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    Letter No.79
    27 May, 1998

    10 May 1998

    The School Trustees Association plans to resist the government's intention to restructure schools on a business model. STA president Janet Kelly warns that government plans to shift boards of trustees into an advisory role. Principals will effectively become CEOs having sole responsibility for roles they currently share with their trust board like industrial relations, bulk funding and all other management decisions.

    11 May 1998

    The ANZ bank's survey of the number of jobs advertised in newspapers show 11.1% fewer vacancies in April 1998 than there were in April last year.

    US company Compaq Computer's pending merger with Digital Equipment is expected to result in 15,000 job losses. Digital, which employed 127,000 workers in the late 80s, will have fewer than 40,000 workers by the time the latest redundancies are complete.

    Research consultants BERL reports that in the Wellington region government services is the largest employing sector. BERL says 41,000 people work directly for the government and nearly 90,000 are employed in peripheral service and supply businesses.

    12 May 1998

    A leaked memo from Police Minister Jack Elder to PM Jenny Shipley indicates more than 1,600 police officers may be made redundant. The leak preempts next month's release of an external review of police.

    Auckland University law professor Bill Hodge says that sacking an entire workforce, restructuring and then making staff reapply for their jobs is legal under the Employment Contracts Act. Citing a 1991 Appeals Court precedent, Mr Hodge concludes the Act does not allow unilateral changing of contracts but does allow the employer to restructure their business to make it run better.

    Wellington lawyer Trish MacKinnon reports an increasing number of her clients requiring employment contracts work are low income people.

    13 May 1998

    Income Support Service says their controversial benefit fraud TV ad campaign has nearly doubled the number of calls the department gets from benefit fraud spotters.

    Wellington Downtown Community Ministry social welfare spokesperson Tony McGurk is critical of the benefit fraud ad campaign, saying its effect is to create resentment against everyone on a benefit.

    Component Manufacturers Federation president Dave Tibby says that the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa will soon lose 238 automotive component manufacturing jobs. Mr Tibby estimates these communities will lose at least $10m per year as a result of these downstream businesses closing. These job losses will be on top of the 250 jobs to go as the Toyota assembly plant in Porirua closes.

    The Anglican Church plans a Hikoi of Hope to demand change in government social policy, and calls on all Christians to join this march to parliament planned for September.

    Sportswear manufacturer Nike chairman Phil Knight announces changes to the working conditions in the company's Asian manufacturing plants. Minimum age for workers in footwear is now 18 and in apparel 16 years. Nike also says it will improve air quality, allow more independent monitoring and provide free educational classes for workers.

    14 May 1998

    Treasury Winston Peters tables the 1998/99 Budget.

    As many as 3,900 automotive apprentices, including mechanics, spraypainters and panelbeaters are unable to finish their courses. The Motor Industry Training Organisation says government funding dropping 50% over the last three years makes it no longer viable to provide the training. Max Kerr, general manager of Education and Training Support Agency says the Motors ITO must find more cost-effective ways to train apprentices.

    The Genesis Trust is providing rehabilitation work for Manawatu Prison inmates. The Christian based charitable trust owns a farm near Pahiatua and, daily, takes ten minimum security inmates to cut firewood on the property. The trust expects to widen the programme to teach not only work habits, but admin, marketing and management skills as well.

    New Zealanders moving to Australia will not be eligible for an unemployment benefit until they have lived there for two years. Currently NZers are eligible for Australian state support after six months' residency. The change begins from September and applies to all immigrants.

    15 May 1998

    World leaders of the eight richest industrial countries gather in Birmingham, England, for their annual summit. The G8 includes the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada and Russia. The top-three subjects for this summit will be the ongoing Asian economic crisis, tackling international crime and drugs, and reducing unemployment.

    A Budget-related protest march in central Wellington results in several arrests. The mainly student demonstration protests government health, education and industrial relations policies.

    Olex Cables general manager John Flowers fears the government is driving towards nil-tariffs across the board. He believes a cut of all tariffs could ruin many domestic manufacturers, sparking huge job losses for low-skilled people and destroying the economy.

    An Armstrong Jones-commissioned survey suggests that fewer than 10% of workers will save more money because of the July 1st tax cuts.

    16 May 1998

    At the G8 Summit, the Jubilee 2000 coalition leads a human chain of more than 50,000 people seven miles long around the Birmingham city center and presents a petition with two million signatures to Britain's International Development minister Clare Short. The coalition wants fast-track debt relief for the world's poorest countries by the year 2000. This initiative is championed by the Pope John Paul II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, among others, to focus on the biblical theme of `Jubilee' - the cancellation of debts - for the year 2000.

    Each day, according to the World Bank, developing countries pay richer countries $717 million to service their debts. For every $1 the developed world paid out in aid last year, $11 came back in the form of debt repayment. The burden means millions of lost lives as resources are diverted away from health care.

    Hear the BBC report on the human chain
    17 May 1998

    The National Council of Women is "appalled" that the government is pushing radical changes to the welfare system through Parliament under urgency. Council president Janet Hesketh says the public has been denied the opportunity to make submissions on important legislation.

    Alliance MP Grant Gillon says the bill will put 345,000 NZ'ers and their families into the "20th century equivalent of the workhouse".

    Social Welfare Minister Roger Sowry says some beneficiaries need to be "hassled" back into the workforce.

    Independent MP Alamein Kopu, who got into Parliament on the Alliance list after 10 years on the dole, voted with the government on the benefit changes.

    At the G8 Summit, the final communiqué also releases the action plans which each country has produced in order to show how they will create more jobs. The plans include measures to help young, long-term unemployed and other groups hard hit by unemployment find work; measures to help entrepreneurs to set up companies; carrying out structural reforms, including making tax and benefit systems more employment friendly and liberalisation of product markets; and measures to promote lifelong learning.

    The G8: "By sharing national experiences and best practices in this area, we can improve our policies and responses. We underline the importance of the involvement of employers and unions in securing successful implementation of these plans...."

    Hear the BBC news item on the February Jobs Summit in London

    18 May 1998

    Cabinet approves a strategic business plan for the Customs Dept that will see 60 customs jobs disappear.

    The National Distribution Union and Apparel and Textile Federation claims that a rapid reduction in apparel industry tariffs will cost 3,000 jobs in the Christchurch area. The Federation has enlisted the Christchurch City Council to lobby the government to peg the apparel industry's tariff scheme to that of its biggest trading partner, rather than scrap them earlier.

    19 May 1998

    Telecom indicates its 650 operators are likely to be made redundant as the company plans to contract out those services. In the same announcement, the ex-state owned enterprise tables a record $820m profit for 1997/98.

    The Mt Cook Group, recently sold to Tourism Holdings, will shed 165 staff by the end of June. Most job losses will occur in Christchurch and other southern tourism areas.

    20 May 1998

    Fletcher Paper's Tasman Pulp and Paper mill at Kawerau plans to shed 150 staff over the next eighteen months. Initially 84 positions will disappear and 41 new ones will be created. Local staff, as well as those from two other restructured Fletcher's mills in Australian are expected to apply for the jobs.

    21 May 1998

    Indonesian President Suharto resigns after 32 years in power.

    NZES finally releases its delayed statistics on the numbers of registered unemployed. See item in this issue.

    The Advertising Standards Complaints Board rules Income Support's benefit fraud TV commercials are not misleading or deceptive. Income Support's general manager Christine Rankin says that the next series of ads will deal with the penalties for benefit fraud.

    Taranaki based Te Atiawa Maori have been given first option at construction jobs on the Wellington sports stadium.

    22 May 1998

    Greens co-leader Rod Donald calls on four ministers to resign over the "atrocious" unemployment situation. He points to Commerce Minister John Luxton for destroying 5000 jobs in the motor vehicle industry with the decision to scrap car tariffs; Business Development Minister Max Bradford for axing financial support for business development boards; Overseas Trade Minister Lockwood Smith for exposing the New Zealand economy to free market forces; and Employment Minister Peter McCardle for introducing his "make work" scheme instead of focusing on generating real jobs.

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