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    Letter No.68
    3 November, 1997

    1 October 1997

    The government is to introduce tough new policies designed to save it millions of dollars in ACC payments. The policies will see long-term compensation claimants re-assessed for their capacity to work. Up to 20,000 injured workers who have completed a rehabilitation programme face the test -- including paraplegics, amputees and others with serious disabilities. Those who cannot find jobs within three months will be paid the substantially lower Social Welfare benefits, rather than ACC payments.
    The World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, has challenged his organisation to put the fight against global inequality at the top of the development agenda, and has warned prosperous nations that they ignore the gap between rich and poor at their peril. Wolfensohn: "The time has come to get back to the dream: the dream of inclusive development ..."

    2 October 1997

    In Lower Hutt, police are calling on Taskforce Green and Community Taskforce workers to patrol railway stations and lines between Wellington and Upper Hutt.
    The British newspaper Guardian reports that agents from MI5 are targeting large-scale benefit cheats under a joint initiative between the Security Service and the Social Security Ministry. The Ministry is targeting the involvement of organised crime in such fraud, and believes it could save £2.8 billion from its benefit bill.

    3 October 1997

    An expert in ACC policy, Grant Duncan of Massey University, says that ACC claimants forced back onto the job market by the tough new `back-to-work" policies are likely to face discrimination from employers. Duncan: "It is quite unrealistic to assume that the job market presents a level playing field for workers with a long-term past on ACC and possibly an ongoing disability ..."

    4 October 1997

    The board chairmen of the Crown Health Enterprises have been told in a letter from government that they must hold any pay increases unless they get rid of staff or cut wage bills elsewhere. The letter advises the chairmen to "stand firm" against any strikes that may protest against this medical wage freeze.
    In Britain, leading supermarket chains are drawing up a code of practice for `fair trading' to prevent their participation in exploiting the world's poorest countries. The fair trading standards will regulate how overseas workers are treated, and the impact on the environment of the goods produced.

    5 October 1997

    The United States Congress has passed its first legislation to ban imported goods made by forced child labour a measure that will have a huge impact on manufacturing companies in the Third World and on US domestic consumption.

    6 October 1997

    The NZ Dollar has tumbled in value and NZ's external deficit has widened to $6 billion in the year to June, the worst figures since 1986.
    A third of hospital patients wanting elective surgery are likely to be rejected under a controversial new booking system to come into effect next June.

    7 October 1997

    Sacked Health Associate Minister Neil Kirton has released documents which show that five North Island Crown Health Enterprises are to cut back on staff and services.
    The number of job advertisements has fallen by 6.6% in the last year, according to the ANZ bank which surveys the main newspapers.
    In Melbourne, there is public outrage after revelations that the Victorian police intelligence unit had infiltrated community groups and kept dossiers on many people. The groups being spied on included the Council for Civil Liberties, Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society, the Womens Information and Self Help Group and the Koorie Information Centre.
    The workforce at the Anzac frigate building site in Whangarei should be back to full strength by Christmas. The site had gone through a change of ownership, and had shut down early last month, laying off 110 workers.
    The German economy continues to struggle with the highest unemployment levels since the Second World War.

    8 October 1997

    Fletcher Challenge plans to make redundant a third of its 350 workers at the Waipa timber mill near Rotorua only a couple of weeks after failing to negotiate a new employment contract with them.
    Finance Minister Bill Birch is advocating a cut in the top tax rate from 33c to 25c in the dollar. PM Jim Bolger however says he is ruling out such a measure "in the near future".

    9 October 1997

    Labour leader Helen Clark says that Cabinet is still considering the punitive options within the Treasury-inspired Well Baby, Well Child proposal despite earlier denials from Social Welfare Minister Roger Sowry. The proposal could see money taken away from beneficiaries who are deemed to be failing as parents. Labour understands that officials have been working on the sorts of sanctions that could be applied to so-called bad parents since at least May this year.

    10 October 1997

    The police have been told they have to cut 540 jobs over the next three years. But the 180 job cuts pencilled in for this year do not have to go until next year, because the computer system to replace them is not yet up and running.
    Labour says that NZ has fewer police per head of population than in other countries. NZ has one officer for every 564 people Great Britain has 1:438, USA 1:394, Canada 1:523, and Australia 1:453.
    At a French government-sponsored jobs conference, Prime Minister Jospin announces a plan to reduce the work week to 35 hours in an effort to create jobs and counter record post-war unemployment.

    11 October 1997

    Tenth anniversary of the 1987 share market crash. Our share market has yet to regain its pre-crash levels.

    12 October 1997

    An international survey has found that nearly three-quarters of NZ workers feel their jobs are secure. The survey, by International Survey Research Ltd, placed NZ fifth-equal with Brazil and Norway out of a list of 20 countries.

    13 October 1997

    Opinion polls show that if an election was held last week, Labour could govern on its own without the help of a minor party.
    Some police and probation officers are suing their bosses for stress-related illnesses allegedly brought on by their jobs.

    14 October 1997

    Truck assembly at Mitsubishi's Todd park plant at Porirua will cease early next year, with the loss of 30 jobs.
    Government administrators say that the legal aid system is under strain to the point of collapse, and massive reforms are needed.
    Labour releases figures which show that the number of beds available in public hospitals has fallen by 11% in the last year. Worst hit are beds in the lower North Island plummeting by nearly a third, and those in the central North Island by 21%.

    16 October 1997

    Registered unemployment has fallen by 665 people during September to 169,959.
    Security guards have begun escorting inmates between prisons and the courts in a cost-cutting move which rank and file police warn could prove dangerous.

    20 October 1997

    Trans Power is to cut its workforce by 20%, or 85 people.
    Economic forecaster Deutsche Morgan Grenfell (DMG) predicts that NZ unemployment will peak at 7.7% next year before beginning to decline. Reasons: increasing productivity by firms, combined with modest GDP growth and a rise in labour force participation. DMG predicts that only 12,000 new jobs will be created in the next year.

    22 October 1997

    The IRD annual report reveals that more than 14,000 taxpayers escaped an audit by the IRD in the year to June 97, because of a shortage of staff.
    Consumer confidence is at its lowest level for nearly five years, according to the latest Westpac Trust/McDermott Miller survey.

    23 October 1997

    The public service workforce has continued to shrink. There are now 31,662 full-time equivalent positions in the public service (1.9% of the employed workforce). This compares to 55,000 full time positions in December 1990.

    24 October 1997

    The NZ sharemarket is at a ten-year high, up 13.5% in the last year.
    The Hong Kong sharemarket begins to slide, after interest rates rise in Asia following months of of currency speculation.
    L'Echo reports that Belgium may be the next country to reduce the work week to 35 hours, following similar movements in France and Italy.
    The New York Times reports on a non-binding vote as part of a movement to unionize workfare participants in New York City. The mayor is refusing to negotiate with the organization heading the drive.

    25 October 1997

    Hong Kong shares fall 10.4%. Wall St markets begin to wobble.
    The Fire Service will shed 103 management and office staff to correct what it describes as "pointless" overstaffing.

    26 October 1997

    Share prices fall sharply down in Europe and the United States. NZ shares fall 5.3%, the largest one-day percentage fall in four years and the largest points fall since the 1987 crash.
    The Alliance spokesperson on ACC, Laila Harre, says that up to 7000 recipients of ACC one fifth of all claimants might have their compensation ended under the new regulations which take effect on November 5.

    27 October 1997

    Gold prices in New York have fallen to a 12-year low after the Swiss Reserve Bank sells half its stockpile.
    A Labour Department survey shows that workers have a low awareness of parental leave entitlements. The survey shows that 45% of mothers and 83% of fathers do not apply for parental leave before the three months deadline required under the Parental Leave Act.
    The demand for workplace drug testing of potential and existing employees is mushrooming, according to the Environmental Science and Research Institute.
    About 200,000 supporters of Italy's hard-line communists, whose party votes hold the coalition government in place, march through Rome in support of demands for a 35-hr week. The Italian government has made a commitment to cut working hours, but employers organisations have come out in opposition.

    28 October 1997

    Labour Day.
    Hong Kong shares fall 5.8%, as fears over the value of the local property market grow. The Dow Jones plunges overnight by 550 points as investors jump on the selling bandwagon.
    United Nations and international government officials gather in Oslo to begin a four-day conference on child labour. According to ILO figures, 250m children between the ages 5-14 years are working, with about half in full-time employment.
    Astlet Leather is to stop making upholstery and show leather at its New Lynn factory, with the loss of 70 jobs.

    29 October 1997

    NZ shares fall another 12.5% in value.
    Treasurer Winston Peters and Social Welfare Minister Roger Sowry are given a rowdy reception at a Grey Power rally in Wellington.
    Nearly 2,500 people are queuing up to rent only 205 state houses available in greater Wellington.
    Employment Minister Peter McCardle reports that 19 beneficiaries have had benefits cut after failing the work-test requirements for community Taskforce. There are 3,711 beneficiaries currently on Community Taskforce projects.
    The NZ Council of Christian Social Services has called for a boycott of the controversial work-for-the-dole scheme. Council president Campbell Roberts says the scheme does not meet minimum standards which reflect the "basic dignity and worth of all people". The Council wants to ensure that involvement in the schemes was voluntary, that the pay given is adequate and recognises the extra costs of making the transition to work, and that an assurance be given that other employees are not displaced.

    31 October 1997

    The owners of the Levenes chain retail stores have called in the receivers after plunging into debt. Over 600 staff jobs face an uncertain future.

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