Red Alert

Archive for the ‘protest’ Category

Topsy turvy world

Posted by on June 14th, 2013

The  extremist faction of the National Party has been pushing John Key’s government to get tougher on workers. A remit passed at a recent National Party conference to allow replacement workers during strikes and lock outs was a reminder that hatred of unions and workers is still very deep seated in John Key’s “moderate” government and party.

John Key was ambivalent about the remit, saying that while the old party faithful called for it from time to time, “it wasn’t on the government’s agenda.”

Enter National MP Jami-lee Ross, with his Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Bill, drawn from the ballot this week, which has put the issue on the government’s agenda, whether John Key likes it or not.

There wasn’t much enthusiasm from National Party MPs when the Jami-lee’s bill was announced as coming out of the ballot and I saw a few face-palms!

The Minister of Labour, Simon Bridges wouldn’t give endorsement to the bill and John Key only got as far saying the government would support the bill to Select Committee.

You know why?  It ruins the government’s attempts to downplay the Employment Relations Amendment Bill changes with his insistence they are “moderate, centre right, government changes.”

No they’re not.  They’re very serious.

Then in piles the Employers & Manufacturers Association (EMA), who haven’t exactly had the best reputation for supporting workers’ rights in the past who said today that :

“While its principles are worth exploring it could prove very divisive”…… ”New Zealand communities place a high value on fairness and the Bill could have consequences that would be considered unfair”.

There’s a change going on when a prominent business organisation like the EMA is prepared to openly oppose a National MP bill. It  may be a clever play to help downplay the rest of the government’s employment law changes, which are just as unfair and divisive, but I believe there’s more to their unease.

Jami-lee’s bill is a members’ bill.  It has a long way to go through the parliamentary process. It’s a hateful and sinister piece of work, but what’s much more serious are the government’s changes to employment laws.

Submissions have now been called for on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill and these close on the 25th July.

Now, if only the EMA would come out and openly oppose those, we would indeed have a topsy turvy world.

 


We used to be a country that valued protest

Posted by on March 31st, 2013

Today Energy Minister Simon Bridges announced new hefty criminal offences for protesters targeting ships in the EEZ, including for entering a 500 m exclusion zone.

Photos: The Dominion Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library.


Hibakusha and a nuclear-free convention

Posted by on August 9th, 2012

When I taught English a lifetime ago, I used to teach John Hersey’s “Hiroshima”. This week I met two hibakusha (survivors of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) in person for the first time in my life. It was very affecting. She was 80; he was 73.  She is Shigeko Sasamori and he is Michi Hirata. They were inspiring. If you want to see some pictures of their visit, go to Mary Wareham’s flickr page . Thanks to Mary for those pics. To hear their stories is to go back to my 5th form English class and revisit why it was a good idea that Hersey’s work was part of the curriculum. It is still  a good idea.

 Today is the anniversary of the Nagasaki bomb. The Hiroshima bomb was dropped on 6 August 1945. On Sunday of this week (Aug 5), Grant Robertson and I attended the annual commemoration of the dropping of those bombs on Japan in 1945. At the commemoration, students from Heretaunga College spoke about why they, who have only ever been told stories and read stuff, are ardently in favour of a nuclear-free world. They were inspiring too.

Next week, Parliament will receive a report from the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee – an all-party report, with no minority report - proposing that New Zealand join with other like-minded countries to advance a convention prohibiting the development, stockpiling, transfer and use of nuclear weapons. This is in response to a petition from Edwina Hughes on behalf of the Peace Movement Aoteaora.  Officials advised us against it, as something which would not be supported by the major powers.  Sure, that might be so. Should that stop us from aiming for the stars? The committee said no. Officials said that about cluster munitions at the time, and we got a treaty on that. This could just be the start of the next step towards a nuclear-free world. Too idealistic? God (or someone) protect us from politicians without ideals. You can read the report here. I await the government’s response in 90 days.

Happy anniversary.

 

 

 

 


Amateur Hour

Posted by on April 13th, 2012

Some days I despair about the quality of management we have in some of our important industries. Don’t get me wrong. We have some excellent companies with smart management, but some of the decisions by the Ports of Auckand and Talleys AFFCO just don’t cut it.

Yesterday the Ports of Auckland admitted they had leaked private information about one of their employees to a blogger who then reproduced it. Apart from being a breach of privacy, it was incredibly unethical, it is unprofessional and shows a serious lack of judgement by the management.

Then it was revealed that the wharfies have been welcomed back to work with multiple spy cameras on their machines, security guards in the lunchroom and a ban on exhibiting MUNZ logos on their clothing or belongings.

Treating your workers like they are the enemy is not a good way to go about mending bridges.

And there’s good old Talleys trying to waste SFO time and taxpayer money by claiming irregularities in the Meat Workers Union accounts. It only took the SFO a day to figure out this was a baseless complaint and reject it.

No one is pretending employment disputes are easy and I really want to see both PoAL and Talleys AFFCO settled.

But both these companies appear to be getting really bad advice. Its almost amateur hour stuff and would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so serious.

I agree with Len Brown. Heads need to roll at PoAL. He can make that happen.

Not much can be done about Talleys sadly. They just lurch from one outrageous violation to another.

Off to join the march at Moerewa.


Moerewa

Posted by on March 15th, 2012

I visited Moerewa on Tuesday to support the Talleys AFFCO workers. I went to a big meeting of locked out Talleys workers, their families and the community, and then spent some time on the picket outside the Works.

This is where the rubber hits the road, not in John Key’s announcement today of a Super Ministry which is “business facing” and will gulp up the Department of Labour and presumably with it, the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson.

Talley’s locked out these workers two weeks ago.  There are generations of workers involved here : fathers, sons, mothers, daughters. Some I talked to have worked at the Works for more than 40 years. Most are long serving workers. Skilled workers at that. You try wielding a boning knife.

The community is backing the workers.  A nice moment was when one of the local nurses came out with her Nurses Organisation banner to stand with the Talleys workers. She, of all people will know the impact this is having on the local community – not just on those who are locked out, but those affected by the downstream economic effect on a small community like Moerewa.

The workers told me they love their jobs and just want to work.  One young woman has just bought a house, another is due to have a child in the next couple of months.  The lockout is hurting.

The Tally family have a reputation for being anti-union.  The meat workers are the only unionised workforce they have to deal with among the 8000 or so employees in their food production businesses. Now it seems they’re hell bent on expunging the union from their meat works as well.

If what the workers told me is true, Talley’s breaks the law with impunity.  Sure, there’s a mountain of  Employment Authority and Employment Court decisions, but the law is meaningless if someone has enough dough to pay the fine, then do it again, or alternatively, tie the union up in endless litigation.

One story doing the rounds is that an AFFCO manager boasted that “no one ever went to jail breaking employment laws.”

That’s true. Sounds like an invitation to have a closer look at the penalties for serial offenders.

Moerewa is a brave community.  No-one was feeling sorry for themselves. Their concern was for each other, their whanau, their jobs and their community.

The Talley family might find these bonds harder to break than they think.

And John Key’s Super Ministry?

Irrelevant and meaningless for 1000 locked out workers in one of our key export industries.


Trickle down no more

Posted by on October 16th, 2011

On the last day of Parliament, I asked the Minister of Labour a couple of questions about wages. Minister Tony Ryall answered on her behalf and as a True Believer in the one market way he spouted the old trickle down theory.

“This is one of the reasons why the Government is focusing on growing and building a strong, growing economy, because a strong, growing economy will give all New Zealanders the opportunity to benefit in higher wages. “

Say what?

The truth is that working families and other middle income kiwis are finding it harder by the week to get by because the cost of living is rising and incomes aren’t keeping pace.

Over the last 3 years, median household income rose 1.4% while consumer prices rose 9%. The gap between high income earners and low income earners is growing, and the gap between New Zealand incomes and Australian incomes continues to get wider

Isn’t this the government that promised that it would stop our workers leaving for Australia by closing the wage gap? And hasn’t it blown out to 38% in the last three years?

New Zealand workers aren’t paid enough. We still believe in the old maxim “a fair days pay for a fair days work” but our rules don’t deliver that.

Labour will be changing the rules. We need some new ideas. Watch our for our policy announcement  this coming Tuesday.

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Filed under: policy, wages

Blue, Harry, Trotter – then and now

Posted by on September 26th, 2011

Chris Trotter has strong opinions, when I get the time to follow him – which isn’t often. But this short story, about Blue and Harry, stalwarts of the good old days of unionism, has turned up on my media monitoring, repeated in every little down-home country paper throughout the country. Blue says :

“I heard that Darien Fenton woman talking on the radio the other day – Labour’s industrial relations spokesperson. You know what she says?”

“What did she say?”

“She says: ‘Nobody on the Left is calling for the reintroduction of compulsory unionism and national awards.’”

“Never asked us”, said Harry.

“No, she bloody didn’t”, muttered Blue. “But I know what I’d like to ask Darien Fenton. I’d like to ask her how much longer Labour’s going to let this wretched experiment in voluntary union membership go on before declaring it a failure?

“Ninety-one out of a hundred, Harry. Ninety-bloody-one! That how many private sector workers lack union protection. Hundreds-of-thousands of ordinary Kiwis stripped of the ability to negotiate with their employers on equal terms. To look the boss in the eye and say ‘no deal’, without being sent down the road.”

Yep, well Blue and Harry (and Trotter) have got that right. There’s only 9% of private sector workers covered by unions and collective bargaining in NZ.  It’s not a NZ only situation –  and there’s plenty of international evidence mounting now, including from the IMF and the OECD, that the decline in unionism and collective bargaining has contributed to rising inequality and even the GFC.

I honour the commitment of the Blues and Harry’s and of those who followed them. I’ve worked in workplaces where there’s been strikes for weeks on end. I have my share of war stories, just like many Labour MPs (and they’re not all glorious). We worry about leaving the next generation much worse off than the one we inherited from their struggle. But the world has sadly changed. In Blue and Harry’s day, a casual worker would have been unheard of. Working the weekend for ordinary rates would be a strikeable offence. But women getting equal pay, paid parental leave, domestic leave and four weeks holiday were also just as unthinkable, so it’s not all about what happened yesterday.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t injustices, low pay and exploitation. There is plenty to go around.

But Blue and Harry would find today’s workplace unrecognisable and while we learn from our history, yesterday’s solutions aren’t the only solutions for today’s problems. Try, for instance, telling a young IT worker they should be compulsorily bound to a union.

So, Blue and Harry (and Chris Trotter) be patient. Talk with me if you want – anytime. Labour’s policy will be announced soon. We will be standing up for workers, and as we have always done, standing up for the poor and the lowest paid, and taking into account the fragmentation of the labour market, the huge inequalities that have developed, and the need to create a fairer society for everyone.


Higher wages

Posted by on September 25th, 2011

Talking to a young guy yesterday. Knew him when he was at secondary school about a decade ago.

He now lives in Aussie. Not because he wants to but because he feel it is the only way he can get ahead.

Over to watch of few games at RWC and to see family.

Drives a truck.

Earns roughly double what he got here. And then there is the employer funded super on top of that. Cost of living not much different.

His rig is slightly bigger but much more sophisticated than here. He gets lots more training on the job and he reckons he is about three times as productive.

I reckon he has to be more productive because his wages are higher and hs employer trains him more and invests in better capital goods for him to use, in order to make a profit.


Campbell Live – Cost of Living

Posted by on May 13th, 2011

The rising cost of living will be a feature of the election campaign. The median real wage has dropped substantially under the National government.


It is happening around the world

Posted by on April 22nd, 2011

The final decisions on the last Key/English budget were taken earlier this week. I’m told the cuts are massive, going right to the core of what we value as New Zealanders. But we are not alone. Manny Herrmann of the AFL-CIO writes :-

On April 15, nearly every House Republican voted to give massive new tax cuts to corporations and the rich while demolishing services for seniors, children and low- and middle-income Americans.

This isn’t a budget bill—it’s a political payback bill that raids Medicare, Social Security and education to reward corporate CEOs with massive tax cuts.


The truckies are stirring

Posted by on April 15th, 2011

Three years ago, leading into the 2008 election campaign, truckies staged a national strike, blocking the roads in protest at the then Minister of Transport’s announcement of an increase in road user charges.

It was Road Transport Forum (RTF) driven and many trucking operators put their employee drivers on the road that day to boost the numbers, which is a bit like a union paying union members to strike. It was timed well, and had an effect.  Transport Minister Annette King set up a road user charges review group which reported back in 2009.

Now parliament is considering a Road User Charges Bill that has got the truckies up in arms again because it proposes to change the definition of licence weight from nominated gross weight to a definition based on the maximum permissible on-road weight. 

The truckies are saying that this could mean increases in RUC charges for around 70% of the industry, forcing unproductive changes that could have impacts on safety, on damage to our roads, and financial consequences for SMEs. Basically, the big trucks will get off lightly, while the smaller trucks will pay more. 

In a fascinating turn of events, truckies have told the government that they are organising to protest again and this time around they will be better organised than in 2008. One operator has set up a website which is worth a look.

There’s a split in the industry. Many are supportive of the New Zealand’s unique road user charging system, which is now attracting international interest as virtually every modern economy develops and trials technology to implement similar direct charging for heavy vehicles. 

There’s some really smart modern operators in New Zealand now taking up the opportunity new technology offers to buy road user charges on-line and maximise efficiency. 

Then you have the RTF, who continue to insist that road user charges should be paid through fuel excise and who appear to treat modern technology with suspicion. 

Never thought I would be so interested in trucks.


Economy Stuck in a Rut

Posted by on March 24th, 2011

Near-zero gross domestic product (GDP) figures for the December 2010 quarter prove how badly the New Zealand economy is stuck in a rut.

Treasury and the Reserve Bank had both forecast zero growth for the quarter. I have taken the view that was about right and that minor variation either side would not change the story.

It doesn’t. Today’s 0.2% is within a shade of that, and is still subject to revision.

The big picture is that the economy is going nowhere because National has no plan.

A breakdown of the statistics is instructive – wholesale trade is down, retail is down, accommodation and restaurants are down, confirming the message that businesses in New Zealand towns and cities have been giving us — that for them 2010 was even worse than 2009.

Cost of living pressures were also clear.  Goods and services purchased by Kiwi households are almost flat even though prices rose 2.3 percent in the December quarter alone.  This shows Kiwi families are hard hit by the rising cost of living and are having to tighten their belts month by month.

There is no good news on the external side either. Imports rose faster than exports, and the fastest-rising export, raw logs, effectively represents exporting Kiwi processing jobs along with the timber.

Kiwi families and firms are borrowing more than ever before to stay afloat, and the Reserve Bank says this will continue until 2013.

Bill English is presiding over an old-fashioned slump, and clearly has no idea what to do about it.

Last week he wanted to put the whole cost of the earthquake on the country’s credit card, but Prime Minister John Key rolled him a few days later when announcing a zero budget this year.

Economics 101 says that savage budget cuts in the middle of a deep recession will only put more people out of work, undermine confidence, reduce demand and drive down tax flows.

 This isn’t a plan. It’s a recipe for continuing economic failure.


Let’s talk about these green jobs

Posted by on January 30th, 2011

A few years ago, before I became an MP, I attended a property services conference in Helsinki, run by the Global Union for Cleaners, UNI.

I was struck by a presentation from ISS, a global facilities service provider, who talked about how cleaning jobs could be revolutionised, particularly with the growing emphasis on green buildings.

At that stage, most cleaners (including NZ) were employed in the traditional way. As the office staff clocked out, the cleaners clocked in – out of sight, out of mind, working for low wages – working at multiple sites and for multiple employers, often wandering from site to site during the night.

ISS talked about this could change – how cleaning could take place during the day, with cleaners working alongside other staff and perhaps expanding their skills beyond cleaning to pick up other facilities work.

So I was interested to read in Saturday’s Dom Post “that there is office cleaning revolution gathering pace in NZ, where the days of mops and wringer buckets filled with unsafe chemicals and sloshed along office corridor floors and noisy vacuum cleanings trailing long chords are numbered.”

ISS NZ is changing the equipment issued to cleaners to lightweight adjustment aluminum mops, microfibre cloths and battery powered quiet vacuum cleaners. Beginning at Te Papa a couple of years ago, ISS, who employs around 4000 cleaners says that the new system has now been adopted by 25% of their clients.

And the biggest change : changing from nighttime cleaning to daytime cleaning, bringing savings for companies in electricity and security.

While ISS says the savings are great for companies, I think the changes can create a revolution for the traditional job of a cleaner, in a number of ways. Firstly, they are more integrated as part of the building staff, not a group of “fairies” who magically appear while we’re at home sleeping. The higher visibility of cleaning staff during the day should raise the overall awareness of the process and more respect towards cleaners, especially when they see them working to keep the building clean. Coming face to face with the cleaner means greater care is often taken by staff and visitors to keep the building clean.

Secondly, daytime work offers much more family friendly options for cleaners and could make the work much more desirable.

I’ve always said cleaners are undervalued. They are responsible for millions of dollars worth of equipment, and now they’re at the forefront of sustainablility in our downtown offices, our airports, schools and hospitals.

The big question is whether that means cleaners’ jobs become worth more (currently, the rate is set at $13.10 an hour), whether there can be decent, full time jobs created through upskilling to take on other work in the day to day life of an office.

NZ’s model of competitive tendering means that more often than not, cleaners are transferred to a new employer who expects them to do the same amount of work for fewer hours.

So, let’s have a revolution in office cleaning, but if it’s still work for vulnerable workers who have to work two or three jobs to make a living, it’s only a revolution for the better off.


Please – not that old Public Holiday story again

Posted by on January 4th, 2011

Every Xmas or long weekend since 2003, when Labour reintroduced minimum pay of time and a half for working on a public holiday the same old stories are wheeled out as news.

Today TVNZ is running the headline “Holiday law change leaves workers with less money”.

The story is based on the views of right-wing Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer who says that more businesses are opting to keep their doors closed over Christmas and their staff home, and therefore “the legislation is actually forcing holidays on staff and cutting their pay.”

No it’s not. What’s happening is the workers are getting a paid public holiday off like many other New Zealanders. They’re not losing any pay at all. They may be missing out on a bit of half time extra pay, but for most restaurant and retail workers who are on near to minimum wage, the amount would be relatively small.  Many people would rather spend the public holidays with their friends and families, as has been confirmed time and again when some bright politician has tried to liberate shop trading laws for Easter Sunday.

Brewer may be right that some restaurants are keeping their doors closed over the holiday period. That’s fine and it’s up to them if they want to take the risk of losing patronage to other restaurants. Many that do open are charging a surcharge, which continues to upset some people. It used to wind me up too, particularly in places where there was an obviously deliberate anti-Labour campaign with a sign saying “Don’t blame me for the surcharge, blame Helen Clark.”

But I’m surprised to find myself agreeing with Steve McKenzie from the Restaurant Association in his piece in the NZ Herald today on “why surcharges are not newsworthy.“

The Restaurant Association seem to have given up attacking the government – perhaps it’s because “their” government shows no sign of removing the time and a half for working public holidays, even although they’ve messed with other entitlements in the Holidays Act.

Paying extra pay for working a public holiday isn’t newsworthy either, so I wish we could just get over the fact that like most other comparable countries, we decided it was fair to pay people extra who have to work on public holidays.


Preserve New Chum – Wainuiototo Beach for everyone

Posted by on January 4th, 2011

New ChumThis is the catch cry of the community campaign to save New Chum beach from development.

Imagine walking through the bush, a stand of nikau and then coming down into a beach of golden sands with pohutakawa trees right down to the sand.  A large bay with rocky headlands and rolling waves.  A beach that is completely pristine with absolutely no development at all.  No roads, no paths, no rubbish bins, toilets, ice cream sellers or anything other than the absolute natural beauty.  A beach on the Coromandel Peninsula that can only be accessed by a 30 minute walk or by water.   This beach is New Chum – Wainuiototo.

I first saw New Chum 10 years ago and I have to say it took my breath away.  I have visited many beautiful beaches but the absolute unspoiled nature of New Chum was something special.  Since that first visit I have been back many times to sit, to picnic, to walk, to swim and every time it takes my breath away.  On one occasion my partner and I ended up being the only people there at the end of the day – it was a magic feeling.  If you haven’t visited and you have the chance I would highly recommend it.  The beach lies north of Whangapoua beach on the eastern side of the Coromandel peninsula.  It is an easy 30 minute walk.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining over a thousand others who are fighting to stop development of New Chum.   There are so few beaches of this size and quality that remain undeveloped, especially so close to the large population centres of Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.  We want to save this beach in its untouched state for our children, our grandchildren and future generations.

A wonderful community campaign -New Chum for everyone - has worked tirelessly over the last few months to oppose the development of New Chum.   They have submitted, they have lobbied, they have built community support and got the support of Labour leader Phil Goff and Green MP Catherine Delahunty.   Yesterdat a message was sent to the Prime Minister to put pressure on him to do what is a no brainer and that is to buy New Chum from the developer to ensure it protected now and into the future. 

It seems the developer is willing to do a deal that means this could cost as little as $10 million.  This is a small price to pay for something which has enormous economic, social and environmental value.  This beach has been described as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by Lonely Planet and National Geographic.

Yesterday at Matarangi, led by Phil Keoghan (Host of the Amazing Race) and supported by many others including Linda at The Informer newsletter, we sent a visual message made up of over a thousand people;  it said “John Key Save Me! New Chum”.  Phil Goff, Steve Chadwick, Catherine Delahunty and I (but not Sandra Goudie the local MP) all participated.   The Mayor of Thames Coromandel District Council, Glenn Leach and a number of TCDC Councillors were also actively involved.  One person I was really pleased to see was Robyn Malcolm who was recently vilified for taking a very principled stance in the whole Hobbit debacle.

The Government can make a difference by buying this wonderful asset for the people of New Zealand.  As Phil Goff says ‘National can invest $1.7 billion in protecting South Canterbury Finance Investors and pay Warner Brothers up to $95 million in handouts for filming The Hobbit in New Zealand, $10 million is such a small price for protecting such an invaluable asset as New Chum beach”. 

This is something worth supporting.  We can save New Chum. Please go to www.preservenewchum.org.nz for more information.   As the community campaign states “Whatungarongaro te tangata Toitu te whenua – people come and go but the land remains”


We believe in the right to unionise – some people don’t

Posted by on December 22nd, 2010

Trevor + Helen Kelly

This is the latest from Sir Peter on the Hobbit debacle. It makes the agenda very very clear. Sad really. Diminishes one of my heroes and undermines my faith in our processes of government at the same time.

Worse, it was clear to ourselves and to the studio that the MEAA, had an agenda to unionize the NZ film industry by exploiting a grey area that existed in employment law. The change in the law, which clarified the independent contractor status of film industry workers, gave the studio confidence that the film could made in New Zealand without the threat of unjustified ongoing industrial action and for that we remain very grateful.

The area of law wasn’t grey. It dates back a long way and was confirmed in 2005. It drew a line between contractors and employees and Sir Peter has made all of his films on that legal basis. it worked. To deny that is nonsense.


Stingy

Posted by on December 17th, 2010

The prize for the stingy employer of the week goes to Silver Fern Meatworks, who docked workers’ pay for observing two minutes silence, along with the rest of New Zealand, to pay their respects to the 29 miners who lost their lives in Pike River Mine.

It’s made us famous in Australian newspapers, as news spreads that slaughter chain workers at Te Aroha’s Silver Fern meatworks (which burned down shortly after) were docked between 98 cents and $1.60 each – saving the company at most $500.

Even the farmers are crying foul, with Otorohanga dry stock farmer and Silver Fern shareholder Andre de Haan, the immediate past chairman of Waikato Federated Farmers’ meat and fibre section, calling the decision “a load of crap”.

Someone else should be worried about the reputation of the company – and that’s the Minister of Agriculture, David Carter is who is a shareholder of Silver Fern Farms.

Mr de Haan’s says he doubted shareholders would support management’s decision to dock workers’ pay.

“I would have thought everyone would stand behind any gesture towards people that are in trouble like that.”

Does shareholder David Carter agree?

Come on Mr Carter – say something – anything.


Signing Fees Pledges

Posted by on December 10th, 2010

A very tough day in the UK today, with the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition passing(just) its proposal to triple university tuition fees and cut allowances for some students. There is a huge wave of protest in the UK that has got pretty ugly, with Prince Charles car attacked, the NUS condemning the violence and stories flying about police tactics.

Leaving aside the substance of the issue, which represents fees of up to 9,000 pounds, for many casual observers in New Zealand it might be hard to understand why this debate and vote is so significant in the UK, and why the focus is so much on the Liberal Democrats. Martin Kettle in the Guardian has a good description of this, and believes that this is the beginning of the end for the coalition.

From a Liberal Democrat perspective many backbenchers voted against their leadership today because it was clear party policy not to raise fees, but also because many, including their leader Nick Clegg signed pledges not to raise fees. Those Lib Dem MPs in electorates with large university populations are worried.

Signing a pledge such as this is not new. There are many of us here who remember Lockwood Smith’s 1990 promise not to raise fees. To remind, here is the evidence. (h/t Moana Mackey)


Joyce’s double dip

Posted by on November 29th, 2010

More than 12,000 people have signed an on-line petition and 3,000 people have sent emails to Steven Joyce opposing the government’s decision to charge for access to basic vehicle  registration data on the NZTA computer.

Currently, consumers can access free vehicle reports through websites like CarJam.  This has helped identify cars with dodgy odometers, cars with no warrant or registration and stolen vehicles being offered for sale to unsuspecting consumers.

But NZTA’s decision to charge for basic vehicle information will add another unwelcome cost to the purchase of a car and will discourage consumers from checking whether the car they are buying is safe and legal.

I’m concerned at the impact this will have on struggling families who could end up buying a dodgy car, and in doing so, also put lives at risk with unsafe vehicles on the road. Buying a car is one of the biggest outgoings for many families and it is critical they are able to get the best possible information about their purchase.

I’m told that the cost of gathering, storing and providing this information is already covered by motor registration fees, so that effectively the agency would be double-dipping with the proposed charges.

Seems like a miserly change to me.


Fairness at work demanded

Posted by on October 20th, 2010

DSC02890 (4) (2)Along with Green MP Keith Locke I attended the CTU rally in Auckland today.  7,000 wage and salary earners gathered in Manukau to express their anger and concern at the actions of this National government.  They were part of actions in 30 locations throughout New Zealand with 22,000 people participating.

The Auckland rally was a very powerful gathering. Strong statements were made against the removal of rights – the right to challenge unfair dismissals, the right to see your union representative on site, the right to rest and meal breaks, the right to have holidays.

At the end I was asked by a journalist whether I thought the Government would listen.   I responded that while they should listen I expected that they would not.  This Government is going to force through this backward looking suite of attacks on working people.  These changes will not lift workplace productivity, lift wages or close the wage gap with Australia – quite the contrary!  We will all be worse off as a consequence.

The speakers today reflected concerns that I am hearing throughout the community.   These attacks are not well received in the community and for many this is further evidence of a Government out of touch with the views and reality of many New Zealanders.