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Will Pacific bilingual language education feature in the Pacific Education Plan announcement tomorrow?

Posted by on November 21st, 2012

Many in the Pacific community want to believe that Minister Hekia Parata’s announcement and release tomorrow of the Government’s Pacific Education Plan 2013-2017 will feature Pacific bilingual language education prominently. Given that whenever the Minister has spoken to a Pacific audience she has promoted the value of Pacific languages and has held herself up as an example of someone who has benefited from bilingualism, there is expectation that she would at least reinstate Pacific language bilingual goals that her Government removed in 2009 from the Pacific Education Plan 2008-2012.
The Pacific bilingual language goals are strongly supported by the wider Pacific communities. In fact when the former Minister of Education, Anne Tolley stopped the production of the Pacific language resources – the Tupu series (for Cook Islands, Vagahau Niue, Tokelau, Samoan and Tongan) and the Folauga journals (for Samoan learners) – being used by schools there was opposition from parents, teachers and researchers. This opposition quickly sent to parliament a 7000 signed petition calling on this Government to reinstate funding for these resources. The government still hasn’t responded to this petition.
Labour pressed the Education & Science committee to conduct an inquiry into Pacific bilingual language education to at least table the evidence that educators had in supporting Pacific bilingual language education. The government instead would only support a narrowly focussed inquiry into Pacific Language education in early childhood education.
Those in the Pacific education sector who made strong submissions in this inquiry may well feel that the smiles and nods they received from the government members might be a signal that their request for support would be positively responded to by the Minister’s announcement tomorrow.
However, I note that the Minister is announcing the Pacific Education Plan 2013-2017 from two primary schools that are not known to have Pacific language classes at all. That might be a signal in itself that the Pacific community will be sorely disappointed and that the struggle for the rights of our Pacific children to grow up learning and speaking in two or more languages will continue.

Awarded more than $8000 when she was sacked for bad breath

Posted by on August 27th, 2012

I promised to provide an update on real-life struggles and challenges the NZ workforce was experiencing on the ground under present conditions. Did you hear about the Auckland beautician who refused to work on clients and had complaints about her bad breath? What appears to be trivial on the surface was actually quite substantial when the Employment Relations Authority dug into the case. Her employer made suggestions to the beautician that she should perhaps chew mints or receive some assistance from a dentist.

Later she was told by her employer, “If you don’t attend these clients, don’t come back tomorrow”. She managed her workload and left according to her planned departure time, and when she returned the next day, she felt she may have been fired, then asked for a formal letter of termination, and got it.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) said that the employer had other options available to him, such as he could have suspended the employee on pay while an investigation was carried out, or conduct a formal meeting into the incident.

In any case the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) awarded her $8022.45 in wages and compensation.

NB: Just pointing  to this case to show how important it is for employers to treat their staff with respect.

Employment Matters

Posted by on August 20th, 2012

The average Kiwi spends a huge amount of time working. An indicative calculation of an average working week of 40 hours, for a 44 year working life, adds up to at least 91,250 hours or 22.4% of their lives working.

As politicians we spend a lot of time looking at the job market from a statistical or policy perspective. We look at the overall unemployment levels and why so many Kiwis are struggling to find work. We look at government policy and how we can grow our economy. We look at the trends of youth unemployment, the numbers of Kiwi workers moving to Australia, and the growing skills deficit.

Unfortunately, we often don’t get the time to highlight the real stuff that is happening day-in, day-out for Kiwis in the workplace. As Labour’s Employment spokesperson I’m going to start posting on a weekly basis about the problems, successes, aspirations and obstacles Kiwis are facing in real-time. I am keen on your feedback and your stories. I think your personal experiences of the challenges and struggles in finding employment, or gaining the skills that will enable you to get a job will be very useful in looking at new ideas for the future.

As an initial focus this week, I thought I would highlight a familiar event in my neighbourhood. Entries for the Westpac Auckland South Business Awards 2012 closed last week. I’m hopeful there were plenty of entries. In all the years I’ve attended these awards, the winners have always praised the dedication and effort of their staff for the achievements and successes they received. There have been many examples from these awards of local manufacturers and exporters who had a clear vision for taking on the world and succeeding. Many of these employers have fought tooth and nail in a tough economic climate to retain their staff and boost their businesses in an area formerly called Manukau City.

One company I would like to point out is Fishpond – founded in 2004 by Daniel Robertson and is estimated as New Zealand’s biggest online bookstore. Daniel launched his company six months before graduating from his electrical engineering studies and his business quickly outgrew the family garage. He had 30 staff working in his first warehouse by the Airport when he won the 2009 Young Business Person of the Year Excellence in Business Award. Today Fishpond has graduated to its fourth warehouse, 3000sqm, still by the airport, selling something to an online customer every 7 seconds, adding a new customer every 51 seconds with about 80 staff.

The Fishpond – Daniel Robertson story is in my view such an inspirational story of Kiwi courage and innovation, generating export earnings, creating high valued jobs, that I think we need to be celebrating its successes widely. I think these kinds of successes are important for New Zealand’s economic future and for the Kiwi workforce. I’ve organised to have David Shearer visit Fishpond soon so that our Labour leader can meet Daniel and his team in person and just learn from their experiences. I’m keen on ideas and experiences on how we can best match the skills requirement of companies such as Fishpond with the skills training opportunities for those currently unemployed in the local workforce.

I’m sure there are many other companies in other regions, just as innovative, just as successful, generating export earnings and creating high valued jobs that we would be just as keen to learn about. Let me know if your happy for a visit. Cheers.

Samoa Language Week 2012

Posted by on May 27th, 2012

Samoa Language Week 2012 offers the perfect opportunity to discuss the future of Samoa-New Zealand relationship given that this year we also celebrate Samoa’s 50th Anniversary of Independence on 1stof June, and the 50th anniversary of the Samoa-New Zealand Treaty of Friendship on 1st of August.

Many New Zealanders probably aren’t aware that New Zealand administered Samoa for 48 years and that period gave rise to a unique Treaty of Friendship which was signed between the two countries in recognition of a ‘special relationship’ once Samoa had become the first Pacific island nation to become independent in 1962.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary there is growing discussion within the Samoan community in New Zealand to revisit the meaning of the ‘special relationship’ between New Zealand and Samoa, and what that ‘special relationship’ means for Samoans both in New Zealand and Samoa.

The younger generation are asking questions as to which country benefits the most from the Treaty of Friendship and what, if, any are the financial implications given New Zealand’s formal apology to Samoa in 2002 that included an admission to the errors of past New Zealand Administrators which caused the deaths of thousands of Samoa.

In 1918 the New Zealand authorities administering Samoa allowed the ship Talune carrying passengers with influenza New Zealand to dock in Apia. As the flu spread, some twenty two percent of the Samoan population died. The New Zealand authorities refused the offer of assistance from the American Samoa health officials.  This tragedy is recorded as one of the worst epidemics in the world, and was preventable.

New Zealand authorities were also responsible for the deaths of at least nine Samoans, including Tupua Tamasese Lealofioaana III with fifty others injured, when armed New Zealand police fired upon a peaceful march of non-violent protesters in Apia in December 1929.

I am encouraging and supporting Lemi Ponifasio to roll out a series of MAU Forums under the theme of Samoa mo Taeao or Samoa for Tomorrow to lead these discussions about these future issues.

It’s Never Too Late to Talk Employment

Posted by on March 11th, 2012

After marching and listening to workers at the rally in Auckland yesterday, as well as listening and talking to some of the Auckland Councillors I think that despite the widening rift between the POAL management and union, it is imperitave that the two parties come together and continue talking.

Both management and the union need to be aware that Aucklanders are equally concerned for the welfare of the workers and their families affected by the dispute, and equally just as concerned for the future of teh waterfront industry in the role the ports play in building a vibrant Auckland economy.

So the offer of help by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Bishops of Auckland to mediate between the Ports of Auckland and the Maritime Union should be taken seriously by these two parties for the sake of the people of Auckland.

I think both the management and the union need to know that it shouldn’t be about whether we dumb one or the other, and that both the Ports and its workforce are equally important for teh welfare of the Auckland region and its peoples.

But it should also be said that the stronger party, namely the Ports of Auckland Limited, should recognise that their decision to sack these workers will have a direct and more significant impact on bread and butter issues for families in the Auckland region, who are already stretched and challenged with spiralling costs of electricity, food and other necessities, high unemployment, lower wages and the austerity measures by thie John Key government.

I don’t think its too late for both these parties to sit down and continue their dialogue. It should never be too late to talk about achieving productivity targets and job security, and ultimately how to build a better society for the benefit of people, and in this case for the sake of Auckland.

I would like to see the two parties take up the Church leaders offer and strive to reach an amicable agreement that will benefit the Auckland region and its peoples.

Youth NEETs change since 2008

Posted by on February 26th, 2012
Youth NEETs

Youth NEETs

Despite the foodhardy belief by some that all is well with New Zealand employment under National, if they would just pull their heads out of John Key’s armpits for a second and took seriously that our unemployment rate from Dec 2008 to Dec 2011 has doubled, and these are NOT just numbers but REAL people with families to support, then perhaps they might get a sense of the looming employment crisis that I’m talking about. Take note of the job losses so far announced with MFAT, Air NZ, and a host of other companies that have laid off workers in the last few months.

What should also compoud our collective concern is the increasing numbers of Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training. As of December 2011 they numbered 83,000 as highlighted in the graph above.

Some might be providing homecare to family members but I suspect the vast majority are drifting doing nothing. These are our future leaders – now mostly at risk. Without work, without skills and without the hope for a better future, what will be the chances of them slipping into drugs, alchoholism, crime and benefit dependency? If these trends continue to worsen, what is there to stop it from becoming a ticking time bomb making New Zealand susceptible to the kinds of riots we’ve witnessed on TV occuring in Europe and the likes.

The NZ Institute who released proposals last year of reducing youth disadvantage estimated that the cost of youth unemployment, youth incarceration, youth on the sole parent benefit and taxes forgone, is around $900 million per year. Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training is not only a tragic waste of talent and potential, but we also all carry the cost.

We should also be worried that Maori & Pasefika youth make up a large number of NEETS. While the 6.3% unemployment rate in NZ is worrying, its not at the crisis levels of the PIGS. But the 6.3% unemployment rate hides the fact that for some parts of New Zealand unemployment truly is at crisis levels. I’ve shown int the graph below the figures by HLFS showing 43.3% of Pasifika 15-19 year olds are unemployed. That’s a shocking figure, right up there with the worst youth unemployment rates of Europe.

Pasifika & Maori Youth Unemployment

Pasifika & Maori Youth Unemployment

NZ unemployment increases vs OECD increases

Posted by on February 24th, 2012
NZ % increase in unemployment rate since Dec 2008 vs OECD increase

NZ % increase in unemployment rate since Dec 2008 vs OECD increase

The graph above compares the change in NZ’s unemployment rate since December 2008 to that of other developed countries. It shows that NZ’s unemployment rate has increased at about twice the rate of Europe.

JohnKey claimed that NZ’s unemployment rate is out of his control. He claimed that it’s the economic performance of Europe, Asia and the US that determines job growth in NZ. While there’s no arguing we live in a closely interconnected world and NZ is not immune to global down turns, Mr Key is somewhat passing the buck here.

The Govt can and does have massive influence on our economy and employment rates. For example the PSA reported more than 3500 public service jobs lost in last 3 years, as a result of Govt policy including the so called “capping” of the public sector policy, and with more public service job losses to come – recent announcement of 305 MFAT jobs to go.

The European debt crisis is not the only factor in our high unemployment rate and JohnKey’s govt as the most influential player domestically must take some responsibility.

New Zealand’s actual unemployment rate is still lower than the OECD average but this is because we started in 2009 at a lower rate, not because we haven’t suffered through the recession.

National’s job claims vs reality

Posted by on February 23rd, 2012
National's job claims vs reality

National's job claims vs reality

Even though the Household Labour Force Survey report reveals that John Key’s ‘brighter future’ promise has utterly failed to materialise in terms of jobs for a growing group of New Zealanders, it hasn’t stopped Mr Key claiming it won’t still come true. Yet we know he has no overall plan, no vision for how this will happen. Last year he made the incredible claim that Budget 2011 would create 170,000 jobs over the next 5 years. He continued to make this claim despite not being able to show anything in the Budget that would actually lead to job creation other than low interest rates and ECE funding. Simply managing the economy and ticking off boxes and hoping that market forces will deliver on the jobs is unbelievable. As expected the Govt is on track to once again fall short of its promise. The 2011 Budget documents predicted 36,000 jobs would be created in the year to March 2012. As at Dec 2011 just 10,000 jobs have been created, leaving the Govt to create a massive 26,000 jobs in the final quarter. If JohnKey keeps promising New Zealanders the world but not delivering, his credibility will be on the line, and we all know the story of the boy who cried wolf, don’t we?

Total Employment Change from 2008 Reveals Imminent Crisis

Posted by on February 21st, 2012

Increase in unemployment under National

Increase in unemployment under National

The Household Labour Force Survey Survey report of the December 2011 Quarter released last week revealed that our unemployment rate slipped slightly to 6.3% from 6.6%. While a rate of 6.3% in itself doesn’t necessarily mean we have reached crisis levels, the focus on the overall unemployment rate does conceal detail about our employment situation that if brought to the surface will shine light on what I believe is an immiment crisis looming in our economic horizon.

Since JohnKey’s National took office in November 2008, 53,000 New Zealanders have joined the unemployment ranks. That’s a 54% increase in the number of people unemployed to a total of 150,000. For these people, National’s promise of a ‘brighter future’ has utterly failed to materialise, especially if you have a mortgage and teenage children you are supporting through school.

While the impact of the recession cannot be ignored, the number of people unemployed has actually increased since the recession officially ended in mid-2009. The official unemployment figures only tell part of the story. Many more people are without work but are not counted as being unemployed. Many are described by the Salvation Army as being “discouraged unemployed”. They would like to work and would accept a job offer if given, but they would not be deemed as actively seeking work because for instance looking for work through a newspaper does not meet the threshold of “actively seeking work”. The number of Kiwis jobless has increased by almost 100,000 under National’s watch to now 261,300 people as of December 2011. In the meantime 59,964 people are receiving the Unemployment Benefit as at December 2011 a fall of 7% from 67,084 as of the December 2010.
So is this it? Is this the brighter future promised to all New Zealanders?

Number of people jobless