Essential Information on an Essential Issue
15 September, 1997
- MAORI "REVOLVING DOOR" OF TEMPORARY JOBS
A new report out by the Council of Trade Unions says that many Maori workers are
being forced through a "revolving door" of temporary jobs and endless training schemes. The
report, Stability and Opportunity, looks at the equality of employment opportunities for Maori
workers. It concludes that the "foot-in-the-door" opportunities promoted through low minimum wages
and restricted access to welfare benefits ... can lead to a "revolving door" which is likely to
perpetuate cycles of short-term, low-paid work, followed by periods of unemployment. Says CTU
president Ken Douglas: "I think one of the big questions NZ has to ask is whether any job is better
- The CTU report shows that Maori workers are more concentrated in low-skill,
low-paid jobs than non-Maori. And they are more likely to encounter higher unemployment rates,
lower earnings and more "volatility in employment". The report also says that unemployed Maori
are more likely to have left their last job because it was temporary.
- CTU points to the Employment Contracts Act as one of the main culprits changes to
the industrial legislation have made it easier to engage workers on temporary, casual or a
short-term basis. CTU recommendation: the number of temporary workers should be kept to a minimum
in order to keep employment "moderately stable" and to allow all sections of the workforce to
have the opportunity to acquire more skills.
Source The Dominion 11 September 1997 "Maoris in a revolving door of temporary jobs"
- COMMUNITY TASKFORCE
Is the re-vamped Community Taskforce programme becoming a de-facto
work-for-the-dole scheme? The NZ Employment Service is pushing the Community Taskforce in order to get
numbers up to as many as 10,000 people involved, and this is seen as a first step towards the
introduction of a work-for-the-dole scheme next year, as part of the coalition agreement.
Alliance employment spokesman Rod Donald believes that this first step may in fact be all
the coalition government needs to make in order to achieve a "work-for-the dole programme on
the cheap". He believes that Employment Minister Peter McCardle is facing hurdles in
bringing together his community wage and workfare proposals proposals that will require
co-operation between Ministers over a number of portfolios like Social Welfare and Education, and
involves traversing the sort of policy co-ordination and "patch protection" that is not being easily
being worked through in the current coalition government climate.
Donald says that instead of spending money on engaging Saatchi and Saatchi on a "feel
good" advertising campaign, the Minister would be better off providing unemployed people and
existing and potential sponsoring organisations with real incentives and support to make the
existing voluntary scheme work better. Donald: "Instead, the Minister has turned his whole
employment strategy into a propaganda exercise designed to make the unemployed feel bad if they don't
work three days a week for nothing, and under-resourced community groups feel bad if they don't
take on extra workers..."
- The only thing stopping Community Taskforce from being a fully-fledged
work-for-the-dole scheme is the issue of "compulsion". Rod Donald has released documents obtained under
the Official Information Act which make it clear that legislation already exists to enable the
government to direct its "clients" onto the Community Taskforce scheme.
- Such a "compulsory" direction seems certain to backfire amongst the community
organisations which are sponsoring the Community Taskforce placements. Many community groups
are happy to participate on the scheme while it is a voluntary option and while the unemployed
are genuinely keen to do their community work. But being sent unemployed workers who don't
want to be there raises all sorts of questions of levels of supervision, increased costs from damages
and carelessness, and also general client safety.
- There is also a question of whether the existing community sponsors are being asked
to participate on the scheme under false pretences, if indeed the scheme will later be converted into
a "compulsory" option. TV1 News last week interviewed employer Peter Kohing who is part of
the government-sponsored campaign to increase community participation in the scheme. Kohing: "
I wouldn't like to see unemployed people being forced onto this scheme ... " One of his
unemployed volunteers, Gina Williams, also has doubts about the government's intentions: "You
just feel depressed if you are forced to work somewhere and it is all beyond your control ... it is
slave labour if you are being forced to do it."
- The "compulsory" direction also seems certain to also backfire amongst employers and
the business community who are involved in the present Community Taskforce scheme, and will
play a big part in the future Community Wage proposals. Rod Donald has also released details of
a recent Colmar Brunton poll undertaken by the NZ Employment Service. It asked employers
and Community Taskforce participants about the existing programme, and what they thought of
the new scheme if it became compulsory.
According to this research, employers identified that, under a compulsory option,
participants would not care about the projects, have a bad attitude and not put their best into it. Also,
the research shows that both employer and participant satisfaction is a key element in ensuring
the placement of job seekers into the programme.
Donald: "Without the support from employers the government's work-for-the-dole scheme
is doomed to failure. This research shows that employers do not want to be jailers for the
government's slave labour scheme. No employer wants to have to supervise unwilling, unpaid
employees in their businesses. "
Source phone calls and emails to the Jobs Letter from Rod Donald, and TV1 news item 8 September 1997, by
- ONE IN THREE ON BENEFITS
- A review of benefit trends issued by Social Welfare shows that the number of people
receiving benefits, not counting superannuation, has increased by 4% in the last year to reach
- Nearly one NZ'er in six of working age is reliant on social welfare for their income.
When pensioners are added to the total, nearly one in three NZ adults receive weekly welfare payments.
- The largest increase in the last year has been in Invalids Benefits (which is up 8.6%).
Other increases were in the Unemployment Benefit (up 4.8%), Domestic Purposes Benefit ((up
3.3%) and the Sickness Benefit (up 3%). The only benefit to reduce was the Independent Youth
Allowance (down 10.2%).
- 5% of unemployment beneficiaries and 26% of DPB beneficiaries have been on a benefit
for more than 5 years.
- Spending on the DPB will reach $1.53 billion this financial year, (a figure which does
not take into account the offsetting effect of child support payments made by non-custodial parents).
- The numbers of people on various benefits at the end of June 97:
Domestic Purposes Benefit : 112,395
Unemployment Benefit : 137,854
Invalids Benefit : 46,099
Sickness Benefit : 34,371
Independent Youth Allowance : 2,554
Source The Dominion 11 September 1997 "One in three NZ adults gets welfare support".
- CODE OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Social Welfare Minister Roger Sowry says the government has to make some
difficult decisions to stop a tide of welfare dependency being passed onto the next generation.
However, the government's "code of social responsibility" as announced in the Budget , will probably not
be drawn up as proposed legislation until early next year.
Sowry says the new code by its very nature will be like the fiscal responsibility legislation,
and "broadly set the guidelines we will use for the new social development and spell out a set
of responsibilities along with a set of rights we have in society..."
- The New Zealand Herald reports that welfare groups are fearing that in response to the
rise in beneficiary numbers, the government may cut benefits the invalids benefit pays $36 a
week more than the dole and introduce tougher vetting of invalids and sickness beneficiaries.
Source New Zealand Herald 13 September 1997 "Social self-reliance code nears" by Bernard Orsman
- AGE DISCRIMINATION
The Human Rights Commission says that complaints received on the basis of age
discrimination made up 10% of the formal complaints received last year. Brian Kirby, President of
Auckland Grey Power, says that these figures show a rising bigotry against employing the
elderly. Kirby: "Thousands of people aged in their 50s are being put on the scrap heap by employers
who want to employ younger people at cheaper rates..."
- In Wellington last week, a man was awarded $5,000 by the Disputes Tribunal after the
TAB refused to give him an interview for a job. The Tribunal found that the 42-yr old man was
not given the job interview solely because of his age.
Source New Zealand Herald 11 September 1997 "Grey Power Attack on bigotry in the job market" by Chris Daniels
- IMMIGRATION TURN-AROUND
The NZ government alarmed that the sharp fall in the number of immigrants will hurt
the economy is considering changing immigration criteria in order to attract young, skilled
settlers with capital. The latest immigration figures show that numbers are down to 15,900 from
the 29,000 immigrants last year. The government was aiming for 35,000 immigrants a year.
Finance Minister Bill Birch told a recent Rotary Club meeting he wants an influx of
quality younger immigrants with high skills and preferably some capital. Birch: "Migrant energies
and skills do not displace New Zealanders. They add a new dimension to the economy which helps
to underpin high levels of growth ..."
Source The Dominion 22 August 1997 "NZ needs young skilled settlers, says Birch" by Victoria Main and James Weir
- TIMBERLANDS LOBBIES FOR TREES AND JOBS
The State-owned Timberlands West Coast estimates that 2,500 jobs could be created
from processing native beech if officials allow the trees to be harvested. They want to fell an average
of one beech tree for every hectare of its native forests each year. In a proposal, to be presented
to SOE Minister Jenny Shipley later this year, Timberlands says it will use helicopters to
remove individual trees. It also contends that the beech logging will be sustainable ... something
disputed by many environmentalists who want a halt to all logging of native trees in state forests.
Source New Zealand Herald 28 August 1997 "Life's a beech for Timberlands West Coast" by Mark Reynolds
- LAURIE O'RIELLY
The Children's Commissioner Laurie O'Reilly, who is terminally ill, has made his
last planned public appearance at the Family Violence Symposium in Palmerston North. He used
the occasion to urge more support for the Commission's Fathers Who Care: Partners in
O'Reilly: " The most urgent thing now facing NZ is the issue of fatherless families we have
to address and develop a new attitude to parenting, it is a shared responsibility. We have been
so liberal and brave and modern in meeting our own needs as adults that we have overlooked
our children and everyone has an obligation to see that changed..."
Source Sunday Star-Times 31 August 1997 "O'Reilly still has his eye on the future" by Miriyana Alexander
- NEW BUSINESS LOBBY GROUP
A new lobby group is being launched in order to give "an alternative view" to the
Business Roundtable. Auckland businessman Dick Hubbard, of Hubbard Foods, is establishing
"Businesses for Social Responsibility", a group modelled after an organisation with the same name in
the United States. The new group will have a permanent secretariat and will publish research
and reports. It will provide a forum for debate and discussion by business and a network to share
ideas and lobby government.
Hubbard: "The Business Roundtable sees businesses as totally focussed towards
shareholder wealth. An alternative approach is stakeholder theory, which sees business as having a range
of stakeholders, including not only shareholders but also employees, suppliers and the wider
Source Sunday Star-Times 31 August 1997 "New lobby group to put caring face on business" by Anthony Hubbard.
- COMPANIES RE-THINKING CHARITY
The Royal & SunAlliance is one of the first companies in NZ to move towards
"corporate volunteering" where businesses help their staff carry out community work under the
company's banner. Example: employee Victoria Carpenter has recently spent a day a week for twelve
weeks working for the non-profit agency Development Resource Centre.
In the US, a survey of more than 450 companies has found that 90% encouraged staff to
become involved in community activities. In Britain, a less representative study found that one in
three large companies had employee volunteering schemes.
- The Royal & SunAlliance secondments were organised by Wellington's Volunteer
Centre. Darren Quirk, the Centre's regional manager, has just returned from a Winston Churchill
Fellowship trip to Britain where he studied volunteer programmes in companies such as
KPMG, Whitbread and Marks and Spencer. Quirk: "In the UK, it's not seen as fringy, it's seen as
mainstream ... Corporates can make a significant impact with community groups, with people as
well as money ..."
The Dominion writer Anna Smith says there is a strong business as well as community case
for corporate volunteering. Smith: "Most companies volunteer not so much as a public
relations exercise, but as a way of developing employees' skills and broadening their experience. They
also see it as a chance to build staff morale and corporate loyalty, attract and keep better
employees and improve community relations."
Source The Dominion 13 August 1997 "Good deeds can be good business" by Anna Smith
- UPS STRIKE A WATERSHED FOR PART-TIME WORKERS
Last month's strike in America by workers at the United Parcel Service (UPS) may prove
to be a turning-point for many American employers over the issue of part-time work. After
two weeks on strike, the Teamster's Union (which represents the UPS workers) won virtually all
their demands, appearing to turn the tide on what the Teamsters has described as "the long campaign
to casualise the American workforce..."
Most US employers have realised in these days of "re-engineering" and "re-structuring" that
full-time employees are expensive. They get pension rights and medical benefits, and they get
paid more. Before the strike, the full-time UPS drivers got nearly $20 an hour. Part-timers
averaged $11 an hour.
The Teamsters rallied behind the slogan of "Part-time America doesn't work" and found a
strong current of public support. The strike result: substantial pay rises for both part-timers and
full-timers; sub-contracting of labour will be phased out, and 10,000 part-time jobs will be turned
into full-time employment.
- Part-timers in the US make up 20% of the workforce. 80% of them say they are
choosing to work less than full-time, and they are more concerned with benefits and status in their
jobs rather than their inability to move into full-time work.
There have been several unsuccessful attempts to get bills through US state legislatures in
order to protect part-time workers. The latest effort is in Massachusetts where a bill is being
proposed to ban discrimination against part-time and temporary workers, requiring part-timers to
receive benefits in proportion to hours worked, and capping the number of part-timers a company
can employ if they receive state contracts.
Source The Guardian Weekly 31 August 1997 "Teamsters prove unions can deliver" by Martin Walker; and US
Star-Tribune 1 September 1997 "Other part-timers hope UPS gains have broad impact" by Maggie Jackson.
- CHARITY WITHOUT GLAMOUR
Voice: "The Prince's Trust is the largest charity of its kind in Europe and it flourishes as
never before. Its work is grindingly prosaic. It inhabits that economic underworld of grime,
poverty, unemployment, drugs, crime and broken homes - a place where the paparazzi never gather.
That is Prince Charles's style, and some of us actually like it ..." Jonathon Dimbleby.
Source New Zealand Herald 9 September 1997 "Give Charles a Chance to shine" by Jonathon Dimbleby
- CHINESE TO PRIVATISE AILING STATE BUSINESSES
Chinese President Jiang Zemin has announced at a crucial congress of the ruling
Communist Party that he will revolutionise the ownership of public firms. Observers say he is embarking on
a strategy of privatisation for the ailing state sector, with the consequent widespread lay-offs
of state employees.
China will be also setting up a welfare system in urban areas by the year 2000 to help workers
laid off from state enterprises adjust to the market-style economic reforms. The plan will be funded
by local governments and apparently will not cover China's huge "floating" population of
migrant workers from rural areas who have flooded the cities in search for jobs.
Source The Dominion 5 September 1997 "China to set up urban welfare system"
- FRENCH ACTION ON YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT
The French Employment Minister Martine Aubry has been given the go-ahead for
measures to create 350,000 jobs in efforts to reduce youth unemployment. The jobs, in areas such as
health, housing, education, security, culture and the environment, will be available to people under
26 years of age, and they will be paid the basic minimum wage. The French government will
provide 80% of the funding with the rest provided by local authorities and community associations.
Source the Guardian Weekly 31 August 1997 "French jobs get a boost" from Le Monde
- VOICES: ON THE CONTINUING WORKFARE DEBATE
" In the `old welfare consciousness' they gave you something for nothing. In the new
welfare consciousness we give them something for nothing ..."
-- Community Taskforce worker.
"Mr McCardle has met widespread resistance to his plans to extend work-for-the-dole
schemes from both public servants and the community sector. He is now slyly trying to get around
this opposition be trebling the number of unemployed people on Community Taskforce, preparing
to launch his full work-for-the-dole scheme in 1998.
"Community Task force is in fact slave labour. It is no different from periodic detention,
except that unemployed people forced onto it at the risk of losing their benefit have no recourse to
judge, lawyers or jury.
"We hope that the organisations that employ Community Taskforce workers, such as schools
and voluntary agencies will learn to understand that unwilling, involuntary labour is not only
total exploitation of workers, but is also not good for the employing body or the people they serve ..."
-- Sue Bradford, Auckland Unemployed Workers Rights Centre.
"The most important lesson from the US welfare experiment and the most often missed
is that "welfare to work" schemes soak up a great deal of money over a long period of time
before they begin to yield savings.
"US Congressional rhetoric is utterly deceptive on this point. Both Democratic critics and
Republican supporters tend to focus on the cuts in spending and the harshness of the "guillotine"
that will eventually cut off benefits entirely from people who do not work.
"In fact the hidden truth of the experiment is that it is costing a fortune in childcare, training
and other subsidies: between $10-13m in federal and state money for at least the next 5-6 years..."
-- Bronwyn Maddox, correspondent for The Times.
" The Treasurer and the government have yet to flesh out the "code of social responsibility"
that Winston Peters proposed in the Budget. The fear is that Employment Minister Peter
McCardle's well-intentioned but ill-conceived work-for-the-dole scheme is symptomatic of the approach to
be taken. [...]
Mr McCardle is the only government politician to have shown any sign of moving from
declarations of intent to the practical. However, his work-for-the-dole proposals have many hurdles
to clear before they can be considered viable.
The difficulties come when politicians have to move from bumper-slogan bombast to the
hard realities. The bill in the United States for "welfare to work" schemes so far is $10-13 billion
a year, and the results have been spotty.
Those who wish to change the welfare mentality and imbue the community with a sense of
social responsibility should note the other lessons from the United States : there are no quick fixes
and no cheap answers..."
-- editorial in The Dominion 28 August 1997
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