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    Letter No.48

    16 October, 1996

    More on Cutbacks in Australian Unemployment Support

    Mass redundancies are now certain to occur at the BHP NZ Steel Glenbrook Mill. About 300 staff will be made redundant by Christmas, and further staff could go next year. All of the staff have been invited to apply for voluntary redundancies.

    The managing-director, Malcolm Burns, says that he has to show annual savings of $50m to the parent company, BHP in Melbourne, which is reviewing all its operations in NZ. He says he needs to convince the owners to spend $54m over the next three years refitting the steel melters, ensuring that the plant would remain open for a further ten years. The present staff of 1630 people would need to be cut to 1200 for it to remain viable.

  • The redundancies would mean a loss of $250,000 a week from the paypackets of Glenbrook workers going into the local economy, and also have a heavy impact on the mill's coal, gas, energy and transport suppliers. Most effected: the surrounding communities of Waiuku and Pukekohe.
    Source -- New Zealand Herald 7 October 1996 "Hundreds to lose jobs in squeeze at steel factory" by James Gardiner and 8 October 1996 "Towns fear impact of steel site layoffs.

    The ANZ Bank Job Ads Survey reports that the number of job advertisements in September is 8.7% lower than at the same time last year.
    Source -- ANZ Focus on Job Ads for September 1996

    Harrahs Sky City Casino has announced it will need about 400 new full and part-time staff to run its $10m casino club that is presently under construction. The new club will be more 'up-market' and will require a higher standard of dress than the present casino. Training for the new positions will begin in the next three months. The casino at present employs about 2,300 full and part-time staff.
    Source -- New Zealand Herald 30 September 1996 "Casino to seek 400 staff for new club" by Roger Fea

    We can expect a certain 'spin' on statistics during an election campaign, and employment statistics were at the forefront of Employer's Federation and National Party advertisements over the last month. Bill Birch said in his pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update that "Unemployment has been virtually halved from 10.9% in September 1991 to 6.1% in June this year. .." This jobless rate may seem a very satisfactory outcome of government economic policies ... but when compared to a longer view on these rates, we are really only just getting back to the figures that existed when the Bolger Government took office in 1990.

    Unemployment Rates
    Average for the year ended March
    Source -- Statistics NZ

    Source -- Statistics NZ Labour Market Statistics 1995, and The Independent 11 October 1996 "Birch examines the body economic" by Bob Edlin.

    Voice : "Labour intends to change society without changing the economy ... It is clear that a simple attempt to use budget surpluses to redress the ills of society is doomed to failure, since the economic structure which produces the surpluses is itself producing the inequality, poverty and intolerance that Labour has pledged to eliminate ..."
    -- David Lange, in his Dominion Column, 14 October 1996

    There have been few city council privatisation measures that have been as bitter the Hamilton City Council's decision to close down its Citiworks works depot and get the work done by outside contractors. The Hamilton council says it will save $1.9m with the contracting move. But recent months have seen court orders, contentious council meetings, street protest marches by the workers, and the firing of a 'whistle-blowing' former contracting manager who leaked an Ernst and Young report that said the savings would only amount to $185,000. Many of the 111 redundant Citiworks staff were too bitter to even attend a farewell barbeque put on by the council at the end of last month. In the words of a Cityworks fitter-welder: "To hell with them, they can keep it."

    Now compare the Hamilton Citiworks story with the announcement last week of a $1m dividend paid to neighbouring Waikato District Council by its own contracting company, the Tanlaw Corporation. Tanlaw is a local authority trading enterprise owned by the district council, which made a record $2m tax-paid profit, up 32% on last year.

    Theresa Garner reports in the New Zealand Herald that Waikato District Council workers threatened with redundancy negotiated a labour agreement with Tanlaw directors in 1991. Of the 130 council staff being laid off, 85 were offered jobs and 84 accepted. As well as road maintenance and construction, Tanlaw operates a quarry, does street cleaning, rubbish collections, moving, vegetation and signage. And Tanlaw chairman Laurie McDowall reports that the enterprise has improved on almost every contract previously undertaken by the council.

    Other than maintenance, the Waikato District Council has not offered any work to Tanlaw as of right, and the company has had to secure it through open tendering. Nevertheless, Tanlaw has obtained more than 60% of district road works in the last two financial years, with quotes that were about $1m lower than the next most competitive bids.

    Sources -- New Zealand Herald 28 September 1996 "City workers left with sour taste" and 1 October 1996 "Lesson too late for city says union" by Theresa Garner.

    About 8,000 former Whakatu and Tomoana freezing workers are being asked to take part in a study of the health effects of unemployment, being undertaken by the Wellington School of Medicine's Maori Health Research Centre. The study will compare hospital admissions and death rates among Whakatu workers with those of Tomoana workers who were still employed. The survey will cover the years from 1986, when the Whakatu works closed, until 1994.
    Source -- New Zealand Herald 11 October 1996 "Jobs and Health"

    The Wise (Women in Self Employment) Women Network has more than doubled its membership in the past year and now claims a membership of one in ten self-employed women. Last week, the Wise network held its inaugural awards for self employed women (winner: Stephanie Mitchell, organic dairy farmer from Whangarei), and network co-ordinator Beverley Main has been busy promoting the new place of self-employed women in the NZ economy.

    The numbers of women in their own businesses have been steadily rising since 1991. Nearly 96,000 women are in self-employment, up from 76,500 five years ago. Of these: 61,700 work on their own, while 34,200 employ other staff. Beverley Main predicts that, if we follow US trends, women will account for half of all new business start-ups by the year 2000.

    Beverley Main reports that Statistics NZ figures show businesses with women proprietors have a higher success rate than those run by men. The figures: 60% of women-run businesses survive, compared with 46% of those run by men.

    Source -- The Dominion 9 October 1996 "Self-employed women turn over millions, says group" by Anna Smith

    Employers Federation chief executive Steve Marshall has made an attack on the International Labour Organisation in the Federation's latest newsletter, using the problem of child labour as an example of good intentions going wrong. He says that the ILO should not advocate the imposition of trade sanctions on countries not applying core labour standards or on human rights grounds. Marshall: "Such moves are often promoted in the name of the fight against child labour. But trade sanctions will not solve the problem, as the example of the introduction of the rug mark shows..."

    "A lot of Europeans feel much better knowing they are buying a carpet which is stamped as being made without the use of children. What they don't know, or choose to ignore, is how many children starved as a result of their decision, or how many children are now employed in the manufacture of lime bricks, tip recycling or prostitution, because they lost their carpet marketing job..." Marshall says the main problem behind child labour is poverty, and "sound economic policies on growth and investment and an emphasis on education" are needed.

    Source -- The Dominion 9 October 1996 "ILO's child labour measures criticised" by Steve Evans

    Taranaki possum campaigners have formed a national pressure group to push for a managed possum bounty scheme, to solve the country's possum problems, and create jobs in the process. The NZ Possum Bounty Group chairman Bill Leake says that the present control schemes are failing to stop the infestation of over 90m possums, and he estimates that 90% of NZ's land mass is in an uncontrolled state.

    Leake: "We are suggesting that DOC and the regional councils make better use of the general public, getting local people to do the local job... It would mobilise hundreds of people throughout NZ, all paying their own expenses. If they don't produce dead possums, they won't get paid. "

    Source -- North Taranaki Midweek 9 October 1996 "Possum bounty push" by Angus Fisher

    New Alliance MP Jeanette Fitzsimons agrees with the seriousness of the possum problem : "Some of our forests are close to collapse with some species like rata and pohutukawa threatened with extinction in some areas. DOC at present is only dealing with 20% of the threatened forest land under its control. The risk of another TB outbreak is just around the corner. We can't afford to take the pressure off the possum ..."

    But Fitzsimons does not believe that a bounty on possums, by itself, will lead to the most effective pest control. She says that many groups are asking for a common-sense approach which employs people in conservation hunting, and also makes use of the skins and fur products. She points to the Possum Products Marketing Group which has produced a detailed report on what can be achieved with a properly co-ordinated scheme involving tanning the skins, manufacturing and exporting garments.

  • Fitzsimons calls for a national pilot scheme in an area such as Northland which has a defined area of threatened forest and farmland, and where there is also high unemployment and suitable training providers. She believes the government has a role in training, marketing and co-ordination of adjacent areas through DOC and the Animal Health Board. Fitzsimons: "A piecemeal, underfunded, unplanned approach won't do. Taskforce Green, which uses largely untrained unemployed for six months and sends them back to the dole just when they are becoming useful, won't do. If it is to work, it must be professionally organised, all the way from training, supervision, and contract payment to marketing, venture capital and encouragement for the processing industry. "
    Source -- fax to the Jobs Letter 25 September 1996 "Jobs in a Green Economy" by Jeanette Fitzsimons, from her pre-election speech in Waitakere.
  • see also Jobs From Possums

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