Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘kate wilkinson’

Duckworth-Lewis Food Labelling

Posted by on December 9th, 2012

Buried inside a media release about innovative health food claims from Kate Wilkinson’s office late on Friday was the news that National has, predictably, let industry interests trump public health on the issue of front-of-pack food labelling.

With obesity and diabetes being the most pressing health challenges New Zealand (like other developed nations) is facing, helping people take better control of their own nutrition is absolutely vital.

Choice is important and there is no point in sanctimoniously dictating to people what they should and should not eat, but we can provide simple information and signals to help people make informed decisions.

The right thing to do is establish a universal and simple-to-read ‘traffic light’ type system that people can easily interpret whilst doing their shopping.

What was announced was not a new system but a report prepared by an advisory group  consisting of both industry and health representatives. (Oddly the Health Promotion Agency and its predecessor the Health Sponsorship Council are not represented. Perhaps Kate Wilkinson thought Katherine Rich could wear both her conflicting hats at the same time while she represented the  Food and Grocery Council).

Kate Wilkinson says the report identifies a set of principles that will provide a useful guide to food businesses that want to adopt front of pack labelling.

So it’s voluntary which means the manufacturers of those foods that people need to eat sparingly will avoid it like the plague.

It’s also complicated with foods to be compared within categories, not with all other foods and using a points system rather than the simple traffic light system. In a win for the PC brigade, negative labels will not be used, only varying degrees of positive labels.

Incredibly, it suggests that the really bad foods, the ones with no positive nutritional value should have no label at all.

By the the time I finished reading it I was surprised the group hadn’t recommended shoppers use the Duckworth-Lewis method to determine what foods they should buy.

Predictable but nevertheless disappointing.  Once again National shows it has no concept of public health and is happy to keep pouring money into the treatments it chooses and putting more strain on the health system in the future.

I think that the best system is this one developed by Sanitarium. It combines individual nutrient ratings with an overall rating while still retaining the simple traffic light approach. This is what we should be pursuing.


Health and Safety – “nice to have”?

Posted by on September 10th, 2011

I have to admit to being seriously worried. Something’s happening in our workplaces where some employers have decided that health and safety is a “nice to have” rather than an essential part of our duty as a society to ensure workers are safe when they go to work.

The recent tragedies at Pike River Mine and the Tamahere Cool Store Fire have highlighted a culture and attitude to workplace safety that I hoped we had left behind. There are real horror stories emerging and I understand there is worse to come.

I have been at pains to say that Labour didn’t do everything it should have done in relation to Pike River Mine, but I think the situation has deteriorated further under this government and the so-called leadership of Minister Kate Wilkinson.

Health and Safety enforcement in the Department of Labour has been systematically run down. The Department is struggling and it’s led to the axing of two crucial roles – chief advisor in Health and Safety, and chief advisor Occupational Health who have been replaced by junior information officer positions in the DOL call centre.

There are now simply not enough OSH staff to enforce regulations or to carry out prosecutions. Training for workplace health and safety representatives, who are a key part of our health and safety system has been slashed as well, with ACC Minister Nick Smith describing the roles as ‘touchy, feely, nice to have’. He’s banking on the introduction of ACC “experience ratings”, which provide financial incentives to employers to reduce accidents – but he’s ignored international evidence (and for that matter, our own) that this is just rubbish. It’s not a prevention strategy, it’s a cover-up plan.

Time and again, I’ve been hearing contemptuous comments about the role of employee participation in health and safety.  This is despite international research showing that workers who are engaged, active and vigilant help reduce accidents and injury.

Our erstwhile Minister says health and safety is an employers responsibility, so she’s set up a CEO forum who apparently, after a year’s work, have come up with – guess what – a strategic plan!  Sure, CEOs need to take leadership on this issue, but let’s be honest – they are not the ones who face losing their lives or serious injury where there is systemic failure in workplace health and safety.

The government, through its cuts to Health and Safety expertise and training for workplace representatives have sent a very clear signal to employers which many are now embracing.  Health and Safety, with employee participation is “nanny state” and a “compliance cost”.

As I said, I’m seriously worried.


Meaning the opposite of what they say

Posted by on August 22nd, 2010

work rally august

Today Dunedin-ites hit the streets again to protest against the Government’s unfair, unreasonable work laws.

I don’t know how many people, around 500, turned out on a sunny day. It was a good march and rally. Working people talked about their workplaces and the ridiculous nature of these laws and the effect they’ll have. This issue will continue to grow in momentum.

Last week Minister Kate Wilkinson stood in the House at question time and described the Employment Relations Bill as fair and reasonable.

Every time this government says certain words, you know it means something else. The opposite. It’s called Orwellian language which means an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda,  misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past.

She says this Bill is not major, it’s only a little change. That means a big change. Just like Tony Ryall who talks constantly about change in health. Change, which equals cuts. Or Bill English who talks about change in the public sector and reprioritisation. Words that mean cuts. Cuts to peoples services and people’s jobs.

And the icing on the cake is when the government talks about its policies being aspirational. Which means “we don’t really mean it”. They are now aspirational about closing the wage gap between NZ and Australia (despite promising to do so before the last election). They are no doubt aspirational about creating 170,000 jobs. And there are countless other things they are “aspirational” about.

Unfortunately they are not aspirational about this Bill. They really mean it. But it’s not, as Kate Wilkinson describes, a small change that is fair and reasonable. It’s a major shift towards fundamentally affecting the reltationship between employers and employees in our NZ workplaces.

It’s taking us backwards as a country. It will affect the morale and productivity of employees. Hard working NZers, people who earn wages and salaries. People who arent liars and slackers.

It will make workplaces harder to be. It entrenches unfairness in our employment relations system. It won’t do anything to address the fact that we don’t have enough jobs in this country, we don’t have an economic plan.

And then I heard yesterday that Paula Bennett plans to force people on  sickness benefits to get jobs, or they’ll be cut in half (and that’s for starters). Leaving aside the issue of whether people who shouldn’t be working will be forced to try to find work, just where are these jobs going to come from? And watch the messaging she uses. Code for people on sickness benefits being bludgers. Just like those on the DPB.

In the meantime there’s higher unemployment. And we’re about to have a GST rise.


Answer the question kate

Posted by on July 20th, 2010

Don’t think I need to add much to this :-

Hon Trevor Mallard: Do the good-faith provisions override the employer’s rights to dismiss without giving a reason?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: The good-faith provisions have been preserved in the legislation. In particular, section 4(1A)(a) and (b) of the Employment Relations Act, regarding the duty of good faith, is retained for trial periods. Paragraph (b) “requires the parties to an employment relationship to be active and constructive in establishing and maintaining a productive employment relationship in which the parties are, among other things, responsive and communicative;”. That is protected in the trial provisions.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Mallard’s question asked whether those good-faith provisions override the employer’s right to dismiss without giving a reason. It was a very straight question; it was a very narrow question. It has not been addressed. (more…)


Finlayson on mealbreaks

Posted by on October 28th, 2009

Wilkinson wasn’t in the House today so Finlayson answered. I don’t know what the Chief Justice saw in him. He is [deleted after careful consideration - Clare]

He totally misrepresented the current legislation. Failed to mention that the air traffic excuse for this shocking bill was solved using the amendments passed under Labour last year.

Here is what he said, and what it means I think is that it is the intention of the government to force the bill through before Christmas with no Select Committee:

11. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour-Hutt South) to the Minister of Labour: What has happened since compulsory rest and meal breaks for employees came into effect this year, which has led to her proposing changes to that legislation?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Acting Minister of Labour): From complaints received by the Minister it has become clear, if it was not already, that not everyone has a cup of tea at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and stops for lunch precisely at 1 p.m., except possibly Parliament when it is in urgency and, on most occasions, the courts. The changes are aimed at ensuring flexibility in the workplace by allowing employers and employees to time their breaks in a way that does not disrupt their work. The Government does not believe it should restrict the rights of employees to ask their employer if they can skip afternoon tea and go home a little earlier than usual in order to pick up their children from sports practice.

(more…)


Off your butt Wilkinson

Posted by on September 30th, 2009

How is it possible that the Department of Labour mediation service hasn’t got the parties together in the Open Country Cheese dispute. Here we have an employer continuing a lockout in clear defiance of an Employment Court ruling and no sign of action from Kate Wilkinson’s Department.

If it had been a union defying a court ruling like this we would be hearing volumes from the Minister of Labour, the Prime Minister, Employers’ organisations etc.

Just because there is a recess on there is no excuse to go on a stopwork yourself Kate.


Qs to the Minister for redundant Telco workers

Posted by on September 3rd, 2009

Some of us have been asking questions of Ministers about the Telecom lines engineers getting dumped with no redundancy pay and those offered take it or leave it contracts with Visionstream. I thought the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson would be across these issues, so I put in some written questions. Here’s her replies:

Question: Does she consider redundancy protection for workers a part of good employment process?

Answer: Good employment practice would mean an employer and employee would reach an agreement about the process for resolving workplace problems, including redundancy and changes in work arrangements.

Question: Does she support the good faith provisions of the Employment Relations Act: if so, what advice does she have for workers who are offered take it or leave it contracts?

Answer: Yes, I support the good faith provisions of the Employment Relations Act 2000 and this is the stated position of the government. The duty of good faith is an important part of the employment relationship including that parties have to be responsive and communicative at all times.

Question: Does she believe that existing Employment Relations Act provisions sufficiently protect Chrous workers who are being offered take it or leave it contracts with Visionstream?

Answer: The intent of the Employment Relations Act 2000 is not to prevent employers from making commercial decisions about how to structure their business including decisions about the size of their workforce and the need, from time to time, to make some jobs redundant. Issues related to contracts for service are covered by general civil law… I consider that these (the ERA) provisions are appropriate and sufficient protections for employees as they provide a fair balance of employers and employees.

Question to Telco workers: Does the Minister know what’s she doing?

Answer: She doesn’t have a clue.

PS: Not Paul Holmes


Wilkinson gives up and plans to chop out meal breaks

Posted by on September 3rd, 2009

I was Minister of Labour and SOEs when the rest break legislation came in. Sole charge air traffic control towers were the subject of some discussion.

Controllers have offered to take their breaks when no planes are scheduled and to carry devices so they can be called back in an emergency. Their industrial agreement has always had a safety clause in it and has worked well.

Some idiot from CAA has said they all have to have their breaks at the same time. He said pilots won’t understand if it is different at different airports nothwithstanding the fact that that has always been the case and that towers are open at different times all round the country.

On the basis of this stupid decision Kate Wilkinson has decided to repeal the key parts of the rest and meal breaks legislation. Of course we know John Key never supported it – but Crosby Textor told him to be quiet until after the election because their polling showed that most people think having a 30 minute lunch break and two breaks a day to have a cup of tea and go to the toilet is reasonable.

Also interesting was that the media statement announcing the change came from the Department not Minister of Labour – even though it was in her name! !


Wilkinson hides… Mapp misleads…

Posted by on August 26th, 2009

Good old Hone Carter is now being held up as a model MP for his calling the contract being offered to the Chorus people a crock. I hope all National Ministers follow his lead. And for that matter the backbenchers too.

Thanks to the NDU for releasing the material to make it clear that Wayne Mapp acting for Wilkinson misled the House today.

So she’s chicken, he’s fibbing and only Hone looks good over there… again.


Wilkinson confused?

Posted by on August 26th, 2009

The NDU reports that Kate Wilkinson has pulled out of a meeting with them because the EPMU took industrial action on Monday. Weird.

She said “the risks were too great for her to come” and that she can’t meet with any union.

So – what is the story – she doesn’t know what day of the week it is or she can’t tell the difference between the NDU and the EPMU or she is just plain chicken.

Just waiting for Key to announce that the government is not meeting with any employers this week just to be even handed – but not holding my breath.


I Can’t Remember – Wilkinson

Posted by on June 25th, 2009

Less than a fortnight after her return from the ILO in Geneva Kate Wilkinson told a select committee this morning that she could not remember if she had met with the ILO Secretary General.

After advice from officials it was confirmed that she hadn’t. Causes one to wonder what she went there for.