consultancy at McDermott Miller. “Job security is shaken within their sector while opportunities outside are few and far between.” Private sector employees remained optimistic, even with a 1.1 point drop to 100.5, still the lowest reading since June 2009. Overall, the index fell to 96.2 in the April-June quarter, from 98.9 three months earlier, the fourth straight quarterly decline.

INTERNATIONAL LABOUR

Australia’s lowest paid workers will earn $15.96 an hour, effective July 1, an increase of $17.10 in their weekly pay check. About 1.4 million workers were granted an extra 2.9 per cent in their wages, following the annual wage review by Fair Work Australia. Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Dave Oliver said the award-dependent workers, who will receive the annual wage increase as the new financial year starts, includes about 100,000 on the minimum wage. “For these workers, the Fair Work Australia Annual Wage Review is their only chance of a pay rise,” he said. “Every year, unions launch an annual wage case to ensure that all workers have a decent safety net. Over the past decade, the gap between workers who are dependent on award wages and the rest of the workforce has widened dramatically, and unions will continue to advocate on their behalf so they do not fall further behind.”

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) strongly condemned raids on union offices and arrests June 25 of seventy-one trade union leaders and members who were detained by the Turkish government. According to the ITUC, the pretext of the attacks was an operation against an illegal terrorist organisation, although no links between Turkey’s trade unions and “any real or perceived” terrorist group has been found. “We cannot accept that trade unionists are detained, jailed and, most of all, baselessly accused. The Turkish government must immediately stop labelling trade unions as terrorist organisations. Trade unionists should have the right to play their legitimate role without fear of being arrested,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary. Last year, 25 members of teachers’ union Egitim Sen were sentenced to six years’ and five months’ imprisonment by the Izmir Criminal Court as “terrorists.” The only “evidence” against them included possession of books that can be found in any bookstore in Turkey, and the holding of union meetings.

Thousands of striking Argentine truckers and other union members staged a one-day strike June 27 to demand the state cut back income taxes to improve wages amid inflation which is running about 25 per cent annually. They also demanded better treatment from the executive branch. The action was called by the powerful General Labour Confederation union, which was once a close ally of President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband, former President Nestor Kirchner. “It wouldn’t cost Mrs. President anything to … talk to workers,” said union leader Hugo Moyano at the rally in Buenos Aires. He added that he hoped Fernandez would “realize that she can’t continue with this overwhelming haughtiness.” The workers gathered in front of Argentina’s presidential palace in Plaza de Mayo in an action that is seen as a challenge to Fernandez. The demonstration was the first time the labour federation, an umbrella group for numerous unions, has called a strike since Nestor Kirchner took office in 2003.

Thousands of striking Argentine truckers gather outside the presidential palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 27, 2012. The demonstration was staged to demand tax cuts. [Xinhua]

The Union Report (11/6/12) and other news

12 Jun

The Union Report online now – with commentator Laila Harre & EPMU National Secretary Bill Newson. Issue 1. The average salary for CEO’s is now $1.5million, showing the gap between the richest and lowest paid NZers is still stark. How do we grow wages & what is the role of unions? Issue 2. Australian Fairfax journalists are involved in industrial action as jobs are moved to NZ. Do unions stand in solidarity with their Australian counterparts or do they welcome jobs for their members? and Issue 3 tonight, What will the latest ERA changes mean and will the Government be more conciliatory in the wake of the education unions win over class room sizes?

Coming up…
18th June – Education special with the PPTA & NZEI
25th June – Helen Kelly from the CTU & Brenda Pilott from the PSA
2nd July – Cee Payne from NZNO & First Union
9th July – Helen Kelly & MUNZ

OTHER NEWS

First: Gap between lowest and highest paid still stark http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1206/S00089/gap-between-lowest-and-highest-paid-still-stark.htm

CTU: IMF recommendations a recipe for failure http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1206/S00100/imf-recommendations-a-recipe-for-failure.htm

Scrapheap the fear for jobless over 50s http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10812149

English eyes education, health for public sector cuts http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/6727196/English-eyes-education-health-for-public-sector-cuts

Right Back to the Future: Welfare Reform 1991-2011

Bay kids’ heartbreaking poverty http://www.bayofplentytimes.co.nz/news/bay-kids-heartbreaking-poverty/1405669/

Asset-sales law ‘being rushed’ to dodge poll http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7062894/Asset-sales-law-being-rushed-to-dodge-poll

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