Red Alert

Archive for the ‘redundancy’ Category

Consultants for core administrative tasks?

Posted by on January 10th, 2013

Back in 2008 the then National opposition made two ‘key’ pledges when it came to public services. The first was to ‘cap but not cut’ the number of public servants, and the second was to ‘move resources from the back office to the frontline’. They didn’t keep either promise, but more importantly, evidence is increasingly emerging that their approach to public service provision is costing the taxpayer more, not less.

National’s cap on public service numbers has led to a blowout in consultancy costs, as government agencies continue to deal with the same, or in many cases greater, workloads with fewer people on board to do the work.

Take the Ministry of Education for example. This week I released data that shows they’ve been engaging expensive consultants to undertake core administrative tasks like processing official information requests, drafting ministerial documents, and writing business cases. I’ve got no problem with departments bring in outside expertise when a particular set of skills are required, but this is bread and butter stuff any department the size of the Ministry of Education should be able to deal with.

Between 2008 and 2011 ten of the biggest government departments spent a whopping $910 million on consultants and contractors between them. Those same agencies spent $114 million making people redundant during the same period. Increasingly anecdotal evidence is emerging of former employees being engaged as consultants to do the work they used to do for a lot less when they were employees.

National’s consultancy culture isn’t saving us money, it’s costing us more. It’s also leading to an erosion of the core capability of the public service, and some of the haphazard decisions ministers are making, often based on weak advice, reflect that.

Our democratic system relies on there being a quality public service with the expertise and capability to deliver on the priorities of the government of the day, whomever that may be. That includes the capability to deliver advice the government of the day might not like. Under National, that capability is being seriously eroded.

$12 million on redundancy, more to come

Posted by on August 20th, 2012

The fact that the various entities being merged to form Steven Joyce’s new ‘mega ministry’ had already spent over $12 million on redundancy payments under National, even before the latest merger gets underway clearly highlights the unnecessary cost of ad-hoc restructuring.

The two agencies that merged to form the Ministry for Science and Innovation spent over $1.6 million on redundancies as a result of that move, now they’re being restructured again. The Ministry of Economic Development spent $4.2 million on redundancy over the past 3 years, while their spending on consultants and contractors during that same period of time exploded, rising from $6.7 million to $19.2 million per year.

National’s public sector restructuring has been characterised by ad-hocism and empire building, rather than a coherent plan for delivering better services to Kiwis and businesses. The fact that the creation of MoBIE will mean a second or even third round of restructuring for some of the employees involved underscores how shambolic National’s approach has been.

Rather than constantly shuffling people around, laying them off and then hiring them back as contractors, and wasting money on slick PR campaigns, the government should be focused on how they can deliver better public services to New Zealanders.

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

Lockouts, layoffs and livelihoods

Posted by on November 23rd, 2011

The lockout of more than 100 workers at ANZCO CMP Meatworks in Marton is now in its second month over the employer’s demand for 20% paycuts and increased workloads. Efforts by the workers’ union to reach a compromise so far have been rejected. The local community, food-banks and workers from around the country, many of whom are already struggling from the impact of cost of living increases,are digging deep to help these workers feed their families. That can’t carry on. Families are hurting, the local economy is suffering and New Zealand’s international reputation is being affected.

Predictably, there’s been silence from the Minister of Labour and John Key in this very serious situation, and they’ve left their hapless and inexperienced Rangitikei candidate to deal with it.

Then there’s the almost daily announcements of lay-offs. Today it’s Milton Woollen Mills. Yesterday, it was Sleepyhead.

The National Party Industrial Relations policy for this election will encourage more of the hard-line tactics being used by ANZCO CMP. They want to give employers the right to veto multi-employer collective agreements, refuse to conclude collective bargaining, and put workers on individual agreements when they start work.

National’s priorities for early legislation, announced today, include cutting pay for young workers and privatising the ACC work account. How sad is that?

The last time a National government tried these race to the bottom ideas, the wage gap with Australia grew enormously, workers lost long-held conditions, low pay became endemic in many important industries and we lost a generation of skilled workers.

John Key insists that he will build a brighter future (actually, I thought he promised that last election).

There’s no brighter future for laid off or locked out workers, or those who only got a 25 cents increase in the minimum wage this year.

Clear choice Saturday.

the leader of the national party sends even more kiwi jobs to China

Posted by on June 24th, 2011

Very interesting that the leader of the national party and Steven Joyce have left it to a Chinese website to announce that they have on our behalf purchased another 20 locomotives that should have been built at Hillside and Woburn. No tender. And the first 20 over a year late from the same Chinese source.

Maybe it was because Kiwirail were at the same time firing staff in Dunedin and the Hutt Valley.

Because it is Kiwirail not Chinarail it is time the economic benefits of these purchases (jobs created, skills developed, tax paid, benefits avoided) rather than just the accounting costs are taken into account.

KIWIRAIL Purchase Additional 20 sets of “MADE IN CHINA CNR” Diesel-electric Locomotives
On June 2, CNR Import & Export Corp. Ltd of CHINA CNR Corp. Ltd. Singed another contract for 20 diesel-electric locomotives with KIWIRAIL New Zealand. The partner PPD company in New Zealand of CNR Import & Export Corp. Ltd has been strongly supporting this contract. This is KIWIRAIL to the CNR purchase after first 20 locomotives in 2009.

Someone had to do it…

Posted by on December 24th, 2010

It’s not my favourite Xmas song by any means but it is wonderfully camp and unlike the ‘timeless’ classics this one is unashamedly trapped in the 80s.  George Michael’s coif alone is worthy of mention.

Although I wish I could tell the woman in the very orange parka to stop torturing herself coz she’s seriously barking up the wrong tree….

Pity all the miners

Posted by on December 13th, 2010

As if losing 29 of their workmates weren’t enough, the remaining workers at Pike River Mine now face a bleak Christmas with the Company going into liquidation.

Pike River Coal chairman John Dow announced today that New Zealand Oil & Gas had appointed a receiver to the company at the request of the board of Pike River Coal, with John Fisk, David Bridgman and Malcolm Hollis, partners from Pricewaterhouse Coopers, being appointed as the mine’s receivers.

This was on the cards from day one of the disaster and I understand contractors were laid off almost immediately – with nothing.

But there’s now doubt as to whether the miners directly employed by Pike River Coal will get their one month of notice paid out, redundancy payments and any other entitlements such as holiday pay.

I know the Company’s not a charity, but for goodness sake –  surely they could have waited until after Christmas?

Cleaners get a reprieve

Posted by on September 1st, 2010

Last week, Grant Robertson wrote about the Massey Uni cleaners who were facing massive cuts to hours or dismissal due to redundancy which was due to happen today.

Yesterday, Chief Judge GL Colgan issued a judgement which requires the parties to bargain for redundancy “entitlements”, but not including monetary compensation for redundancy.  He has also said that the cleaners should not be dismissed today so that the statutory processes arising from their entitlement to redundancy can take place.

It’s an interesting judgement.  It confirms that workers have an right to redundancy entitlements, despite there being specific requirements in the cleaners’ agreement that there be no redundancy compensation.

Of course all of this could be avoided if there were minimum redundancy entitlements in law.  But that’s a story for the next Labour Government (and a sorry tale about redundancy under the NACT government).

The curious case of the missing recovery

Posted by on August 31st, 2010

Not much good news around about the NZ economy.

Standard & Poor Chief economist David Wyss told Auckland economists yesterday that there is a one in three chance of another crash and while the “recession is over”, it’s a very fragile recovery. NZ businesses say they cut too deep in the recession last year and are struggling to rebuild because many of the skilled workers they laid off have gone elsewhere – and who can blame them?  Tens of thousands got the chop with no redundancy pay and NZ wages and conditions are falling further and further behind Australia’s.  Confidence is faltering and today, our government will fork out around NZ$1.6 billion in taxpayers money to 35,000 depositers in South Canterbury Finance that were covered under the extended guarantee scheme.

The best our government can come up with?  Cut workers’ protection against unfair dismissal, restrict their access to union advice, cut their meals and rest breaks and put their holidays up for grabs.

You don’t have to go far to find some pretty grumpy voters. And they’re set to get a lot grumpier come the 1st October when GST goes up and most find that their tax cut has already been eaten up.

This clip from Jim Stanford (aka Lieutenant Stanfordo), who wrote “Economics for Everyone” has parallels, and also some warnings.  Paula Bennett’s Welfare Working Group has been promoting unemployment insurance, but look what happens to the workers who are laid off in this video.  Compulsory savings is an attractive idea, but without government guarantees, workers can end up getting nothing.  I hope someone makes a NZ version.

Minister of Transparency and Accountability

Posted by on June 4th, 2010


In case you missed it, this Morning Report interview makes entertaining listening as Rodney Hide tries to explain to Sean Plunket that he doesn’t know how much executive redundancy payouts are going to cost the Auckland ratepayer. Or what impact Hide’s super city will have on rates.

Another nasty little surprise in the budget

Posted by on May 20th, 2010

Bill English didn’t mention it – and nor did John Key, in his comedy act called his budget speech.

But we spotted it. On page 69 of the 2010 Budget speech handed out to MPs this afternoon was this sentence :

“The redundancy tax credit will be removed from 1 October 2010.”

Labour introduced the redundancy tax rebate in 2007 to make the taxing of redundancy payments fairer for workers who were pushed into a higher tax bracket as a result of receiving lump sum compensation payment for redundancy. This applied to redundancy payments paid on or after 1 December 2006.

This was because it was simply not fair to have to pay a higher level of tax because a worker loses their job through no fault of their own.

But now National will ensure that workers who do receive redundancy pay can be overtaxed like they used to be.  Talk about punishment.

This comes on top of the government’s recent failure to support legislation that would have given all Kiwi workers minimum redundancy payments .

Now, thanks to National, even those workers who do receive compensation will also be penalised.

Mean, mean, mean.

This issue won’t go away

Posted by on May 6th, 2010

As expected, the NActs voted the Redundancy Protection Bill down yesterday.  It was an ugly spectacle listening to the likes of National MP David Bennett, who claimed that the bill was to make everyone union members!  Is that the best he could do?

Yes, the bill was defeated, but that’s only part of the campaign to push for minimum redundancy notice and pay for workers who have no protection in their employment agreements.  There’s still a parliamentary petition circulating, which will come back to the House in due course. 

Labour’s committed to this and the campaign will continue right through to election year, because this is an issue of basic fairness.

How does it feel? – Laid off with nothing

Posted by on May 5th, 2010

Kate redundancy

We have a date with redundancy rights

Posted by on April 9th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, Sitel workers picketed their workplace protesting about getting sacked without any redundancy pay.  They’re just the latest in a long line of workers who’ve been laid off without any compensation for losing their jobs.  They will be forced to join the dole queue if they can’t find another job – good people who Paula Bennett says are making a “lifestyle choice” by going on the benefit.

banner-500x80My Redundancy Protection Bill is due to have its first reading in the House in early May.  I’ve deliberately postponed the first reading knowing that the NACTs won’t vote for it, but we’re trying to change their mind.  Keep up with the website and watch the Facebook page as well.   There’s action coming in the next week or two.

Jaine gets a payrise

Posted by on March 23rd, 2010

Jaine Ikurere

There’s more going on in Parliament than Trevor’s canny cornering of the government today and the hilarious debate that followed.  These things keep us amused, but I was just as happy to hear that Jaine Ikurere, who cleans John Key’s office is to get a payrise. 

Thanks to the hard work of her union and the cleaners’ staunch support, Jaine’s pay will go up by 50 cents an hour to $13.10.  It’s not the $14.62 that other cleaners get in the public sector, but there is provision for that to occur, should the client fund it.

The client, in Jaine’s case, is Parliamentary Services.   That’s why Labour MPs wrote to the Speaker a few weeks ago.  He’s the Minister in charge of Parliamentary Services and we want the budget for cleaning our offices to be increased by the small amount necessary to enable the contractor to pay them more. 

We got the expected response.  Very sympathetic, but the bargaining is between the union and the employer.  The Speaker is not the employer and can’t get involved in negotiations.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But the government can put more money into the parliamentary services budget and ring-fence it to fund a decent pay jolt for the lowest paid – just as Labour did for Hospital service workers and School Cleaners. 

I’m pleased Jaine got a pay increase.  She did it with her workmates and her union. 

Now for the next $1.52 an hour.

EMA scare campaigning

Posted by on March 7th, 2010

It comes as no surprise to me to learn that the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) have been slagging off my Redundancy Protection Bill (due for first reading in a couple of months) in their quarterly briefings to members.

I’m told it got quite personal. An acquaintance who attended the EMA briefing where my bill was discussed says that there was a photo of me put up on the power-point with a run-down on my union background, a scary dressing down about the evils of the bill, and a warning of what’s coming should Labour be re-elected to government.

Afterwards, I came across an open letter to me on the web from an EMA member-organisation, written as a result of their attendance at one of these briefings. They were wound up and panicked by the EMA’s representation of my bill – in my view quite unnecessarily.  I feel sorry for them.

The only problem is they didn’t send it to me.  I would gladly have responded to their concerns and issues, just as I would happily front any EMA briefing to have a debate about my bill.

Now I see the EMA is advertising a new workshop, called “Learn restructuring – the easy way” – in other words, how to make workers redundant.

And they’re charging $448 plus GST for the privilege.

Funny thing, though.  According to an 2007 EMA survey on redundancy 66.8% of employers had a redundancy clause in their agreements with workers, of which 42.8% provided for compensation.  The most common formula was 4 weeks compensation for the first year of service and 2 weeks for each year of service after that.

That’s exactly what my bill provides for.

It’s this kind of scare campaigning that unions (and Labour) are often accused of – yet here it is in all of its glory in the Northern EMA – the bosses union.

Food for thought #1

Posted by on January 1st, 2010

Food. I’ve been doing more than eating it. I’ve been truly experiencing it and enjoying it in recent days. We’ve had a week in our former home region of Marlborough which brands itself the Gourmet Province. We have eaten fat fresh cherries, luscious apricots, chunks of local smoked salmon, delicious cheese made in the Marlborough Sounds, fresh vegetables drizzled with virgin olive oil. All bought from the wonderful farmers market that celebrity chef Chris Fortune helped set up some years ago. The food is all local, mostly seasonal. It tastes and looks better. Such local markets are now established in many centres. Christchurch has several, including a Saturday morning French market. They provide an alternative to supermarkets, often at lower prices. And you can often ask the grower about what you are buying. We had a delightful chat to the cheesemaker, who told us about her return to the family farm to fill a niche in the Marlborough foodscape. You just can’t do that at Countdown.

Meantime, I’ve picked up a book in the Blenheim house we borrowed from friends for Christmas. The Omnivore’s Dilemma explores factory farming in the US. It’s a very timely read given the plans to house dairy cows in the Mackenzie Basin. I’ll relate some ugly truths about industrial food production in America in my next post-and some rising issues here in NZ. Meantime, if you are on holiday somewhere and you haven’t ventured into a local farmers/food market, go and give yourself a New Year treat.

Social media and people power

Posted by on December 27th, 2009

It’s the time of year to be contemplative. Colin James’ piece in the Press yesterday invoked us to remember the conundrum of Christmas, the darkness and the beauty of  humankind, and invited us to promote the good of humans and not to trade in the bad.

Optimism, I hope, is my nature. In that spirit, here’s two other pieces to contemplate. I hope you’ll read them.

They are each about the emerging power of social media and how it is being used (and could be used) as a force for change by groups of people who feel oppressed. Disturbingly, how it can also be (and already is) used as a means to oppress and restrain.

Both pieces are about the balance of power between citizens and the state and how technology is fueling social movements. Both are published in Prospect Magazine.

1. How dictators watch us on the web by Evgeny Morozov. A disturbing account which argues that while the internet is meant to help activists, enable democratic protest and weaken the grip of authoritarian regimes, it doesn’t—in fact, the web is a boon for bullies.

2. The net advantage: Media guru Clay Shirky responds to criticisms in Evgeny Morozov’s piece on why dictators benefit from the web. Despite pitfalls, he says, the internet remains a positive force for democracy.

The points I’d like to make are: I believe that people who work together will inevitably find a way to make change. Even if they are at the vanguard of a movement that takes a long time to be effective. That those with power will try to fight back and use any means to do so. But ultimately change cannot be held back when enough people want it.

That direct engagement between governments and people are crucial. That people want to know they are listened to and that making government (the state) too distanced from the population results in fracture and disharmony.

And that we, in New Zealand, are very fortunate to live in such a stable democracy. But we too have a lot to learn. We can learn from these struggles and choose to promote the good.

Yes I did get up that early, but it was August!

Posted by on December 27th, 2009

Sunrise at New Brighton Pier

I have had feedback from recipients of my Christmas card this year inquiring whether I had taken the photograph myself – yes I did.  It is Sunrise at New Brighton Pier on August 2, 2009.  I have decided to share it on Red Alert, so you can all enjoy the beauty of the electorate I have the privilege to represent .    And for those who have asked about whether I have had any training, well a certain Minister would call it a ‘hobby class’, but I did attend an Adult Education class at Papanui High School a few years ago and it has excited a passion for photography that far exceeds my natural talent!  I will try and share some of my holiday snaps with you.  Seasons Greetings!

Roll out the lazy hazy crazy days of Xmas lay-offs

Posted by on December 16th, 2009

Less than two weeks before Christmas and that good old Christmas redundancy feeling is upon us. You have to wonder whether the timing’s deliberate, or just insensitive, but the Christmas redundancies are mounting up :

  • Taxrefunds in Oamaru are planning to make 67 staff redundant at its call centre.
  • Twenty-eight jobs at Yarrows bakery in the Taranaki will be gone by Christmas.
  • Longveld Engineering is laying off up to 17 workers, depite being named both Waikato Business of the Year and Manufacturing Business of the Year.
  • The final 80 workers will be out of a job at Lane Walker Rudkin by Christmas.
  • Up to 50 union members and other call centre staff at Colmar Brunton will be made redundant with no redundancy compensation.
  • Staff at Waikato Rugby Union headquarters have taken 10-15 per cent pay cuts to avoid Christmas redundancies.

These are the ones in the media this week, but there’s more we don’t hear about.  53% of employers in a recent EMA survey reported they used redundancy as a cost cutting measure in the past year.

fair-deal-badge-120Then there’s the redundancies my friend told me about at the weekend, where three of his workmates were told they had no job after Christmas and by the way, there would be no redundancy pay either.

But don’t give up.  My Redundancy Protection Bill campaign is still alive and kicking. I’ve postponed the bill until March to allow for more campaigning time. More unions and groups are joining in, and the petition and postcards will be out at public events over the summer.

PS:  This is my Christmas card to you all.