Archive for the ‘New Zealand economy’ Category

by Don Franks

protest

Concessions by Labour to its coalition partner New Zealand First have further reduced workers’ rights on the job. Legislation will be in the form of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, now a formality to become law. 

The two recent concessions to the bosses, via NZ First, concerned union access to the workplace and the multi-employer collective agreement, or Meca.

Employers have a responsibility to enter into Meca bargaining but will not be compelled to settle an agreement. (more…)

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Militant (and illegal) strikes by teachers and other school employees in the US won major gains earlier this year; it’s an example worth emulating. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

by Don Franks

“In 2018, we’ll be making the message loud and clear – It’s Time. Time to lead, teach and learn. This means freeing teachers to teach so every child receives the personal attention they need to learn and thrive. It means freeing principals to focus on leading and it means ensuring we have enough teachers by attracting more people to teaching, by respecting them as professionals and paying them properly.

“We currently have a growing teacher shortage crisis already showing itself in our schools, which looks set to worsen with growing student numbers and less (sic) people training to become teachers.

“Our students come to school to learn all the skills and abilities that they’ll need to grow up healthy, happy and productive in the 21st century. Our nation can afford to ensure every child receives the education they need to succeed in life, and for every educator to be trusted and resourced to make that a reality. It’s simply a matter of priorities.

“As we go through negotiations for the Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement this year, we’ll be standing together for our students and for an education system that values, attracts and retains the amazing teachers who are entrusted with the education of our children.”

So says the New Zealand Educational Institute, the union for primary school teachers.  It’s the NZEI union office lead piece on the teachers’ impending pay struggle. 

The  campaign title page carries no target figure, no specific claims argued, no bottom line. Payment is barely mentioned in passing.  NZEI’s “loud clear message” is an abstract empty slogan “Time to lead, teach and learn”.

The original claim of 16% over two years appears further down, inside the document, beside the government counter offer of 3% over three years .

The union office does not make any defence of the original offer. It says in relation to the counter offer:

“Do you think the increase offered is sufficient to address the recruitment and retention issues?”

“Do you think there is enough benefit in the current offer to accept a 3 year term?”

Reasonable negotiation or the thin end of a sell-out?

Does it matter if the NZEI choose to waffle like this? (more…)

by Don Franks 

jail_5“New Zealand has one of the highest imprisonment rates in the world, second only to the United States, with over 5000 people currently in our 17 prisons. We could be excused for thinking the problem is huge, too big too handle …”

Social reformer Celia Lashlie wrote that in 2002. Today, 10,645 inmates are crammed inside 18 overflowing jails.

Successive government policies paved the way for this massive increase. (more…)

Dave Hansford, Protecting Paradise: 1080 and the fight to save New Zealand’s wildlife, Potton & Burton, 2016, 250pp, $34.99; reviewed by Don Franks

Along New Zealand roadsides, especially on the South Island’s west coast, are hammered hand painted signs. “1080 poisons our water”, “Kea killed in 1080 drop”, “1080 kills everything”.

The  accused 1080 is an organic salt, sodium monofluoraetate. First developed as a rodent killer during World War II by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1080 has since been in wide use for vertebrate pest control. The substance is spread in New Zealand today by the Department of Conservation (DOC), aimed at killing rodents preying on native plants and animals.

Some opponents claim 1080 does  (more…)

The interview below was conducted with members of the rank-and-file Health Sector Workers Network who belong to the nurses’ union (the NZNO).

Philip Ferguson: What have been the key issues in the nurses’ dispute with the DHBs?

Health Sector Workers Network actvists: They really are two-fold.

There are the issues around safe staffing, which with chronic staff shortages, have seen Nurses, Midwives and HCAs working in dangerously unsafe working environments.  In many worksites, particularly the Emergency Departments and Mental Health facilities, there are daily incidents of verbal and physical abuse and assault of staff.

The ability to give excellent patient care without the need for care rationing will only be possible with more staff and clear patient-staff ratios.

Pay equity is the other important issue that members are passionate about.  The need to have remunerations that reflect skills and responsibilities is essential.  We need staff retention and the ability to attract new people to the profession.  If this doesn’t occur, Nurses, Midwives and HCAs will look elsewhere for better wages and conditions, like jumping the ditch to Australia.  Already nurses are leaving on an almost daily basis, resulting in chronic staff shortages and if these issues aren’t addressed it will only get worse.

PF: How successful has the industrial action been?

HSWN: There have been mixed feelings on the success of the strike action.  Due to this dispute being (more…)

Nurses have stood strong, but union head office has counselled giving up. Pic: Matthew Tso/Stuff

by Don Franks

“It is clear to all parties that there is no further additional funding available for this MECA.  The Government has made this clear repeatedly to all parties and publicly. On this basis we believe further strike action is highly unlikely to deliver any further improvements for our members.”

That’s a recommendation to union members from the NZ Nurses Organisation, just posted on Facebook by a union member who has issues with the union head office stance, Al Dietschin of the Health Sector Workers Network.

Al notes, this amounts to “(t)rying to convince us to surrender because they’d rather help the Government keep the BRR/fiscal restraint policy intact” and suggests an alternative strategy:  “If we were to strike again, aligned it with other public service/sector unions actions, and if we organised cross union pickets of Labour Party offices, we could force the purse strings open.”

I have issues myself, partly because, as an older citizen, I’m increasingly likely to require the assistance of nurses.  I want them to be properly paid so they are concentrating on the job of looking after me and are not distracted by economic discomfort.  At the moment, nurses definitely have the (more…)

by Don Franks

A just-released Salvation Army-commissioned survey of over 1000 New Zealanders showed 45 per cent of them went without heating last year, due to cost. Doctors’ visits were not made by 44 per cent because they couldn’t afford it. 

Manager for the Salvation Army’s welfare services, Jono Bell, said his first response to the figures was disbelief. 

“But on reflection, I thought, actually the numbers are not too dissimilar from what we are seeing on the frontlines,” Bell said. 

“It’s not just beneficiaries but people in our community who are working are still not making ends meet and are being forced to choose. It is a widespread problem.”  Bell said it was wrong working families were being forced to choose between food, housing and heat. 

“Some of the numbers have serious implications,” he said.

“People can’t heat their homes, so they are getting sick more often, so they have to go to the doctor but can’t afford it.  More medicine is required so they are having to make a choice between medicine and food.  And then there’s the house prices on top of that.”

 In the same week as the Salvation Army survey, an alternative opinion was published in the New Zealand Herald, by one of the economy’s most  (more…)