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    Letter No.56
    6 March, 1997

    17 February 1997

    Labour plans to introduce a bill into parliament allowing six weeks' paid parental leave. Taskforce Green workers start work on Hastings orchards that have been severely hit by hail storms. A special bus service is running to transport workers from Napier to the individual orchards.

    18 February 1997

    ETSA reports that the number of people doing industry training has increased by 40% in the last year. An increasing number of nurses are being employed as casual workers, and the Nurses Organisation says this is leading to wards being staffed with employees unfamiliar with the patients and their surroundings.

    19 February 1997

    The Qualifications Authority is criticised as over-bureaucratic and inflexible in a special report by the Association of Polytechs. The document says the authority's "rigid implementation philosophy" is probably incapable of responding to rapidly changing educational needs. And it recommends the authority quit its "commercial exploitation of framework development products" which creates a conflict of interest with the authority's main functions.

    More job losses loom at Telecom after the announcement of a new cost-cutting programme.

    20 February 1997

    Chinese Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping dies, at age 92.

    Dunedin City Council launches its Youth Works initiative in conjunction with NZES. It aims to provide 900 young people with jobs over the next two years.

    The state house rent freeze brought in by the coalition government has been extended to July.

    A UN report, in a challenge to orthodox economic thinking, calls on the governments of industrialised nations to shift policies in order to achieve full employment. The report concludes that full employment is a goal that can be achieved without overheating national economies.

    Veteran protester Sue Bradford has been refused permission to speak to the Social Welfare's "Beyond Dependency" conference being held mid-March. She plans to lead demonstrations outside the conference venue, the Sheraton Hotel. Bradford: "We can't leave the debate about the future of welfare in NZ to public servants and the rich ..."

    21 February 1997

    Cadbury Confectionery Ltd is reviewing its NZ operations, and expects job losses in its companies in the areas of sales and marketing.

    About 40 workers employed at GP Print in Masterton will lose their jobs as a result of company re-organisation.

    Social Welfare spokesman Michael Player says the "Beyond Dependency" conference is not about poverty or the adequacy of benefit levels : "We're about how we can give opportunities to make people independent and help them go up the ladder to independence and self-reliance ..."

    22 February 1997

    Tourism continues to boom. NZ has now topped 1.5m tourists visiting. This is a rise of 9% on last year.

    24 February 1997

    Wellington Housing Association tenants begin a five-day occupation of the civic square to protest about the council's proposed sell-off of its public housing.

    26 February 1997

    Business confidence, although improving, has remained at a low ebb, according to the latest National Bank survey.

    The Ministry of Youth Affairs is under fire for its decision to employ Mongrel Mob member Harry Tan as a policy adviser. Labour's Phil Goff says the decision should be revisited, due to Tam's recent convictions for violent assault.

    About 600 nurses and other hospital workers at Wellington, Porirua and Kenepuru hospitals could be sacked within months as attempts are made to cut the local Crown Health Enterprise's debt.

    27 February 1997

    The government reported a $1.94 billion surplus in its operations in the six months to Dec 96, which is $323m more than forecast. An international conference on child labour ends in Amsterdam. UNICEF reports that in the developing world, at least one in every four children between the ages of 10 and 14 yrs work. Most of them work more than nine hours a day, and three-quarters work at least six-day weeks. UNICEF head Carol Bellamy: "the exploitation of 250m working children worldwide can be stopped."

    28 February 1997

    The NZ sharemarket is at a five-month low, and brokers say the NZSE index could slump much further this year.

    Winston Peters tells the Auckland branch of the American Chamber of Commerce that he will soon outline "significant changes" to the social welfare system in NZ.

    1 March 1997

    New minimum wage levels come into force today. Employees aged 16-19yrs should now be paid a minimum of $168 a week for a 40-hr week, or an hourly rate of $4.20. Employees aged 20 and over should be paid a minimum of $280 a week or an hourly rate of $7.

    Police understaffing means that crimes, for which the police has good leads, are not being investigated, according to internal police memos, leaked by the Labour Party.

    2 March 1997

    Government Departments have been told to find further savings for this year's budget.

    Treasury officials have recommended proposals to slash up to $47m a year from the Police budget. The proposals include cutting police pay and budgets, reviewing police superannuation, selling police property and closing the police training college.

    3 March 1997

    Social Welfare benefits will rise by 2.55% from next month. Up to 165 workers at Coeur Gold's mine near Waihi have been asked to volunteer for redundancy. Air NZ will scrap its engineering operations at Wellington, with the loss of 25 jobs.

    4 March 1997

    Treasurer Winston Peters unveils his first Budget policy statement : The government will budget to spend an extra $950m this year -- $250m less than promised in the coalition agreement. he says the cost will be less because "well-managed programmes needed to be built up over time ..."

    Priorities for the first Peters Budget include free visits to the doctor for the under-fives, more funding of mental health, and money to reduce hospital waiting lists. The superannuation surtax will be abolished in April 1998, and there will be an increase in the accommodation supplement.

    5 March 1997

    Thousands of COBOL computer programmers will be needed to solve the programming 'glitch' that effects the date on the world's computers once we reach the year 2000. Esquire magazine reports that there are only 90,000 COBOL programmers worldwide, and the estimated number of programmers needed to defuse the 'Millennium Bomb' on the world's computers is three million!

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