Beyond the hyperbole

February 6th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reported:

The Government wants to override privacy laws to supply the US Government with private details about Americans living in New Zealand.

As part of a global tax-dodging crackdown, the US is forcing banks and other financial institutions to hand over the private financial details of US “persons” and companies based overseas.

From July this year, Kiwi banks and insurers will be required to provide US tax authorities with American customers’ contact details, bank account numbers and transaction history.

The move is already deeply unpopular among banks and expat Americans overseas, some of whom have accused the US of “fiscal imperialism”.

In New Zealand, it has left banks stuck between defying the US and breaking domestic privacy laws that protect all New Zealand residents, including Americans.

But now the Government is stepping in with plans to “override” privacy laws to help banks meet the US demands and reduce costs.

And who is complaining about this:

Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg said the US’s tax reporting requirements were another example of US interests dictating New Zealand law.

“There is clearly a breach of privacy here.”

It’s amusing to have the CTU defend the rights of US tax evaders. They are the ones that are affected by this. The next time the CTU goes on about people not paying enough tax, we should recall their support for US citizens to be able to evade tax through NZ banks.

A banking source e-mails:

The first thing to point out is that the only people with something to worry about with FATCA are American tax evaders…not the people you’d normally think the CTU would worry about. The actual number of people affected in NZ will be very, very small. If you’re a New Zealander you’ve got nothing to worry about, if you’re an American and you’ve met you tax obligations you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Secondly, it’s not as though the NZ Govt is an outlier in taking these steps. In fact as this site shows http://fatca.thomsonreuters.com/about-fatca/intergovernmental-agreement/ virtually every developed nation is in the process of taking similar steps. The brutal reality is that if NZ does not meet our FATCA obligations the U.S will put us on black list and whack a 30% odd withholding tax on any US transactions by NZ financial institutions – this will cost all NZers. This is why NZ and pretty much every other developed country is meeting its FATCA obligations.

In fact the Government has actively pushed back to protect NZers privacy as much as possible – the Bill is drafted so as to ensure that only bare minimum of data required to meet our FATCA obligations is passed over.

End story is that no one really wants to be doing this but just as in Australia, the UK, Norway, Spain, South Africa, Brazil, Switzerland, Thailand, Russia etc etc we have no choice. 

The CTU standing up for the rights of Americans to evade tax. What champions they are.

Tags: ,

CTU tries to defend their troughing

January 15th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Taxpayers Union yesterday revealed that ACC has spent $19 million funding Business NZ and the CTU for training which even if it lowered accident rates by 50%, would only return a benefit of 16 cents for every dollar spent.

The CTU has tried to justify their troughing by saying:

“We trained nearly 2000 health and safety representatives last year and the feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. 97 % felt they could perform the role of health and safety rep more confidently than before the course, 96 % said the course showed them how they could improve health and safety in their workplaces and nearly 99 % found that these courses were beneficial and helped with their understanding of the role and the importance of health and safety at work. Feedback has been consistently positive since we began these courses.”

The measure of effectiveness is whether there are fewer accidents at workplaces that receive the training, not on whether participants in a course tick a form saying they enjoyed the course.

The CTU is rightfully focusing on the appallingly high level of deaths in the foresty sector. They would be outraged if the Government’s response was that it doesn’t matter whether or not there are fewer deaths, so long as as employees who do a safety course rate it as beneficial.

CTU President Helen Kelly has also had a rant at The Daily Blog. She thinks there is something sinister that the TU got a response to our OIA 19 days after it was filed. Is she unaware that 20 days is the legal limit? She also says:

The training deliverables for the contract do not focus on the outcomes of the training only the numbers trained but the course is approved and overseen by a tripartite group.

That is the problem. It should be about outcomes. The CTU demand better outcomes in the forestry sector (and I agree with them) but don’t think their own levy payer funded training courses should be linked to improving outcomes. This is the problem when you stick your hand out for government funding – you become conflicted and even hypocritical.

 

Tags: , ,

Million dollar union slush fund may be cut

October 1st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Rob Hosking at NBR reports:

A $1 million government funding to the Council of Trade Unions to run accident prevention workshops is under review.

ACC Minister Judith Collins recently announced a near doubling of the amount of funding the Accident Compensation Corporation makes for accident prevention work, from $22.4 million to $40 million.

However that is accompanied by a review of existing programmes and in an interview with NBR ONLINE Ms Collins said she had told officials there are no sacred cows with regards to existing programmes.

“And I’ve told them if they need to kill sacred cows that need slaughtering, I’ll back them.” 

And in the next breath she queries the value of programmes run by the Council of Trade Unions.

The CTU gets “about a million dollars a year” to run such programmes and she says it is not obvious this is the best use of that money.

“What I want to see is what is working.”

Comparatively few accidents happen in the workplace, she says – about 20%, although these injuries tend to be more serious.

This is beyond excellent. Not only is Judith Collins doubling the amount of funding for accident prevention, she is going to ensure it is actually spent on accident prevention rather than union membership recruitment.

I understand the $1 million a year funding to the CTU was established by a former Labour Deputy Leader when he was ACC Chair. Labour constantly tries to find ways for taxpayers to fund unions so that the unions in turn can fund the Labour Party!

The CTU has responded by hysterically demanding Judith Collins resigns, because she is demanding proof that they actually do anything worthwhile with their $1 million a year.

I understand Business NZ gets some funding also. I’d scrap the funding to both bodies, and use it to run safety campaigns at the coal face.

Tags: , , ,

Forestry injuries

September 24th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The CTU has a campaign underway calling for an inquiry into the forestry sector, due to its high accident and fatality rates. There certainly are an unacceptable number of deaths (any preventable death is of course unacceptable), but I have been unsure if there has been a sudden deterioration in the safety record in the forestry sector. So I asked ACC and MBIE for their data on forestry related deaths and injuries going back to 1990.

ACC has data back to 2002. Their data is:

  • 2002 – 2,340 claims (4 fatal)
  • 2003 – 2,046 (5 fatal)
  • 2004 – 1,642  (1 – 3 fatal)
  • 2005 – 1,543
  • 2006 – 1,259 (4 fatal)
  • 2007 – 1,233 (1-3 fatal)
  • 2008 – 1,142 (1-3 fatal)
  • 2009 – 1,229 (4 fatal)
  • 2010 – 1,374 (1 – 3 fatal)
  • 2011 – 1,384 (6 fatal)
  • 2012 – 1,402 (1 – 3 fatal)
  • 2013 – 858 for 8 months (1,287 pro-rata) (1- 3 fatal)

So the level of ACC claims in the sector is well down on a decade ago. However fair to note that it does appear to have been trending up since 2008. However 2013 may end up below 2012.

The number of claims involving a fatal injury varies, with it ranging from 0 to 6. Note that the data ACC has is based on occupations supplied, so if a truck driver was killed in a forestry accident, they would not record that as forestry sector. However MBIE does, and we’ll now look at their data:

MBIE also has data back to 2002 only. They get notifed of any accidents which involve serious harm, which is of course more seriious that just an ACC claim for minor accidents. So their data set is probably more important and useful.

  • 2002 – 259 serious harm notifications (4 fatalities)
  • 2003 – 214 (6)
  • 2004 – 193 (6)
  • 2005 – 192 (0)
  • 2006 – 166 (7)
  • 2007 – 174 (3)
  • 2008 – 179 (4)
  • 2009 – 161 (5)
  • 2010 – 170 (4)
  • 2011 – 182 (3)
  • 2012 – 188 (6)
  • 2013 – 111 (7) – pro-rata would be 167 (10)

So this also shows serious injuries are lower than a decade ago, but an upwards trend from 2009. However again 2013 may end up lower.

The level of fatalities also appears fairly consistent over the last decade, except of course the horribly high level for the first eight months of 2013.

So is an inquiry the answer? I certainly share the concern of the CTU and others that the level of serious injuries and fatalities is too high.

There is a plan for reducing deaths and injuries in the sector, that was published in August 2011. Also starting from last month the new health and safety inspectorate has started a workplace assessment programme of site visits to all 330 forestry operators. I think the pro-active approach is welcome.

It’s good that the CTU are focusing on a sector with too many accidents. I’m not persuaded an inquiry would be greatly beneficial, and I think the initiatives underway will hopefully make an impact. The level of serious injury is still below that of a decade ago (when no inquiries were being demanded) but the upwards trend is unacceptable and hopefully over the next 12 months that trend will reverse.

 

 

Tags: , ,

More hobbit hating

May 26th, 2013 at 6:45 am by David Farrar

Cherie Howie at HoS reports:

Foreign workers are being targeted for more than 500 visual-effects jobs for the production of the next mega-movie inThe Hobbit series.

Wellington-based special-effects giant Weta Digital, co-owned by Sir Peter Jackson, has asked Immigration New Zealand for approval in principle to outsource 526 positions.

Weta says most are just extensions to visas that are about to expire and the company has a great record of hiring Kiwis, but Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly is questioning the company’s commitment to the local industry.

Apart from ads on the company website, she could not find evidence Weta had let Kiwis know opportunities were available, and questioned why another application was being made when Weta asked for 369 temporary work visas last year.

“They’ve done very little to bridge that gap. They don’t want to invest in (our) people.”

But Weta general manager Tom Greally said the company had proved its commitment to this country – 70 per cent of its 1,100-strong workforce were New Zealand citizens or residents. The temporary work visas were for roles that would be spilt between about 140 new employees and 250 people who were already working for the company, but who needed new visas.

Weta’s created 1,100 jobs and the CTU attacks them for it. Their sin I suspect is that few of their employees are union members.

Of course some of their highly specialised jobs can’t be filled by NZers, but you know what – a huge proportion of the people who come to Wellington to work for Weta decide to stay on and live here permanently. They’re a great attractor of global talent.

Tags: ,

A CTU porkie

October 25th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In the CTU submission on the Lobbying Disclosure Bill, they said:

This submission is made on behalf of the 37 unions affiliated to the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi (CTU). With some 350,000 members, the CTU is the largest democratic organisation in New Zealand.

There is a minor and a major porkie here. The minor porkie is that they have 37 members, not 350,000. They are a council of unions, not an organisation that members join directly. No member has the option of deciding whether or not the CTU gets a portion of their fee. Only the union as a whole decide swhether to join and pay.

But even putting aside that minor porkie, let’s say they do have 350,000 members. Does that make them the largest democratic organisation in NZ?

Not by a long way. The NZ Automobile Association has 1,329,572 members. Around four times as many.

So I hope the CTU will cease and desist making false claims.

Tags: ,

The sky is falling … the sky is falling

May 16th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The CTU is a bit like Chicken Little at the moment. On RNZ yesterday on minor changes to employment law…

The Council of Trade Unions says the changes to industrial relations laws being considered are the worst attack on workers’ rights since the 1990s

In fact the changes are very much around the margins, and fairly in-substantive. The Government should require unions to collect their own membership fees, rather than force employers to be unpaid fee collectors ofr them – then they really would have something to complain about.

But the “worst attack since the 1990s” line is now new. It’s exactly what the CTU said about the 90 Day trial periods in their 2010 submission:

 “The largest step backwards in workers’ rights since 1990.”

I guess they have a macro on their computers that just inserts that phrase automatically into releases and submissions!

 

Tags: ,

How dare National not reappoint Labour appointees

May 16th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Danya Levy at Stuff reports:

Government cronyism is being blamed for delays in Employment Relations Authority investigations, caused by a 76 per cent turn over of its members in two years. …

The contracts of seven members had expired since 2010 and a further six would expire between June and the end of the year. They are appointed by the Governor-General, on the recommendation of Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson.

Labour’s industrial relations spokeswoman Darien Fenton said some members had wanted to stay on but their contracts were not renewed.

“The minister is clearly wanting to put her own people in there, what we would describe as cronies.”

How dare Kate Wilkinson appoint different people to whom Labour appointed. Just because they won two elections is no reason they should appoint different people to whom Labour did.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said the organisation was consulted on appointments and had a policy of approving the reappointment of competent members, regardless of whether it agreed with their decisions.

I’m a bit cynical that the CTU doesn’t ever link their agreement with decisions with whether they think someone is competent. Are they really saying they regard someone as competent if they disagree with all their decisions?

As far as I can tell the vast majority of ERA members under Labour were former union lawyers. Now as far as I can tell, there are a few ex-union lawyers on there, a couple of ex-employers assn lawyers and the majority have just worked privately (for both employers and employees). That seems pretty balanced to me.

Tags: , , ,

The truth on Port of Tauranga

March 16th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The CTU and MUNZ have been holding up the Port of Tauranga as a bad unsafe port, with low wages. Whale Oil did something which I haven’t seen anyone in the media do – ask them if it is true. He has blogged the CEO’s response, which I extract below:

We have been really disappointed with the factual inaccuracies and unprofessional misrepresentation of the safety record of our port by the CTU President, Helen Kelly.  Unfortunately, we have had to waste shareholders’ money (which ironically includes >90% of our staff who hold shares in the Company) to instruct our solicitors to warn Ms Kelly against recklessly continuing in this regard.  Her statements about the safety record of this port are factually incorrect and we believe deliberately misleading.

We are aware that the CTU have made an Official Information Request to the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), seeking our port’s claims history.  We are aware of this because ACC asked for our consent to release this information as they are bound to do under the Privacy Act.  We of course agreed to this information being released as we are proud of the improvement in safety performance at the port.

The actual ACC claims history shows Port of Tauranga to have one of the best safety records of all New Zealand ports – less than half the NZ ports’ average.  Ms Kelly is in possession of this information, but chooses to ignore it, as it clearly does not fit her argument.

The graph shows PoT to be half the average. Only two other ports seem to be at the same low level. Of course not all accidents are of equal harm, but nevertheless to have half the ACC claims of other ports is commendable.

Safety is our number 1 priority at the Port and in fact we have a goal of achieving a zero harm work environment and considerable management effort is focused on striving to achieve this goal.  Our Board set a target this financial year to try and achieve a 30% improvement in Total Injury Frequency Rate – we are proud to have just achieved this improvement last month.

I imagine a port where 90% of employees are also shareholders would be motivated to have as safe a workplace as possible.

Ms Kelly also goes on to suggest there is a race to the bottom between the two ports with respect to pay and working conditions.  I would dispute this: many of our skilled workers actually earn more than the Ernst & Young figures for Ports of Auckland’s average stevedoring income.  I am very comfortable with this – our employees and contractors are highly skilled and work very hard to consistently deliver upper decile productivity. I guess the main difference though is that they expect to be working, when they are paid to be working!

This is at the heart of the dispute. MUNZ resisted any changes in the current structure that sees someone paid for 40 hours work only 26 on average.

Maybe this explains why our Port of Tauranga has net crane productivity rates 38% greater than Ports of Auckland’s (Ministry of Transport data) or on a gross measure (not allowing for netting out smoko breaks and any industrial action), the difference in gross crane rate between Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga is some 60% (shipping line data).

I’ve got an idea. Why not sell Ports of Auckland to the Port of Tauranga – then you’d have employees able to become shareholders of their employer – something which works so well at PoT.

Tags: , ,

CTU v Whale

March 16th, 2012 at 9:01 am by David Farrar

Pat Brittenden used to be on NewstalkZB and is now a host on Radio Rhema. He blogs:

Let me start by saying this, I am not anti union. If you look at my record I have supported Union’s causes more times than I have criticized them as can be seen in a post I wrote about the NZEI and National Standards 18 months ago. The interactions and opinions I share now about the Unions and the Ports are solely based on this issue and not a a past of blindly supporting either the Left or Right of this, or any other conversations, about Unions past, present or future.

I wrote a post last week about an interview I did with Garry Parsloe from the Maritime Union but as most talkbacks listeners will be aware this conversation has continued on. Prior to this conversation I had no position on who I believed was right in the debate, and to be honest to this date I would still say that I don’t believe there are any innocent parties here, I don’t believe either side truly bargained in good faith and through obstinate belligerence from both sides we are now at an impasse. For me though the case set before the public now has demonstrated that the Ports in this case are ‘closer’ to being correct that the Unions without the ‘rose tinted glasses’ idea that they have done no wrong.

And now to the specific issue:

Subsequent to yesterdays show we received a call to my producers cell phone from Helen Kelly from the CTU.

Couple of things about the answer phone message. If there has been a slandering of a Port worker I would of course retract and apologise, but from listening to the audio I don’t believe there has been. For me to ‘give [Cameron Slater] space’ on the station being a concern for Helen Kelly is ironic as we have had on Garry Parsloe so many times the news room jokes about giving him his own slot. The opinions and spokespeople for the union position have had far more airtime on my network than the counter view which you heard via Cameron Slater and for Ms. Kelly to say we needed to‘rectify’ the situation implies that we have done something wrong, which I don’t believe we have. I also got the feeling that there were threatening undertones when Ms. Kelly informed us that ‘[we] were liable for that as well’.

Pat has a recording of the phone call at his site.

Tags: , , ,

Unions attacking Whittall

December 6th, 2010 at 6:08 am by David Farrar

Fresh from the PR triumph of attacking Sir Peter Jackson, the CTU continues its strategy of winning over the public by targeting Peter Whittall.

The Press reports:

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly told a Canterbury Workers Educational Association function in Christchurch on Friday that Whittall should have apologised for the tragedy.

“He’s now been called a national hero, but he’s the CEO of that company and he hasn’t apologised,” she said.

“Even if the company did everything right, if it was me, I’d say: `I’m the employer. This has happened and I’m really sorry. I don’t know why, but I’m going to find out why’. But he hasn’t said that.”

Questions about what happened had not been asked, Kelly said.

“This is a very serious event. That mine was open for just over a year. There are 29 miners dead. We’ve got to be more mature about who we honour, how we think about things, what we demand. If that had been public Department of Conservation [land] we would have gone after them and said what had happened.

“But because it’s a company and because the CEO gets to sit next to the Prime Minister at the memorial service, the hard questions have not been asked.”

The CTU just don’t get it. Peter Whittall would not have insisted he be on the stage and one of the speakers at the memorial service. The PM would not have decided who the speakers are. I’m bet you that it was at the request of the miners families, that Whittall was on the stage as one of the speakers.

I’ve remarked on radio how unusual it is that the CEO of the mine where 29 people died has become a national hero. This must be very frustrating for the unions. But the reality is it is the way Whittall conducted himself that has won people over.

But he would know, that admiration for his post-explosion performance, will not protect him if it transpires that Pike River Coal has some culpability for what happened. Admiration for fronting up does not remove accountability and responsibility.

But this is why we have a Royal Commission – to establish the facts. I think it is unwise for various unions to already be trying to denigrate Whittall.

They have not been alone there. Cindy Baxter of Greenpeace facebooked soon after the tragedy a list of Pike River Directors, labelling them “the people who developed the mine that just killed 29 people”. An extra-ordinary rush to judgement.

We also had a Labour MP on day one of the explosion tweet about how the company must be asked the hard questions to prevent a cover-up and how the unions are key to this. This was before we even knew if anyone was dead.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) national secretary Andrew Little acknowledged Whittall had not sought hero status, but said failures on the part of mine managers or “the guys underground” could have caused the disaster.

“We need to reserve judgment until we get credible answers to questions about why it all happened.

“The company has been treated as somewhat heroic and in a way I think it’s somewhat undeserving.”

Little is correct in saying we need to reserve judgement. My admiration for Whittall’s response to the explosion in no way means that Pike River Coal should not be held accountable if the facts warrant it.

I think Andrew is wrong though in saying the company has been treated as somewhat heroic. Whittall has been, but he is not the company. People have empathised with the fact he knew every single miner killed – in fact had employed them all, and so obviously grieved for them.

In yesterday’s HoS, Matt McCarten had the same theme:

under his watch, 29 men were killed and still lie entombed. Family members and friends of the dead have been robbed of a loved one. Many other workers, as a result of the explosion, will lose their livelihoods.

Unbelievably, the chief executive of this company becomes a media darling.

He did not become a “media darling” for what happened. He gained respect because he did what so many people say they want CEOs to do – he fronted up constantly, he did not spin, he did not lie, he told the truth. He was real.

If you have followed the media coverage you’d think the whole tragedy was just an unavoidable accident.

On the contrary, I think no such thing.

Tags: , , , ,

CTU asks UNITE to explain unpaid PAYE tax

December 3rd, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

In a follow up to the story I blogged about yesterday, Rebecca Stevenson at the Dom Post reports:

The Council of Trade Unions wants an explanation from Unite on why it failed to pay the IRD more than $36,000 in PAYE on behalf of its employees.

Unite, one of New Zealand’s largest unions, owed IRD over $130,000 for the year ended March 2009 (its most recent filing), including more than $57,000 in unpaid GST. For the same financial year its liabilities outweighed its assets by more than $170,000.

It is the unpaid PAYE that will be causing most concern, as this is in fact money owed by the employees to the IRD, and UNITE has appropriated it for its own purposes. It is the sort of stuff that the newspaper boss Maxwell did – but on a much smaller scale.

Unite head Matt McCarten confirmed yesterday that the union owed money to the IRD but said he had made choices to pay for union campaigns rather than clear the debt. “I don’t shy away from these decisions, I make the calls.”

He said Unite paid $8000 in PAYE each month to the IRD but kept incurring late payment penalties. He claimed not to know exactly how much it owed the IRD.

The late penalties do add up – as many businesses know. But if it was a deliberate decision to keep running campaigns, instead of paying off the debt, then few will have sympathy.

He agreed it was not a good look for a workers’ union to fail to pay its employees’ tax.

I don’t think Matt realises how bad a look it is. The next time UNITE or Matt calls for greater government spending, this issue will arise.

CTU president Helen Kelly said Unite did good work in an area that was difficult and expensive to organise. That required it to juggle its finances. “All unions are always short of resources.”

However, when questioned on Unite’s tax failure, she said: “I need an explanation for that”.

I’m not sure I would say all unions are short of resources. The combined wealth of the union movement puts the Business Roundtable, Business NZ, and the Chambers of Commerce to shame. I did a blog post a couple of years back comparing them.

Tags: , , , ,

CTU proves the law is great

November 12th, 2010 at 4:10 pm by David Farrar

My God the CTU campaign against the 90 day law is wonderful. One of their early examples won a court case (proving that the law does not leave most workers without protections), and they have now released another video which totally undermines their argument:

In this video the aggrieved ex-employee says he was never told of an employment contract or a 90 day trial. He goes onto say he has never had an employment contract in any hospitality job.

This where the CTU campaign backfires. He did not sign an employment contract in which he agrees to a 90 day probation period. Therefore it does not apply. He is going to win damages in court.

You have to wonder how desperate the CTU is for “examples” when the best they can come up with are ones that don’t even apply.

Now you may wonder, what if he had signed an employment contract with a probation period. did they really sack him at the end of 90 days merely for putting “too much sauce and aioli” on servings?

I’m suspicious, because why would an employer sack someone who is otherwise a great employee just for that? That will just cost the employer money and experience getting a replacement.

Sure enough the employer has a different story – one the CTU and Labour forgot to mention:

Mr Collins had said Mr Greave was not sacked because he used too much sauce and aioli.

“On the last day, my mum, the owner of the cafe, said to him, cut the use out, it’s too much wastage.

“[He was sacked] because he would change menus, wouldn’t listen to me as a superior.

“He wouldn’t listen to any instructions either from the owners of the cafe or myself as manager. [He] wouldn’t do his job the way we required it.

“He just wasn’t what we were looking for in a chef and basically I believe he just wasn’t willing to have a younger … member in charge.”

Mr Collins, who is 22 years old, said his age was a problem for Mr Greave, who called Mr Collins “very inexperienced” in the video.

I have to say the employer’s version has the ring of truth about it. You listen to the video of the ex-employee and you get the impression he thought he was better than the owners and he was indispensable.

At the end of the day, why would they have sacked him if it was only using too much sauce?

Tags: , ,

CTU criticism

October 23rd, 2010 at 10:16 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

In the Campbell Live poll 90% of respondents thought Actors Equity was to blame for the Hobbit fiasco and 10% thought the film company was to blame. Even given the statistical unreliability of this sort of poll, that’s a resounding and deserved indictment of the appalling PR of Actors Equity, the CTU and in particular CTU president Helen Kelly. I have seldom seen groups so out of touch with public sentiment or so incapable of getting across the message they wanted to convey.

Danyl blogs at the Dim Post about the next CTU media campaign:

CTU launches charm offensive, desecrates grave of Sir Edmund Hillary

In the wake of sharp public criticism over its handling of contract negotiations around The Hobbit the Council of Trade Unions has launched a public relations campaign aimed at rehabilitating the organisation’s image. CTU President Helen Kelly has promised New Zealanders they will be ‘wowed’ by a series of industrial strikes planned to disrupt the rugby world cup next year and has violated the grave of revered mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary during a live press conference.

Heh this is of course Danyl’s normal satire. However he hits a bit close to the bone. Numerous Auckland industrial agreements have been timed to expire just before the Rugby World Cup. watch this space!

‘This shows the public that the union movement is about more than being a voice for working people, conducting fair and equitable negotiations between equal parties and destroying the capital owning parasites like Hillary and Jackson, and also Hayley Westenra who has it coming to her,’ Helen Kelly announced while digging, pausing to pose for cameras and spit on the grave.

‘Like most Kiwis we have nothing but contempt for Hillary and his achievements,’ Kelly said hitching up her skirt and squatting on Sir Edmund’s skeleton while onlookers and supporters cheered and sang We Shall not be Moved. ‘This sends a signal to the public that we share their values.’ …

‘Although Hillary did support the labour movement for many decades let us not forget that he also lived in Remuera,’ Kelly added, spray-painting a picture of a penis on the tombstone. ‘Fairness! Respect! Solidarity!’

Subsequent to the desecration Kelly and senior union delegates burned a huge pile of five dollar notes, which bear Sir Edmund’s image. According to a statement released by the union the bonfire was unrelated to the Hillary protest and is customary practise at CTU events.

This is again one of the ironies. Sir Peter Jackson could have made so much more money if he had moved to Hollywood. But it was is desire to create jobs for New Zealanders that has seen him remain here.

Also Lee at MWT highlights this comment made on the Dim Post:

“What kind of country do we live in if union bosses can’t meet at Matterhorn to decide the future of 22,000 people’s jobs over a few $42 Mains and some cocktails, without being harangued by smelly jobless proles?”

Actually I quite liked that Simon Whipp who featured in the video. I’m thinking he’d make a great candidate for Parliament – he should seek selection for a safe seat somewhere.

Tags: , , , ,

The Hobbit v the CTU

October 22nd, 2010 at 2:35 pm by David Farrar

More developments today. First the Dominion Post editorial:

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The full stupidity of the Actors’ Equity members who arranged an international boycott of The Hobbit is now apparent.

They used the nuclear bomb option in industrial negotiations. And nuclear bombs always have fall out.

What makes New Zealand unique in terms of film-making is that it is where Sir Peter lives and where, despite the blandishments of Hollywood, he has chosen to build his empire.

A film set is not like a meatworks or an old-fashioned cotton mill where workers are interchangeable. It is a place where individuals have a chance to make a difference and to be rewarded for their talents.

Members of the Australian-based Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance and its local offshoot, Actors’ Equity, who do not back themselves to shine are under no compulsion to offer their services to Sir Peter. If they prefer, they are at liberty to deliver one-person shows in empty provincial theatres. But they should not seek to deny others the opportunity to build film careers or to experience the excitement of working on a project that will be seen around the world.

I love the line about empty provincial theatres!

… the Government has no choice but to step in to try to repair the damage done by the actors’ union. It is not just the future of The Hobbit that is at stake, but the future of the industry that has grown up around Sir Peter. If that requires the Government to bump up the 15 per cent tax break already available to the producers of The Hobbit, Finance Minister Bill English should get out his chequebook.

The purity of the tax system be damned. The consequences of losing an industry that has revitalised Wellington do not bear thinking about.

Losing the film will lead to a massive loss of jobs, and the taxpayer will probably end up paying even more through lost tax income and higher welfare costs. Having said that, I would much prefer the tax break not be increased.

Some lunatics think that this was all manufactured so they could get a tax break. I’d really love to meet the evil geniuses that managed to infiltrate MEAA and get them to arrange a global boycott, just so that Warners can use it as an excuse to get a bigger tax break.

Perhaps the shortfall could be made up by cutting Creative New Zealand’s theatrical budget.

Is that on top of the $44,000 I already want to cut?

John Drinnan at the Herald looks at the media handling of it and notes:

To challenge a national icon you would think you would lay on a bit of charm – or just show some respect.

Kelly said: “There are still New Zealanders out there who believe that people have a right to negotiate.”

Maybe the handling of the Hobbit dispute will win the MEAA and CTU an activist award at the next Socialist International prizegiving.

But in this country they have turned a lot of people off.

Helen Kelly calling Sir Peter Jackson a spoilt brat was incredibly stupid. Peter Jackson has created more jobs for New Zealanders than possibly any other person. Once upon a time the CTU said they cared about jobs.

Tom Cardy in the Dom Post has the latest updates:

A furious Sir Peter Jackson will “fight as hard as he can” to keep The Hobbit in New Zealand – but is already listing key Kiwi staff to take if the two-part film goes overseas.

And the director hit back at Council of Trade Union president Helen Kelly’s claims that he had set up the actors’ union to take the blame if the US$500 million (NZ$667m) movie is lost.

“I couldn’t believe it. It was the first time I really got very angry.”

Asked if it was fingers crossed that The Hobbit would remain, Jackson said: “I don’t know what to cross any more. I’ve just got to get some sleep. I haven’t had much sleep in the past few days.”

It was unlikely he would be able to take more than 150 Kiwi crew – compared with a minimum of 2500 he could employ here – but did not yet “have the heart” to choose who.

Sir Peter is an unlikely target for the CTU to try and make out as the super villain. Almost everyone who has worked for him raves about him, and I would speculate that he probably routinely votes Labour/Greens.  He is not some uncaring distant Rupert Murdock type. So he is speaking very honestly when he says it would be heart-breaking to choose just 5% of people to take overseas.

I understand from those a bit closer to the action that he is personally very hurt by what has happened, as he has spent so much of his life creating jobs and getting better pay for NZ workers. He could have become far far richer by moving to Hollywood.

Ms Kelly cited a belief Warner had already decided to move the films for bigger tax incentives and lower wages, and Jackson – a “spoilt brat” – was trying to set the union up to blame.

Yes Sir Peter masterminded the MEAA into an international boycott to move the film overseas, despite having already spent tens of millions on preparing for the films to be shot in NZ.

With all respect Helen Kelly’s belief should be given as much weight as the beliefs of Scientologists.

Jackson described her as clueless. “Why do people like Helen Kelly have to be driven by rhetoric and playing some kind of role where she’s always got to be the victim and everyone else is to blame?

“She has tried every possible conspiracy theory. I’m expecting to be told I was on the grassy knoll in Dallas any moment now.”

Can he prove he was not?

Outrageous Fortune star and Actors’ Equity committee member Robyn Malcolm said yesterday she could not believe a request for a discussion around conditions was enough to derail the project. “We’re not even the coffee budget. Nobody wants Cate Blanchett’s salary …”

Oh you silly person you. You did not “request” a discussion. You initiated a global boycott. Do you not know the difference? It is rather huge.

Incidentally how many people were aware that the taxpayers have sunk over $48 million into keeping Ms Malcolm and others employed on Outraegous Fortune?

I’m a fan of the show, but I prefer them to do what Shortland Street does – become self sufficient after the initial years.

Remember those stories about lynch mobs and needing Police escorts. Well this video shows the lovely Simon Whipp in action, refusing to even talk politely to a questioner – definitely a violent lynch mob.

And finally the Young Nats ask about why the Wellington Mayor is missing in action. It is incredible that the new Mayor of Wellington has not been out to the media saying how crucial it is that the Hobbit be filmed here, and demanding that any obstacles to it be removed. The only person who has been even quieter than Celia has been Phil Goff.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Fisking the CTU

October 21st, 2010 at 2:45 pm by David Farrar

The Herald has the statements from Peter Jackson and the CTU here.

I was going to fisk the CTU statement, but Russell Brown has done it far better than I could. And yes, that is not a typo.

I do want to first touch on one aspect, quoting the CTU:

Facts on Hobbit

Helen Kelly, CTU President, said today that it is important that some facts about the union stance on the Hobbit are placed before the public.

• The union is seeking basic terms and conditions such as hours, breaks, overtime payments etc.

• The union has always been prepared to agree those conditions as an industry standard rather than a collective agreement.

This is both false and misleading.

First of all the union is not just “seeking” basic terms and conditions. It arranged a global boycott of the film. This is the nuclear bomb when it comes to negotiations.

And like any nuclear bomb, you can’t lob one into battle, and then say afterwards “Oh we’ll try and pretend we never did that and promise not to do it again”. The damage is done the moment it has happened.

The studios want certainty even more than lower cost. It may actually end up in a country where most actors are covered by a union. That is preferable to NZ, because they actually have certainty.

But a union with only 86 or so members that arranges a global boycott of a film is the opposite of stability. It signals run, run away from these lunatics.

Secondly let me quote from the global boycott:

Resolved, that the International Federation of Actors urges each of its affiliates to adopt instructions to their members that no member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act in the theatrical film The Hobbit until such time as the producer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance for production in New Zealand providing for satisfactory terms and conditions for all performers employed on the productions

Now re-read what the CTU says:

The union has always been prepared to agree those conditions as an industry standard rather than a collective agreement.

What bullshit. The global boycott was explicitly got a collective agreement. This is not just spin or distortion – it is a total lie.

Now let me quote Russell Brown:

Instead, since its takeover by the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Equity has been so feckless that it failed to file reports for three years, until it was struck off the register of incorporated societies. New Zealand actors have a decent case for greater power and security in their industry. Their union – and the Australian union that was supposed to bring in a new era of professionalism – has failed them.

Eighteen months ago, Equity refused an offer from the Screen Production and Development Association (Spada) to renegotiate the “Pink Book” code of conduct which covers actors’ pay and conditions and has been untouched since the MEAA moved in. Its precondition for any talks with Spada was that the existing system, which does generally work, be scrapped and replaced with collective agreements.

This shows the lies told by the CTU up even more. Not only did MEAA not seek an update to the industry standard, they flat out refused to negotiate such a thing.

There were other things wrong with the union’s strategy, if it can be called that. The way the first meeting in Wellington was run was a disgrace – while anyone who turned up and called themselves a performer was allowed to vote in Auckland, the rules were changed in Wellington after the vote had begun to exclude non-Equity members. One actor trying to read a statement from Jackson (who had been refused permission to address the meeting) was shouted down and couldn’t fnish.

Most notably, statements from organiser Frances Walsh clearly indicated it was seeking to negotiate a national agreement via The Hobbit (why else talk about wanting to negotiate rules on nudity in a film which features no nudity?) and Robyn Malcolm managed to say in successive sentences to John Campbell that they wanted “a fair deal for New Zealand actors working on the Hobbit”, but an agreement that was “not Hobbit-specific”. I’ve explained before why it would have been unethical for Jackson to put himself in that position.

And this is the real game – to try and force all NZ productions to pay the same as The Hobbit.

By the time they’d settled for far less – and finally agreed to talk to Spada without showstopping preconditions — the damage had largely been done. Yes, if Ireland gets the gig, it will be because of its more-generous-than-the-others tax breaks. But the film was going to be made in New Zealand. The door for other countries was opened when MEAA executive Simon Whipp authorised the SAG member alert that brought the production to a halt by banning actors from working on it.

If Warners thinks the industrial relations environment in New Zealand has become too risky and unpredictable, it has some cause for thinking so.

Again, it is not about the lowest cost – it really is about stability. Remember there are two films to be produced – they don’t want to finish one, and then have an unstable union call another boycott or strike to ratchet up demands on the second film.

Some people have a conspiracy theory that it is all about the tax credit, and that this issue is just an excuse. They should consider how much money has already been spent by Jackson and Weta preparing for filing it here – Hobbiton re-established etc.

But it was telling that the CTU’s Helen Kelly said on Nightline last night that the Equity meeting had been called for members to discuss “what they wanted in terms of terms and conditions”.

You’re saying that after all this — you still don’t know what you want?

Amazing.

It’s also generally not a good sign for a union leader, as Kelly did, to refer to the 1000-plus working people who met and marched in Wellington last night, most of them members of their own guilds and unions, as being in a “lynch mob” mood.

So Helen managed to insult hundreds of union members.

None of the other screen guilds have spoken in support of Equity, and they have privately assured both Spada and the government that they are on the side of the producers in this case.

They are the real victims. I’ll be minorly affected in that the NZ economy will take a dive, and that means more debt to be serviced by us as taxpayers. But the 1000s of people who will end up out of work are the ones I really feel for. It’s one thing to lose your job when it is semi-inevitable – in a fading industry etc. But to work in what was a growing healthy industry with a bright future, and to lose your job because of the actions of a few dozen individuals would really piss you off.

Even if the film can be hauled back here – and that’s the state of play – this will have badly damaged relations in the industry. And if the film really is lost, it will damage a lot more than that – the trade union movement included.

This is the part puzzling me. Putting aside ideological differences I have always regarded Helen Kelly as a pretty smart operator, and someone who does try to do the right thing.

But her involvement with this dispute has been disastrous.

Almost everyone involved with this fracas has said that MEAA’s Simon Whipp is the problem – the NZ Actors involved are lightweights. So Whipp is the Aussie bad boy that everyone was blaming (and fairly).

But what Helen has done is change the focus of anger from being the head of an aussie union, to the head of the CTU. She is associating all NZ unions with Simon Whipp’s campaign, and as loath as I am to give advice to the NZ union movement on how to protect their reputation, I have to say that this is a spectacularly bad thing.

The CTU has put out a press release which is factually incorrect and made themselves the target. Why on Earth did they not just assist behind the scenes (where they have done some good I hear), rather than become the de facto spokesperson for the MEAA?

How will the CTU have credibility about protecting Kiwi jobs, if the movies do go overseas?

Oh, and finally, on a related note – I’ve heard nothing on this matter from the temporary and future Labour Party Leaders – surely some journalist has asked Phil Goff and Andrew Little if they support the CTU’s defence of the global boycott against the Hobbit?

Tags: , , , ,

Workers protest against union

October 21st, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Weta Workshop’s boss Sir Richard Taylor last night said the New Zealand film industry was “at some level of peril”.

He said a $670 million US-backed production of Tolkien classic The Hobbit could be produced elsewhere if a union boycott of the project was not lifted.

“We are deeply concerned it may [go overseas].

“Our industry is being put in a very dire place by very few people who have nothing to do with the film industry in New Zealand.”

It is worth remembering that MEAA represents only around 80 actors in NZ – less than 5% of the total acting workforce.

Up to 1500 workers marched from Weta’s Miramar studios into central Wellington to picket an Actors’ Equity meeting being held at St John’s Hall.

Their jobs are at direct risk. This Australian union doesn’t care about how many people may end up out of work.

The Equity meeting – which was to discuss unrelated matters – was cancelled after union bosses learned the march was on its way.

Equity spokeswoman Frances Walsh said the union had “no choice” but to call off the meeting “because we are not going to expose our performers to harm”.

What? Did she think Sir Richard was leading a lynch mob that would burn the church hall down? Or did they just not want to talk to all those people whose jobs are at risk?

The Dom Post reports that things look grim:

The Hobbit seems set to be taken offshore, with the film’s producers due in New Zealand to begin preparations next week.

Sir Peter Jackson and the producers have been in a standoff with actors unions who have boycotted the Lord of the Rings prequels as they have agitated for a collective agreement.

There has been speculation that production could be taken overseas. Other countries had offered a one-off deal that is double New Zealand’s 15 per cent tax rebate for films.

Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh said last night the lifting of the actors union’s blacklist “does nothing to help the film stay in New Zealand”.

“The damage inflicted on our film industry by [the actors unions] is long since done.”

The move has undermined Warner Brothers confidence in the industry “and they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their $500m investment”.

“Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.”

And remember it is not the fault of the unions:

Ms Kelly said union members would not be at fault if The Hobbit moved overseas. Instead, it was Warner Brothers seeking to gain greater tax breaks and lower wages.

Sure. Nothing to do with us at all. Helen sounds like the Vietnam commander – we had to destroy the village in order to to save it.

But Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said the crowd was “in a lynch-mob mood thanks to Richard Taylor, who has obviously wound them up like springs” and actors had to call the meeting off. “It was too dangerous.”

That nasty awful Sir Richard Taylor. How dare he organise a protest march. The CTU condemns people who organise protest marches and make fiery speeches to them. Such marches should be illegal – unless organised by the CTU of course.

I’ll make a prediction. If The Hobbit moves overseas, there will be another protest march. Not with 1,500 people in it, but 15,000 or more. And if you think you have seen anger already, you’ve seen nothing yet.

People should be angry when their jobs are at risk. NZ Actors should be angry that they will lose the chance to earn $5,000/week. Wellingtonians should be angry that a decade of investment into building a film industry here may all be wasted.

Tags: , , , ,

Reconciling the polls

September 20th, 2010 at 5:52 pm by David Farrar

Darien Fenton at Red Alert blogs:

A UMR survey released today by the CTU shows that 80 per cent of New Zealanders oppose the Government’s planned changes to dismissal law.  Previous polls had asked the question about whether respondents supported a 90 day trial and unsurprisingly, the majority said yes – because after all these were already allowed under previous law.

But Darien is wrong in claiming the UMR poll shows 80% are opposed. The question that was asked is:

“Do you think that all employees should have the right to appeal if they think they have been unfairly dismissed, even if their dismissal was during the first 90 days of their employment?

Now that question is open to a very wide interpretation. An appeal can mean anything from asking your boss to reconsider, to appealing to your boss’ boss to “appealing” to the ERA.  The question is so wide, that it of relatively little value (in my opinion) in judging whether or not people support or oppose the Govt’s law change.

Note this is not a criticism of UMR.  This is a criticism of how Labour and the CTU have portrayed the results.

As a comparison, let us look at the poll done by Colmar Brunton for One News. It asked:

Currently employment law allows a business to take on a new worker and then if it does not work out dismiss that worker within 90 days without the worker being able to take a personal grievance claim. Currently the scheme only applies to companies with fewer than twenty employees but now the government plans to extend the 90 day trial period to cover all companies and so all new workers could be subject to the scheme. Some people believe this places workers in a vulnerable position but the government claims it creates jobs because businesses will be more willing to take on a new worker.

Do you think the 90 day trial law should be extended to cover all companies every time someone starts a new job?

Now this is a far better question (for judging if someone agrees with the Government’s proposed law change) as it tells people what the current law is, tells them what the proposed change is, and summarises arguments for and against.

Colmar Brunton found 60% in favour of extending the 90 day law to all companies.

This is a good example of the importance of poll questions. And again it isn’t that one question is necessarily “good” and one is “bad”.  It is about whether one can fairly interpret the poll result as reflecting what the public think of a proposed law change.

It is quite clear that the UMR result can not be used as representing public opinion on the Government’s law change. All it can be used for is representing whether people think there should be some sort of generic appeal from dismissal decisions – no details on who the appeal should be to – which is crucial. And an appeal is not the same as the right to take a personal grievance and get compensation etc.

One has to wonder why the CTU did not ask the same question as One News? The answer is obvious.

Tags: , , , , , ,

CTU example was not covered by 90 day law

August 25th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A few weeks back the CTU held up the example of Heather Smith:

Heather Smith was publicised in the union’s “name and shame” campaign after being sacked by Stokes Valley Pharmacy in Hutt Valley.

She had worked there for almost three years, but had to re-apply for her job late last year after the business changed ownership and name, and was sacked a few weeks later.

Now this case concerned me. Because the 90 day grievance free provisions are meant to apply to new employees only, not existing employees. I wasn’t convinced that a change of ownership could change things.

If her job was truly made redundant and she applied for a new job, then that may be a grey area – but if she was carrying on in much the same job then it would not be a true redundancy.

So I checked with the Minister’s office, and was told that the case the CTU had highlighted had gone to court – something not mentioned in the original media reports. This is a good thing, as it looked like the 90 day period had been misused.

And the court has ruled:

The first employment case brought to court under 90-day trial laws has gone in favour of a dismissed employee, prompting the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) to send a warning to employers.

Backed by the CTU, Ms Smith’s case ended up in the Employment Court, which ruled in a decision released today that the new employer had not complied with contractual requirements of the Employment Relations Act relating to the trial period, meaning laws preventing Ms Smith taking a personal grievance case were nullified.

The court also referred to “good faith” expectations and said the employer had not lived up to those in its dismissal of Ms Smith and there were grounds for a personal grievance.

CTU president Helen Kelly said the employer had relied on the law for complete indemnity from standards of decent employment practice, but was found to have breached both good faith requirements and terms in the employment agreement.

This is a good ruling by the court, and I am glad the CTU helped take the case. Unions do often play a valuable role in protecting some workers.

However I believe it was wrong to include this case as one of the 90 day examples, when there was in fact a lawsuit underway arguing it was not covered by the 90 day law. And indeed we have found out that the law is not as wide reaching as the CTU claimed.

Tags: ,

Another “worker’ who happens to be a Labour activist

August 16th, 2010 at 8:10 pm by David Farrar

Darien Fenton blogs a CTU video about the evil and oppressive 90 day trial law, quoting a “Florence Coen” who says she got sacked for no reason after 85 days in a job – possibly because she suggested the owner should not play a christian radio station at work.

We don’t know the employer’s side of the story, as they were not interviewed. What we do know, is that Florence Cohen (let us presume they made a typo” is a Labour Party activist.

Now this does not mean Florence’s version of what happened is not correct. But the failure to identify her as a Labour activist is significant, considering the Labour Party is campaigning to get rid of the law, and this means an activist is hardly someone unbiased.

In the comments Trevor Mallard tries to spin this as:

Lots of people join political parties after being treated unfairly. Good on you Florence.

Sadly for Trevor, the Labour site shows Florence joining in April 2009, and the law only came into force in March 2009, so it is impossible for Florence to have only joined Labour after a dismissal at the end of a 90 day probationary period under the new law.

I want to stress that I think Florence comes across well on the video, and I am not disputing she may have had a negative experience under this law. I don’t want people attacking a 17 year old who may have done nothing wrong.

My criticism is of the CTU for not doing full disclosure. Being a partisan activist is relevant information if you are put forward as a “victim” of a law your party strongly opposes.

Tags: , ,

National and the CTU

August 4th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

An item in Trans-Tasman caught my eye:

The PM was quite bolshie this week about the CTU’s open letter and threats to cut off political co-operation. He reminded the CTU’s Helen Kelly he’d broken a National Party promise by heeding union pleas not to break what he called the union “monopoly” on collective bargaining. It’s something the CTU should “think about,” he said.

So let’s see if I have this right.

Prior to the last election the CTU ran advertisements and explicitly campaigned against National. They even targeted senior MPs in video ads.

Now if a business group such as BusinessNZ had run such a campaign against the Clark Government, they would have been frozen out of even getting to have meetings with Ministers.

Instead John Key gives the CTU direct access to him. And even better he agrees to hold off on implementing two of National’s election policies – employer consent for access, and removing the union monopoly for collective bargaining.

So just think about this. He has a National/ACT majority. He could implement his entire election policy and in fact some of ACT’s. But instead he agrees to defer two policies to keep happy the very same organisation that campaigned against him.

18 months later, he announces that one of the two deferred policies will be implemented. A policy that was explicit election policy. And on the basis of this, the CTU claims it will call for strikes, industrial action and refuse all co-operation.

There is a lesson in this for John Key. As admirable as it is to be Mr nice guy, and try actually extend the hand of friendship to the CTU, despite them campaigning explicitly against you, it was always doomed to fail. The CTU will always put first its desire to get Labour into office, and was always going to turn around and crap on you. They just needed the excuse.

I mean does anyone really think it is a rational decision to declare you are now against all free trade agreements and will try and stop them, just because a union now has to let an employer know at least a few minutes in advance if they want to visit?

The PM should get on and implement the remainder of the 2008 industrial relations policy. Unions should indeed not have a monopoly on collective bargaining. A group of employees should be able to negotiate a collective contract themselves without needing to form a union.

Likewise a lawyer should be able to represent a group of employees, and negotiate a collective contract on their behalf. You do not need a union to negotiate a collective contract. Labour merely passed a law requiring it. Under the former law, there were quite a few collective contracts that did not involve unions.

Tags: , , ,

Minimum Wage for Youth

March 19th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) has welcomed the Government’s decision not to support the reintroduction of youth rates.

So the CTU is happy.

Opposition leader Phil Goff welcomed the decision.

“It’s crazy to suggest that any young person doing the same job exactly as older people should be paid automatically at a lower rate. It didn’t add up,” he told reporters.

As is Phil Goff. This means it must be wrong!

Goff’s own statement shows a total misrepresentation of the situation. Having a lower minimum wage for teenagers is exactly that – a lower floor. How the hell you translate that into “should be paid automatically at a lower rate” I do not know. Once again, for the really stupid people, – this is about a floor – not a ceiling, not an automatic rate that you must apply to teenagers.

In today’s NBR 24/7 column I rip into the Govt’s decision:

It really brings into doubt the seriousness of the Government in terms of job creation, when it persists with a law that has clearly priced many teenagers off the job market. …

Most teenagers are not seeking full-time employment. What they desperately want is to gain some work experience, and to gain some extra money on top of whatever parental or student support they have.

By agreeing to vote down Sir Roger’s bill, the Government is saying we want young people to be unable to gain work, unless an employer thinks they are worth almost $13 an hour. …

Later this year, overall unemployment should start tracking down. If youth unemployment remains persistently high, the Government will have no one to blame but themselves.

There are 45,000 teenagers unemployed. This decision is a very bad one.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

O’Reilly predicts public service strife

December 27th, 2009 at 10:50 am by David Farrar

The SST reports:

BUSINESS BOSS Phil O’Reilly is predicting 2010 will be a year of industrial strife and an “ugly” budget that will bump up the GST rate.

O’Reilly, the chief executive of Business NZ, said he expected “fireworks” from public sector unions as the government tightened the screws on spending, and Finance Minister Bill English has said total government spending cannot increase more than $1.1 billion in the May budget, a difficult task considering that public hospitals alone have been soaking up an extra $700 million a year in recent budgets. English has warned public servants such as teachers and nurses not to expect pay increases that are “out of line with realistic expectations”.

More than 50,000 primary and secondary teachers will negotiate a new pay deal with the government when their current agreement expires at the end of June.

“I think we will see quite a few sparks fly,” O’Reilly said. “Government departments are being told how much they can spend so you’re going to see an ugly budget from the perspective of government spending and that will impact people like the state sector unions, the teacher unions and so on. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of that was turned into industrial action.”

NZ Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said O’Reilly was being “hysterical” but warned that public sector workers would not tolerate zero pay increases or cuts in services.

“We are ready for that kind of a year but we hope commonsense will prevail.

I am all for common sense. Common sense is that the economy has grown only 0.4% in the last six months, so pay increases greater than the rate of economic growth are not common sense. Likewise borrowing more money to fund pay increases is not common sense when you are borrowing $240 million every week just to pay for current salaries.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Constructive work on holidays

December 20th, 2009 at 12:42 pm by David Farrar

The SST report:

WORKERS WILL be allowed to swap one week of their holidays for cash from next year.

The government will introduce legislation early in 2010, despite opposition from unions who see it as a move to rewind the Labour government’s law change two years ago, which increased the minimum annual leave entitlement for fulltime workers from three to four weeks.

This was of course election policy. It also may not mean great change for some people as if you do not take all your annual leave, and leave your job, it gets paid out to you anyway. Also it gives an employee the right to sto an employer closing the business for four weeks over summer, and forcing them to take four weeks leave then. They can now only be forced to tale three weeks leave, and get the fourth paid out as extra salary.

The government will also legislate to standardise the rate at which leave is calculated. There will be a single rate of pay for all leave whether annual, sick, bereavement or public. …

Wilkinson said the only workers who would be worse off under the changes were those who engaged in “gaming” the system; for example, by manipulating their work hours to maximise their pay while on leave.

Under current law, holiday payments factor in penal rates in the four weeks before the holiday. An employee could exploit that by working considerable overtime before going on leave.

Seems sensible, and much much easier administratively.

Wilkinson said the review was needed because the current system was so complex and confusing that even the courts had trouble determining disputes between employers and employees over rates of pay for leave.

“We are not reducing entitlements. We think the new formula for relevant daily pay will be easier to calculate. We also think it will be fairer to employees and employers and prevent the `gaming’ of relevant daily pay calculations.”

I suspect very few employers apply the law absolutely correctly because it is so difficult to understand. Most just pay leave at the normal rate anyway I suspect.

Helen Kelly, president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and a member of the review panel, was worried the government would allow bosses to transfer days in lieu and public holidays to avoid paying double time.

Although she was happy with the proposals as they stood, she was concerned that the final legislation could go further than the report, leaving workers worse off.

“There should be a condition [in the legislation] that the reason for transferring is not to avoid paying time-and-a-half.”

Nice to see a constructive approach by the CTU. They will of course be against the cashing in a weeks leave, but pleased to see not against the other changes necessarily.

Some workers spoken to by the Star-Times were pleased to hear of the law change, saying they would be keen to cash in their leave. Others though, would not. “Hell no, I don’t need the money…I would rather take the break from work,” said one.

And now they will have the choice, so both camps can be happy. Different employees have different needs. Those with kids probably love having a 4th week leave. Those without kids are more likely to love being able to earn some extra money by only taking three weeks. And there are also those in positions who find it hell to take too long a break, as the work piles up so much in their absence. So not treating all employees as wanting the same thing is good.

Among the 241 submissions was a call for March 18 to become a public holiday. Wilkinson said she was “amused” at the suggestion but was not interested in “legislating for behaviour that condones hangovers or the over-indulgence of alcohol”. March 17 is St Patrick’s Day.

Heh.

Tags: , , ,

McCarten on Key and Goff

October 25th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes:

I attended the Council of Trade Unions biennial conference in Wellington this week. It was the first time in a decade that trade union barons turned up when Labour wasn’t in power. …

Key finished his speech, bravely took questions from the floor and good-humouredly responded to all attacks.

I can’t recall how often PMs Bolger or Shipley addressed the CTU Conference, but it wasn’t that regular and I’m not sure they ever agreed to have an open mike at the end of the speech. And it has become quite a hallmark of Key that he will take questions, even from the most hostile audience. Long may it last.

When one union, aligned strongly with the Labour Party, blamed him for its current pay problems he reminded them he’d been the Prime Minister for a year during a recession whereas Labour had governed for the past nine years when there were surpluses.

Key cheerfully suggested that maybe the blame for their low wages was best directed to the Labour Party. That shut them up.

Heh.

It was my first opportunity to assess both Key and Goff as presenters and leaders. Key was at the top of his game – warm, respectful, self-assured.

He exuded confidence and sometimes even bordered on belligerence. When union boss Andrew Little queried the Government’s intention over ACC Key dodged the question.

Instead, he jabbed a cheap shot at Little, who is also the Labour Party president, referring to him as the next leader of that party.

Probably was a cheap shot, but some shots are too tempting to pass up!

But his flippant dismissiveness aside, his support for low-paid workers seems heartfelt and genuine. Key isn’t a great political orator but came across as decent and likable. Only a fool would believe Key can be taken out by Goff any time soon.

And this is from the leader of NZ’s most militant union!

Goff is a polished performer and his speech the following day pushed all the right buttons for his audience. He is a man under pressure but he’s a pro from way back.

However, I couldn’t help feeling Goff’s delivery was a campaign stump speech written by one of his staff. Unlike Key, it felt that he was talking at the audience rather than to it.

It is an interesting observation from Matt, as I had much the same reaction when they both spoke at the Family First organised Forum on the Family. Goff was very good, very professional and performed well. But Key, especially in the Q&A, can connect with the audience in a way Goff can’t.

Trevor Mallard was a distraction sitting behind Goff all through his speech, visibly chewing gum like some sort of goon from central casting.

Maybe Labour’s image consultants could have a word with their in-house gangster next time he accompanies his new leader.

Sounds like a bit of bad blood there, which is interesting as if Labour wins, Trevor will probably be Minister of Labour.

Tags: , , ,