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    Letter No.76
    14 April, 1998

    19 March 1998

    Labour releases its "resource pack" titled Towards Social Justice designed as an alternative to the government's Code of Responsibility.

    900 police march to parliament in support of pay claims dispute with their ministry.

    20 March 1998

    US National Labour Committee for Worker and Human Rights says that Chinese workers are paid as little as NZ23c per hour for as much as 80 hours per week. Secretive subcontracting factories in China are producing clothing for many well known US brands.

    The US Federal Reserve Bank tips wages to rise as the US economy grows, despite the expected fallout from the Asian financial crisis. US inflation is now 1.4% and unemployment 4.6%.

    The New Zealand dollar drops two US cents to a four-year low of US56.3c.

    Roger Sowry has received 50,000 replies so far to the government's proposed Code of Social Responsibility.

    21 March 1998

    "Minister for Everything" Bill Birch announces he will retire early next year, after 27 years in parliament. A replacement finance minister is likely to be appointed in a scheduled cabinet reshuffle in October.

    The NZ First caucus decides to debate tariff reductions and their effect on low income workers.

    23 March 1998

    Fifty South African children begin a protest march against child labour. The Global March Against Child Labour, organised by the ILO, intends to span 82 countries and focus attention on the world's estimated 250 million child workers.

    Microsoft's Michael Murray has asked the US Senate to drop its restriction on hiring skilled foreign workers. The US has an estimated 340,000 vacancies for software and electronics engineers.

    Trevor Mallard releases Labour's new education policy. The policy includes annual testing of children for literacy and numeracy beginning at age ten and implementing programmes to address the results of these tests during their school career.

    Education Minister Wyatt Creech says he agrees with substantial elements of Labour's policy proposals.

    24 March 1998

    Paul Tremewan, an employment consultant, says that job seekers who have taken a claim to the employment tribunal should not admit it to a prospective employer unless the information is relevant to the position. He says those who have made claims are less likely to be hired and in most circumstances employers have no right to ask or know if a worker had a previous employment tribunal claim.

    25 March 1998

    Nelson Pine Industries is suspending normal operations for 12 days over Easter to accommodate a slow down in Asian orders. Managing director Murray Sturgeon says the 160 staff have responded positively, many are taking their annual leave or accrued days in lieu, and those without holidays are being offered maintenance work.

    Boeing Corporation, based in Seattle, says it will trim its staff by 8.4% or 20,200 people by the year 2000. Spokesperson Larry McCracken claims attrition and voluntary retirement will account for most of the job losses.

    Receivers have been called in on the Retail Apparel Group and the fate of 750 retail clothing store workers is unclear. All outlets owned by the Group, including Dress For Less, Hero and Paulls stores closed their doors for stock take today. Many of the stores will reopen in the meantime.

    26 March 1998

    The 2nd National Universal Basic Income-NZ conference begins in Wellington.

    The Italian government approves a draft bill for a 35-hour week for Italian workers.

    Queensland police inspector Rodger Lewis holds a recruiting seminar in Wellington attended by 70 NZ police officers. Queensland recruited eight constables in November, each with at least ten years experience and Queensland is back to find further NZ officers. Police in Queensland earn about $5000 more than they do in NZ.

    Apparel and Textile Manufacturers' Federation spokesperson Marcia Dunnett expects job losses for clothing manufacturers unable to complete with Asian imports. Dunnett: " some manufacturers had supplied Dress For Less, Paulls and Hero with fabric, braid and buttons, and would feel the loss of business."

    Most Affco workers laid off last month at seven plants are being asked back to work at the beef plants and some lamb chains. Union officials, uneasy about the original mid-season shutdown, are urging workers to maintain their status with Income Support.

    27 March 1998

    The greatest threat to US economic growth is the lack of skilled labour. Jerry Jasinowski, president of the US National Association of Manufacturers says nine of 10 manufacturers are unable to find enough skilled workers.

    Eleven European countries are declared fit enough to launch the new Euro currency. They are: Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Finland.

    28 March 1998

    The government announces it has spent $2.19 billion less than it received during the last eight months. Government revenue over the period was $23.81 billion.

    The current NZ account deficit, the balance between imports and exports, has risen to 7.7% of gdp. This level puts NZ on a similar footing with the Asian economies now in crisis.

    PM Jenny Shipley and Treasurer Winston Peters exhort NZ'ers to save more.

    Malaysia expects its unemployment rate to rise from 2.7% in 1997 to 3.5% this year. Its Immigration Department is focusing on deporting 10,000 illegal foreign workers this month. Malaysia estimates it has 800,000 illegal workers, mostly Indonesians. Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Habibie concedes that the immigrants had helped his country's economic growth.

    29 March 1998

    The Blair government's first budget tackles jobs by guaranteeing minimum incomes for paid workers, providing childcare tax credits, subsidising employers to take on long term unemployed and cutting corporate tax by 1%.

    31 March 1998

    The NZ superannuation surtax is abolished. About 75,000 of NZ's most wealthy pensioners were affected by the surtax. They will now get the full universal pension on top of their other personal income.

    1 April 1998

    Business confidence dwindles. The National Bank's month survey says 10% of NZ companies expect to reduce their number of employees in the next 12 months. Research organisations BERL and Integrated Economic Services both foresee unemployment reaching 7% during this period.

    Indonesians being arrested and deported by Malaysian authorities detail human rights abuses.

    2 April 1998

    Parliament passes a law that removes the government's financial obligation to the Fire Service from July 1st.

    Management of four manufacturing industries meet to coordinate a campaign to slow the government's tariff reductions programme. They say moving the tariff phase-out dates forward leave do not them enough time to develop their export markets and that the industries are at risk. Many of the workers are Maori, Polynesian and Asian. Kerry Harding, managing director of Designer Textiles: "they are not the kind of people who could easily find other jobs in sunrise industries such as computer assembling"

    The French parliament passes a controversial bill that will cut the legal working week to 35-hrs, without loss of pay, by the year 2000.

    Korea avoids defaulting on its foreign debt by signing an agreement with 123 international banks for NZ$39.88 billion credit.

    Jim Bolger retires from parliament after a 25-year career.

    3 April 1998

    Fifteen people are arrested at parliament grounds in a demonstration against the Code of Social Responsibility. The demonstration was organised by Jobs With Justice, a campaign of the Trade Union Federation, and the Auckland Unemployed Rights Centre. Among those arrested included veteran protestor Sue Bradford, and Michael Gilchrist of the Trades Union Federation, who was dressed up as Prime Minister Jenny Shipley. The protestors were "using theatre and parody to mock the Social Code".

    4 April 1998

    Angela Foulkes, secretary of the CTU, criticises the coalition government on its lack of action on the discrimination of women in the workplace. Her main issues: equal pay, parental leave and labour-force participation. Writing in a paper to the UN, Foulkes says: "The market has not liberated women; it has tightened the noose for women, particularly the low paid and vulnerable"

    Norio Ohga, Sony Corporation's chief executive says the Japanese economy is on the verge of collapsing. Onga: "The Japanese economy is currently facing its most difficult time ever. The Japanese government needs to have effective policies in place to reverse this trend. These days we're doing business on a global scale, but the politicians are acting only domestically"

    The US unemployment rate increases 0.1% to 4.7%, the first rise in two years.

    6 April 1998

    The average Australian white-collar worker holds 20 jobs in their working lifetime, with the typical job lasting an average of 3 years, according to a survey by Catalyst Recruitment.

    Unemployment becomes a new and serious issue in Thailand, Korea and Malaysia. Indonesia, with unemployment estimated to be 10%, is hardest hit as the other economies contract and expel illegal workers. Thailand sets May 1st as a deadline for 800,000 illegal Burmese to leave the country.

    The Japanese government agrees to $NZ27 billion in tax cuts as part of a $NZ180 billion package to stimulate the economy.

    Treasurer Winston Peters signals that the wobbly Japanese economy may result in further government spending cuts in the May 14 budget.

    8 April 1998

    Employment Minister Peter McCardle is appointed Minister of the new super-department.

    National Australia Bank begins a restructure that will see it shed 2500 jobs in Australia and 2,500 jobs internationally.

    Britain's "New Deal" youth employment scheme goes nationwide. Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett believes it will strike a "terminal blow" at long term youth unemployment. The government argues that what long term unemployed people need most is a first job. Four thousand firms have agreed to accept subsidies for 14,000 new workers.

    9 April 1998

    The axe hangs over 200 forestry jobs as Fletcher Challenge forestry says it will cut back harvesting logs by 30%.

    Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash warns that house prices could fall this year.

    Maori Council chairman Sir Graham Latimer calls for Maori to receive superannuation at a younger age than Pakeha, because Maori have a shorter life-span than Pakeha.

    Sir Graham also challenged the government to create more jobs in Northland, or legalise the drug marijuana. He said that growing dope was a reasonable way for unemployed people to earn a crust in the face of the government's poor job creation record.

    King Country Energy says that a legislated split of power companies will cost it $500,000 annually and the loss of 50 jobs.

    10 April 1998

    The British Employment Ministry is offering alarm clocks to 18-24yr old unemployed young people. The theory behind the gift is that one of the main impediments to getting and keeping a job is a chronic inability to get up on time.

    Job advertisements in the three main centres remain on an overall downward spiral, according to the ANZ job ads survey.

    Maori Affairs Minister Tau Henare expresses astonishment at Sir Graham Latimer's recent suggestions: "I think he has lost the plot"

    Hawkes Bay farmers, suffering from a drought-hit region, are to be allowed to apply for income support grants to help them with basic living expenses.

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