Red Alert

Archive for October, 2012

Employment law changes – 6A just part of it

Posted by on October 31st, 2012

Some people seem to think the government has cleverly covered up its employment law changes with its announcement on Part 6A yesterday.

I guess I was assuming people would remember the rest of the changes on employment law were revealed way back in May this year, when a cabinet paper dropped off the back of a truck and the Minister of Labour was forced to confirm the government’s plans – that’s after saying I was making it all up first!  The changes will impact on the pay and conditions of hundreds of thousands of workers whose wages and conditions are set by union agreements – whether or not they join the union. They will contribute to the growing income inequality gap and add to our abysmal child poverty record.

They are the actions of a government that thinks that picking on the workers and unions and driving wages down is the answer to our economic woes.

Here’s a summary of the changes I did back in May.

We have yet to see legislation – but there will be strong opposition from me and Labour.

And for the record – Labour will repeal these changes – I didn’t think I needed to say it, but apparently I do.


Letter from America- All politics is local

Posted by on October 30th, 2012

As a storm of biblical proportions hits the east coast of the United States it is absorbing most of the TV time on the networks, but here in Austin, Texas where I am beginning my election observation visit, it was not the lead story on the local affiliate station I watched tonight, or last night. They led with a worrying local road toll and a dispute over helicopter flights over a suburb respectively.

That’s not to say that people in Austin don’t care about the tragic and damaging events on the esst coast, but it goes to prove the old adage that all politics is local. And that is the story of the presidential election. The electoral college system ensures that local(state) concerns matter. A small economic pick up in Ohio matters as a swing state for Obama. A factory closure in Virginia might favour Romney. Ignore the nationwide polls. They will all be close. It’s Ohio, Virginia, Florida etc and their local issues that will make the difference.

It also means that the on the ground campaign will be everything. Despite all the sophisticated targeting and data management systems both camps are saying that there is nothing that beats door knocking and direct phone calls from volunteers to motivate people to vote.

But the real “local” issue now for millions of Americans is the damage and chaos in their lives from Sandy. As I write the news is coming through that six million people are without power. Who knows how that will affect the election, with some suggesting power might not be reconnected by polling day in some places. But rightly that is not the focus for now as people deal with death and destruction. Mother nature is no respecter of the political calendar, and right now my thoughts are with those communities dealing with the carnage.

About Part 6A

Posted by on October 27th, 2012

We’ve known since May how the government plans to cut wages further when a leaked Cabinet paper forced the Minister of Labour to announce their proposals to weaken collective bargaining laws.

But since then, there’s been delay after delay, and while most of the government’s proposed employment law changes have been settled for some time now, Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act, the important provision that provides protection to vulnerable workers in situations of employer change has gone back and forth to Cabinet.  It looks like we will see the Government’s decision pretty soon ; Cabinet is due to consider the final paper, which includes Part 6A and Kate Wilkinson confirmed last week that the changes will be introduced before Xmas.

Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act was hard won and I hope won’t be lightly pushed aside by the government.

In 1999,  members of the Service and Food Workers Union began a campaign called “Contract Workers Count” out of concern for those employed by private contractors in public hospitals, commercial cleaning, catering, security and rest homes. Over the previous ten years, these low paid workers had suffered multiple changes of contractors and each time, their jobs were up for grabs and their hours and wages reduced as the competitive pressure in these industries landed on the wage costs.

Five years later, the Labour government passed Part 6A into law which enables “vulnerable employees” to follow their work if it is transferred to a new employer, (where the business is sold or their employer loses a contract to another employer). The affected workers in this situation can elect to transfer their employment to the new employer, taking their current terms and conditions, service and accrued entitlements with them.

Undoubtedly, there’s been some disputes over part 6A, but the Courts have sorted that out – although obviously not to the satisfaction of some companies, who would rather see the return to the dog eat dog approach of competitive tendering of the past.

The most important thing to remember is that part 6A applies to a particularly vulnerable group of workers.  They are not well paid; many are on minimum wage or just above.  Take Parliament’s cleaners. Parliamentary Services is going through a re-tendering process right now and is under pressure to cut costs. Without the right to transfer to a new contractor that Part 6A provides, John Key’s cleaner could be sacked and replaced with someone else employed on fewer hours and less pay.

However, I fear that the decisions around Part 6A will not be good news.

I live in hope that the government will not succumb to pressure and take their ideology out on the cleaners, kitchen workers and other vulnerable workers of our land.

Contract Workers still Count.

By the Numbers

Posted by on October 26th, 2012

256 million – dollars pulled in by Liz Taylor, who tops this year’s list of moneymaking ‘dead celebrities’

2,600 – Young beneficiaries have been issued payment cards where the last four digits printed on the cards are used as pin numbers. And Paula Bennett says she takes security seriously…

355 – km/h, the speed American John Hennessy cracked on a public road while testing a new speed camera. Don’t try this at home

220 – Workers from the Spring Creek Mine in Greymouth lost their jobs yesterday as the result of John Key’s asset sales obsession.

2.119 – dollars, the price of 91 octane at BP after the second fall in petrol prices this week.

We borrow the world from our children

Posted by on October 25th, 2012

I was reminded today of an ancient proverb:

We do not inherit our world from our parents, we borrow it from our children.

That’s a sound philosophy for any Parliamentarian but, sadly, I doubt many of the MPs on the National side of the House will agree with it.

I very rarely talk about my family in Parliament. I do my best to protect my kids from the vicissitudes of politics because they didn’t chose my job and they miss out on enough with me being in Wellington so often. Today, though, I was thinking about my sons and about their future children.

I know that, if things keep going as they are, then one day my sons will ask “Dad, why didn’t you do more to stop them from destroying our planet?”

National’s Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Bill is very dishonestly named. It’s the National Party’s latest attempt to gut the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) by giving special exemptions to their traditional backers and fundraisers. It’s an attempt to force everyone who sees through National’s spin to give a multi-billion dollar subsidy to people who don’t give a stuff about the next generation of New Zealanders.

Climate change is a scientific fact. It’s not a philosophy, it’s not a political statement. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists around the world say our climate is dangerously changing and humans are contributing to that change. Those who deny the scientific reality are often uninformed, in the pocket of Big Pollution, or lost in the conspiratorial fringe twilight.

Or they’re National Party MPs.

The last Labour Government’s ETS was world leading, moderate, but broad-based. It was a model the rest of the world were looking to as a way to smooth the necessary transition to a low-carbon future. National have already destroyed most of the gains that were made, and today’s children will surely pay the price for their recklessness – just as we’re all paying for National’s recklessness in abolishing Labour’s superannuation scheme in the 1970s.

This latest National environmental vandalism puts New Zealand squarely in the group of climate science denying countries. It’s a 100% Pure Disgrace.

National’s support partner, the Māori Party, are refusing to back National’s latest attack on science, so John Key and his mates are relying on the single vote of Peter Dunne to wreck the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Labour wants the Bill withdrawn, of course. But, as National won’t do that, we’ve put forward amendments, including:

  1. Ensuring the ETS is an all-sectors all-gasses scheme, so everyone plays an equal part in the solution.
  2. Bringing agriculture into the ETS in 2015, as scheduled, so a huge advantage isn’t given to the minority of dirty farmers who’ve done nothing to prepare for this long-established deadline.
  3. Restricting international units to 50% so that New Zealand Units are preferred over international ones, thus protecting our forestry industry.
  4. Make the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) publish annually the amount industries charge their customers for carbon.

National aren’t having a bar of any of it. As I type National MPs are sitting in our Parliament cravenly doing the bidding of their funders in Big Pollution. They genuinely seem to think if they can only get this Bill through then climate change will be history!

When Labour comes to government we will put good science and innovation at the core of our environmental and economic policies. We will put in place policies that support a future that is clean, green and clever.

Be Careful Who You Quote

Posted by on October 25th, 2012

In a desperate bid to find a reason to oppose my bill to extend paid parental leave to 6 months, Business NZ rolled up to the select committee citing the opinion of Member of the European Parliament as evidence that employers in NZ might stop employing women of “child-bearing” age.

“Absurd legislation such as this closes the door on opportunities for young women and consigns them to a role as second class citizens, trapped at home by stupid legislators,” said the un-named MEP in Business NZs submission.

A quick google search revealed him to be Godfrey Bloom from the UK Independence Party.

Turns out, Godfrey has a lot to say about women.

“No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.” For example. Closely followed by:

“I just dont think (women) clean behind the fridge enough” and “I am here to represent Yorkshire women who always have dinner on the table when you get home.”

And Godfrey also has something to say about NZ. Wikipedia reports that he was filmed in 2009, congratulating the French for bombing the Rainbow Warrior.

My advise to Business NZ is simple. Don’t make assertions that denigrate both women and NZ employers and use an MEP of questionable repute to justify your position.

Its a very bad look and the issue deserves better treatment than that.

Voters let down by Key? Let me count the ways

Posted by on October 24th, 2012

There is a political maxim that only one poll really matters, and that is the one taken on election day.  Sometimes, however, one is able to divine wisdom from polling trends at other times.

The veracity of individual polling methods is hotly debated.  But what seems to be emerging as fact is that – taken as a whole – polls since the election paint a clear picture of National in decline and Labour on the rise.

What was around a 20 point gap between the two main parties on election day is now reduced to 10 points in most polls.

David Shearer’s leadership on economic sovereignty, education and employment are clearly being seen as the stuff of credible alternative government.  At the same time the Government of the day is shooting itself in the foot faster than opposition members can fire off their own rounds at them.

Key already sat uncomfortably with many New Zealanders before the election.  His broken promise not to raise GST and the growing gap between rich and poor were unwelcome. His proposal to sell assets was (mistakenly) thought negotiable by some of his supporters.  But until the 2011 election, Key appeared comfortable riding a (smile and) wave of popularity. The tea-pot tapes saga was the first real sign of wide-spread discontent, and it simultaneously signalled that Key was uncomfortable taking decisions under the glare of more thorough media scrutiny.

Key’s majority in the House has always been slender this term.  The vote on my Mondayising Bill is illustration of that, as was the vote on paid parental leave.  If further illustration is required, recall that more New Zealanders voted last year for parties that opposed asset sales than parties that supported asset sales.  The Government Key cobbled together was based on uncomfortable compromises.

And ever since the election, the Government has embroiled itself in scandals. I think the number and consistency of scandals is the main reason the public at large is turning off Key.  Let’s recall some of the major ones:

– ACC letter of support written by Minister with a conflict of interest (prompting Nick Smith’s resignation)

– ACC privacy breach where emails with sensitive client data was sent out to Bronwyn Pullar

– A Sky City deal that appears to have been done outside the rules that are designed to prevent corruption. An inquiry is currently underway that will examine the integrity of the Prime Minister’s actions, and whether proper process was followed.

– Hekia Parata’s announcement that increased class-sizes were the way to quality education.  The effects of the back-down on Hekia’s relationship with her caucus colleagues has been more dramatic than the colour coding on name-badges that signalled to Canterbury School Principals that she thinks their schools should be for the chop.

– John Banks ‘anonymous’ donations scandals – the start of the Dotcom fiasco.  Police said Banks filed a false declaration but that it’s too late by law to prosecute him.  Banks also forgot a helicopter ride to the Dotcom mansion to propose a toast at a celebration.  He also denied that he had received discounted accommodation (a gift he failed to register on his parliamentary pecuniary interests register) but was later forced to admit he had.  John Key has bizarrely refused to read the police report. He hasn’t yet disciplined Banks, despite claiming that his Ministers would be required to hold to a higher ethical standard.

– The Dotcom fiasco is ongoing.  John Key has admitted the agency he is responsible for (GCSB) spied on Kim Dotcom illegally.  He also failed to remember that he was briefed on Dotcom months before the issue came to public attention, forcing an embarrassing backdown.

– MSD privacy breaches.  Kiosks with public access contained private information of the most sensitive kind – including information on our most vulnerable children in state care, their health conditions, locations and other personal information.

But it is not just these scandals that are embarrassing.  Earlier behaviour is now shaping into a pattern.  Turnarounds on Kiwisaver (introducing legislation to lower contributions, and then later introducing legislation to increase them again) and Working For Families (communism by stealth, or appropriate incentives for work?)  Anyone remember John Key’s ’embarrassing uncle’ speech at the launch of the Rugby World Cup, or the three-way handshake at the end? Or the Government promise that no property-owner would be worse off in Canterbury?  More recently John Key’s embarrassing brain-fade about how he voted on the alcohol age a few weeks before.

I haven’t mentioned the lack of action around outdated IRD computer systems that Key said in February can’t support changes from Government, or perserverance with asset sales legislation that is looking more and more expensive for the taxpayer over time.  Nor have I compared Key’s claim he’d stem the tide of Kiwis moving to Oz to pursue better opportunities with evidence people are now moving there in record numbers.   But despite these omissions, it’s not surprising that those who say they supported Key in the last election are today saying they are disappointed with the Government.

Key will be looking forward to throwing in the towel. Richard Worth, Pansy Wong and Phil Heatly all had to step down last term, but this term the casualties are mounting faster. He’s already said he’ll resign if National are thrown out of Government.  Pressure may mount for him to stand aside sooner.

So how about the issues that really matter?  Labour has clear positions on education, jobs, procurement, monetary policy to support exporters, pro-growth tax reform, and savings. The Key-Government is rapidly earning a reputation as a party distracted and not prepared to take the big decisions that a Shearer-led Labour Government would.

It’s no wonder the polling suggests voters are turning off Key faster than ever.

Give students back their voice

Posted by on October 22nd, 2012

When the Tertiary Education Commission was being set up in 2002, the Minister in charge Steve Maharey was not all that keen for there to be student representation at the Board level. He argued it was not a representative body, and if students were given a seat as of right then that would open up the argument for too many other groups.

With the input of Nandor Tanczos and NZUSA a decision was made that there should be a non-voting student member of the Board. As is the way of these things Simon Power as the then Opposition Spokesperson tried to simultaneously claim credit for, and trash the idea.

And since the TEC has been established there has a been a student representative (in TEC speak a Non Voting Learner Representative). The role has been filled by a range of people and the feedback I have had is that the person has always given useful insights and behaved in a professional way.

So its a real slap in the face that the decision has been made to abolish the position. A double slap because there was no consultation, and this only emerged because NZUSA dragged the information out from the TEC. And it adds to a pattern from this government of taking away student voice (Polytechnic Councils, VSM, proposed reform of Uni Councils).

The TEC are dressing this up as being a reflection of their changed role with the policy function for tertiary education moving to the Ministry of Education. While that does represent a changed role, the tasks they still undertake remain important enough to students to justify the continuation of the position.

There is no better example of this than when the TEC considers at its next Board meeting the applications from Massey and Victoria universities to go beyond the maximum allowable fee increase (4%) to reportedly 8% for some courses. This is exactly the kind of discussion where a student perspective would be helpful, and in fact the right thing to have.

So, it comes down to Steven Joyce. He has the ability to direct the TEC to reinstate the position. Its time he channelled a bit of Simon Power’s enthusiasm for a student voice from a decade ago and did the right thing. Or is this a further nail in the coffin of the democratic traditions of supporting the right for dissenting voices. Your choice Steven.

A bill to protect younger workers

Posted by on October 22nd, 2012

It is a little ironic that the day before the government passed its first reading of the Minimum Wage bill that cuts young workers’ pay, my bill, (Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Amendment Bill)  was drawn from the ballot.

I’m pleased that this bill will get a hearing, because it’s about protecting young workers under 16. It will provide that young workers aged 15 cannot be employed as self employed contractors and must instead be employed under the Employment Relations Act as employees.

The most obvious example is leaflet and newspaper deliveries. Caritas did some work on this a few years back and highlighted the issues of low pay, health and safety risks and children being subjected to unfair contracting.  Here’s some examples of the contracts for leaflet deliverers they came across :

Contract A: “The parties acknowledge that this agreement is entered into by both parties on the basis that the Deliverer is an independent Contractor and that the Deliverer is not an agent or employee of the Company….The Contractor is an independent Contractor and as such is free…to select the Contractor’s own means and methods of performing the services and, subject to the delivery window requested by [Company], the hours during which the Contractor will perform those services.”

Contract B: “You are employed by [Company] under a contract for services, which means that you are an independent contractor.  This contract does not therefore create an employment relationship between you and [Company].”

Contract C: “All Distributors are Independent Contractors and therefore are required to file an IR3 at the end of each year.”

Contract D: “The Contractor is an independent Contractor and as such is free (in addition to the Contractor’s freedom to engage sub-contractors and others to use carrying equipment…) to select the Contractor’s own means and methods of performing the services…The Contractor shall bear all costs and expenses incurred by the Contractor in connection with the performance of the services.

Based on a crude assessment of their data, Caritas estimated that most of the pay rates fell somewhere between $1.67 and $6.25 per hour.

There has been a long tradition in New Zealand of young people delivering newspapers and leaflets. No problem with that. But expecting young people to understand commercial law, pay their own tax and ACC and take on the responsibilities of contractors under Commercial Law is not fair.

We need to ensure young workers are treated fairly under employment law, with rights to personal grievance, written agreements, sick leave, holidays and other employment entitlements.

It’s important to note my bill doesn’t apply to young workers providing work for individual householders, such as lawnmowing, babysitting and so on.

The bill is a basic measure to improve children’s overall working conditions and something I hope the Parliament will take seriously.

Delay on local alcohol action way too long

Posted by on October 22nd, 2012

The Alcohol Reform Bill returns to the House for its committee-stage debate tomorrow. The Bill is a disappointment in many ways, with many of the Law Commission’s more substantive recommendations ignored, but one provision that has the power to do a lot of good is the one that gives local Councils the power to regulate liquor outlets by way of Local Alcohol Policies.

There has been a palpable shift in community attitudes to alcohol abuse in recent years. Communities have felt powerless and angry at the proliferation of corner liquor stores, extended opening hours, and the marketing of cheap booze. Local Alcohol Policies will allow Councils to regulate the number and location of outlets, as well as opening hours.

But for some strange reason the Government has ignored the calls of Councils who have told them that the Bill’s 12 month delay before the framework for the policies becomes operative is just too long.

It means that after the 12 month delay, a month for notification and appeals, and then another three months’ public notice for policies that affect opening hours, it could be up to 16 months before Councils’ new alcohol policies start to bite.

That is way too long.

I’m putting up an amendment that will reduce the wait to three months. This should be plenty of time for police and social agencies to get ready. Add four more months for public notification and it will mean new Local Alcohol Policies will be up and running within seven months.

It won’t affect the people I represent in West Auckland. The presence of the licensing trusts out here ensures socially responsible management of liquor marketing, but this provision will make a big difference everywhere else. Let’s just make it happen more quickly.

Thank you to NZ’s workers

Posted by on October 22nd, 2012

Today, on Labour Day I want to acknowledge the contribution New Zealand’s workers make to our country.  They are often the forgotten part of the economic equation, but without workers, no business and no public service could get ahead.

There used to be a time when each generation was proud to say that their kids would be better off than their parents at work and the effort of unions in collective organisation and bargaining was about ensuring the gains won by our forebears were not lost.

I can’t say that today.

The 8 hour day and 40 hour week is regarded by many as an anachronism, benefits like overtime and weekend rates are considered out of the ark and the National Government narrative is that employers and business are providing a generous service by taking workers on, and they should just be grateful to have a job.

We subsidise low wages through working for families, we pay employers to take on young minimum wage workers they can sack after 90 days and then we blame people when they struggle to make ends meet.

In the 112th year of celebrating Labour Day as the day to recognise the contribution of New Zealand’s workers and the progress made in workers’ rights, we must remember it’s been another tough year for New Zealand workers, with thousands of layoffs, rising costs, stagnant wages and attacks on employment rights. The Government has launched an attacked on our young workers this week and further employment legislation is in the pipeline that will drive down wages for everyone.

One of the worst industrial disputes seen since the 1990s, the Ports of Auckland is still unsettled.  The weeks of wages lost to Talleys AFFCO workers , their families and their communities in a bitter lockout to try to cut their pay and job security has taken a huge toll on poor rural communities and we’ve even seen low paid rest home workers on the picket line struggling for a pittance of a pay increase.

My message to New Zealand workers this Labour Day is that Labour appreciates your hard work and contribution, we are on your side and we have real plans to improve your working lives when this government is thrown out.

And enjoy the day.  The government can’t take that away from us.


Hugh Fletcher on RNZ

Posted by on October 20th, 2012

I missed Hugh Fletcher talking to Kathryn Ryan, but several people I respect have contacted to say its a must listen, and so here it is. The perils of laissez fair economic policy and asset sales amongst other things.

By the Numbers – Jobs Special

Posted by on October 19th, 2012

This Government has failed to ensure the Christchurch rebuild is creating opportunities for New Zealanders. See David Shearer’s full speech on this issue here

By the Numbers

105,000  – New Zealanders were out of work when National came into office. Today 162,000 New Zealanders are out of work – That’s not much of a progress report.

30,000  – Workers are estimated to be needed for the Christchurch rebuild, but with skill shortages, almost half of those are likely to come from overseas.

17,000  – Kiwi technicians, tradespeople and labourers have left for Australia since the first earthquake.

80  – Per cent of the $42 million the Government announced for extra skills training following the Christchurch quakes is sitting untouched.

1  – ‘Vacancy’ in the job at the top.

Spotted in Southland

Posted by on October 19th, 2012

The National Government doesn’t care about jobs in Southland.

But the people of Otatara do – and so does Labour.

Minister for Abuse needs to read David Shearer’s speech

Posted by on October 18th, 2012

It was great to be with finance spokesperson David Parker and local Wigram MP Megan Woods in Christchurch today to see our leader David Shearer deliver his Jobs that work for you speech.

New Zealand has suffered through four years of economic vandalism under the National government. Manufacturing and exporting is in crisis, thousands and thousands and thousands have been chucked on the unemployment scrapheap, and new records have been set almost every month for the numbers of disappointed New Zealanders moving to Australia.

Through it all National ministers have alternated between denying the facts and pretending there’s nothing that can be done.

Well David Shearer knows what New Zealanders know – the government has a responsibility to turn the country’s decline around, and David and Labour are intent on doing it.

Some of David’s bold and responsible proposals include:

  1. Expanding the scope of the Reserve Bank so the Governor can look at important economic wellness measures other than inflation,
  2. Expanding KiwiSaver to build the pot of capital for businesses to access to grow,
  3. Getting Government agencies to focus on purchasing from New Zealand suppliers,
  4. Launching a ‘one in a million’ target for significant government contracts. This would mean companies who win big contracts would be required to take on one apprentice or one trainee for every $1 million contract received.
  5. Pro-growth tax reform, including a capital gains tax to get investment flowing to real jobs and exports (not property speculators).
  6. Putting more checks and balances in place for employers who’d hire workers from overseas instead of job-seeking Kiwis.

No sooner had David finished speaking then guess who launches a petty and spiteful attack – Minister for abusing all and sundry and Finland, Gerry Brownlee.

Brownlee might have helped himself if he’d bothered to read David’s speech. He might have gotten some of his facts straight but, more importantly, it might have made him pay attention to the jobs crisis. Brownlee should read the speech because it’s full of ideas and his National government have none.

The minister seems to believe David was laying out a peculiarly Christchurch policy. Christchurch’s recovery is crucial – that’s why the entire Labour Caucus visited there this month, and it’s where we heard more about how major employers are shutting up shop and trainee teachers have no jobs to go to next year.

But if Brownlee had read David’s speech he’d know it’s a strategy for all New Zealanders and all of New Zealand. If ever evidence was needed of the myopic and selfish thinking in the National Party, it’s found in Mr Brownlee’s seeming inability to care about anyone past the end of his own gate.

Brownlee went on to paint a picture of growth in jobs which is completely at odds with reality. He misled his readers by quoting from an old job ads report while deliberately ignoring the current figures published by MoBIE – a government department which he has some ministerial responsibility for!

For Gerry Brownlee’s education, the official government figures show there was a 5.4% drop in online skilled job ads in September – including a 1.4% decline in skilled job ads in Canterbury. Brownlee cited positive job ads figures for Taranaki and the Bay of Plenty, but the official figures say skilled job ads in those regions crashed a horrific 9.9% last month.

Having already humiliated New Zealand in front of the world with his abuse of Finnish people this year, Brownlee should have learned to do his homework before attacking people. He should have focussed on the things that matter to ordinary New Zealanders, like whether they’ll have a job next week.

Now his abuse is exposed for the world to see all over again.

Gerry Brownlee should apologise to David Shearer, and he should read David’s speech because it’s full of excellent ideas and the National government has failed.

Did Business NZ Contract Alasdair Thomson to Write PPL Submission?

Posted by on October 18th, 2012

Watch Phil O’Reilly try to avoid explaining why Business NZ asserts that employers will employ fewer women of “child bearing  age” if paid parental leave was extended – even though employer dont pay for the leave.

He gets so tied up in knots here, that I think he ends up arguing for Metiria Turei’s Bill that the National Party voted against last night, to get money into beneficiary household with children.

By the way, he’s got Bill English’s disease here of inflating the figures he uses and forgetting that we still havent got the final figure of what my Bill will cost over three years yet.

Shades of Alasdair Thompson here…


Speaking up for jobs

Posted by on October 18th, 2012

It is really great to hear David Shearer today speaking up for a bigger effort to put Kiwis at the front of the queue when it comes to jobs and also creating opportunities for more of our young New Zealanders to get into apprenticeships.

You can check out the speech here.

I’ve been talking about the issue of cheap migrant labour for a while now. It’s not the fault of migrants.  Many of them come here expecting a lot better than they end up with and we’ve been playing fast and loose with migrants to keep wages low in crucial industries.

There’s been plenty of media coverage about the foreign charter fishing vessels and the atrocious working conditions for migrants.  That was a scandal that hit the international headlines, but there’s on land stories as well.

Earlier this year the Equal Opportunities Commissioner criticised the aged care industry for its low pay. The average pay for a residential rest home worker is $14.50, despite this job requiring considerable skill and experience, not to mention dedication.

The fast growing skill shortage is being met by bringing in migrant workers rather than offering higher wages or training opportunities to attract more New Zealanders into care.  The EEO Commission found that migrant workers are often highly skilled with suitable nursing qualifications, but find themselves working for lower wages, working overtime and irregular hours with no extra compensation.

I’m also hearing similar stories in our agriculture industry with farm workers being hired from overseas, paid very little and given no support.

65 employers in Horticulture, Hospitality and Auckland CBD businesses are currently under investigation for exploiting migrants after 4 PTEs were found to be fronts for providing cheap labour.

Cheap migrant labour is now becoming a substitute for providing decent work, training and fair pay in some industries. The migrant workers miss out, but so do New Zealanders who want work.

David Shearer has announced Labour will institute a more rigorous process of giving approval to employers to bring in migrants.

We want to ensure employers make the effort to train New Zealanders, and don’t see migrant workers as an cheap alternative to paying fair wages and conditions to all workers in this country – whether they are born here or other countries.


Filed under: jobs

Supreme Court decision a wake-up call

Posted by on October 18th, 2012

The Supreme Court’s decision [11 Oct 12] giving non-residential building owners the right to sue their councils over defective work has reinforced the view that the Building Act review should be taking a wider look at those issues.

A majority of the Supreme Court in the Spencer on Byron case held that the council owes a duty of care to the owners of all buildings, irrespective of whether the buildings are residential or non-residential, in relation to its statutory functions under the Building Act 1991.

Unfortunately, the National-Act Government in its Building Act review has continued to take a narrow and piecemeal approach and failed its stated goals of “rebalancing responsibility and accountability among building consent authorities, building professionals and consumers.”

The Building Act – as its title suggests – is meant to cover all of the infrastructure, commercial and industrial buildings and structures in this country. However, Minister for Building and Construction Maurice Williamson seemed to be obsessed with “homes” or “dwelling units” and confined the definition of “buildings” to that of “residential buildings”. This is misleading in terms of “Building Act review”.

Chief Justice Elias also noted in the decision that the Building Act 1991 itself draws no distinction between residential and commercial buildings.

The Building Act review, initiated by the last Labour Government, has gained cross party support. But Mr Williamson missed the opportunity to have those fundamental issues addressed and decided instead to take a piecemeal approach by introducing inadequate measures and partial instalments. As a result, the level of protection for every party involved is reduced.

Mr Williamson may have a perfect excuse that both matters of insurance-backed warranty and joint and several liability vis-à-vis proportionate liability were referred to the Law Commission for review. This indicates that the National-Act Government is not ready to introduce a comprehensive reform package needed to genuinely achieve its stated goals. Nor has the Government demonstrated that it understands the actual design, construction and consenting process for dwelling units or commercial buildings.

This is further evidence that the Government has lost its way in the Building Act review.  To avoid a repeat of the leaky building saga and to restore confidence in our building sector, a piece of clear, concise and competent building legislation is desperately needed.”

However, the two Bills (#3 &4) Mr Williamson introduced fell well short of addressing those issues. They are gimmick and the partial instalments will cause uncertainty and create false hopes for parties in the building and construction sector.

While the country is waiting, all parties – consumers, building professionals and building consent authorities/ratepayers – will continue to be financially exposed, even for defects not of their making. “


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Members’ bill ballot today

Posted by on October 18th, 2012

There were two spaces on the Order Paper today, and the following Bills were drawn:

  • 13. Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill – Metiria Turei
  • 28. Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Amendment Bill – Rino Tirikatene

A full list of the Bills in the ballot is over the break.


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Ostrich economics

Posted by on October 18th, 2012

There’s a crisis in manufacturing and the National government seems not to have noticed. But doing an “ostrich” doesn’t alter what’s happening in the real world.

This year Labour’s economic team have met with exporters and manufacturers all around the country. We’ve heard over and over again how those sectors are in crisis because of the National government’s hands-off-and-hope policies.

Even if you’re not in exporting or manufacturing yourself, while you live in New Zealand you’re affected by those sectors’ decline. 40,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2008, and because unemployed people have nothing to spend they’re not reinvesting in their local communities. The facts are that there was a 14% decline in simply transformed manufactured exports and a 10% decline in elaborately transformed manufactured exports from the 2008 to the 2012 financial years.

Things are getting worse too. Just yesterday we found out job ads fell 4.5% in September (with a 5.4% decline in skilled job ads), so yet another record might be set for Kiwis giving up and moving to Australia.

Exporters and manufacturers aren’t just talking to us about their problems – they’re pleading to anybody who will listen. Unfortunately the National government are so arrogant they won’t give fair hearing to people who don’t subscribe to their dated ideologies.

In the face of government inaction Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First have come together to hold a parliamentary inquiry into the manufacturing crisis. We’ll keep you updated via Red Alert as that progresses.

Exporters and manufacturers have repeatedly told us their #1 problem is the unsustainably high and over-speculated Kiwi dollar. New Zealand contributes about 0.23% to world GDP, but our dollar is among the most traded globally. It seems that New Zealand’s money has become a plaything for John Key’s New York currency trader mates.

The government’s monetary policies have a huge impact on the dollar. Labour supports an independent Reserve Bank Governor, but we completely reject National’s apparent dogma that an independent Governor means the government has no responsibility for the economy.

The government are responsible for the wording of the Reserve Bank Act, not the bank’s Governor. The current Act makes controlling inflation the primary responsibility of the Governor – to the deliberate exclusion of consideration of other important measures of economic wellbeing, such as the current account and value of the dollar. Exporters tell us that’s madness and we agree (and so do the Greens and New Zealand First).

The National government are responsible for agreeing the inflation policy target range. In recent years that policy agreement has targeted 1% to 3% inflation in any one year. That’s the agreement that finance minister Bill English has signed.

But now the IMF is forecasting for New Zealand’s current account deficit to be the worst in the developed world next year  – and with inflation at 0.8% for the year below the target range. So the bank isn’t delivering the single target that the National government has given to it. And all the while New Zealand’s economy is collapsing around us and ordinary Kiwis are losing their livelihoods and leaving the country.

A thinking and responsible government would take from this that something must change.

But yesterday when David Parker and I questioned Bill English in Parliament, the minister barely even addressed how inflation is forecast to drop below his target range – let alone concede there is a problem (or announce any rethink of his obviously failed policies).

How much economic misery does New Zealand have to endure? Will there be any jobs left by the time Labour is elected at the next election? Will there be any young people left on this side of the ditch to fill them?