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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.86

    1 September, 1998

    Jobs from the Land; mapping microclimates in Southland

    WINZlog.jpg - 18736 Bytes

    It looks as though the decisions on the appointments of Regional Commissioners will be made over the next week. In terms of local action on employment issues, these jobs will be the most important public sector appointments in recent years. Under the McCardle employment reforms, these positions are promised much greater flexibility in determining local programmes for local areas.

    All eyes will be on just how much flexibility this entails in practice. Already the whole concept of the Regional Commissioners has changed considerably since the 1994 recommendations of the Prime Ministerial Employment Taskforce (where they were seen as "an advocate, a mentor, and if necessary, a thorn in the side of unhelpful bureaucrats")

    Employment Minister Peter McCardle has seen also his vision for these commissioners change during his time at the helm. He saw them as "the best professionals available that will be responsible for developing and implementing regional employment plans that deliver on employment outcomes". His vision of local one-stop shops, focussing on employment has grown to become a super-agency where the very name `employment' has been dropped from the Regional Commissioner's title.

    The main reason for the name change is that while employment "outcomes" will be an important focus for the Regional Commissioners, they will also be accountable for income maintenance "outcomes" in their region. The big question is whether the Commissioners will be able to focus on the creativity of the regional role or will they get swamped in the detail of the line-management of a large government agency. Time will tell.

    The WINZ (the new Work and Income Department) Integration Transition Team definitely sees the Regional Commissioners as having "a high profile" within their local communities on employment issues. In their report following consultations on the WINZ organisational structures, the Transition Team states: "Regional Commissioners have been set up to bring about a fundamental change in the way that the department interacts with the community. The innovation, energy and commitment which exists in communities must be harnessed by the Regional Commissioners so that job seekers are assisted into sustainable employment, community work or training in much bigger numbers than currently and to much greater effect. Regional Commissioners will need support to achieve this goal "

    Source _ Commentary by Jobs Letter editor Vivian Hutchinson; WINZ Integration Transition Team _ The Organisation Structure" August 1998"

    Meanwhile, as Income Support and the NZ Employment Service head into their last month before becoming "integrated", some NZES staff have been voicing strong concerns that the integration is looking more like a "corporate takeover" by Income Support. The staff have addressed their concerns in an email letter addressed to Employment Minister Peter McCardle, parts of which were reprinted in the New Zealand Herald last week. Main complaint: Income Support staff seem to be getting most of the jobs in the new super-agency.

    The letter says: "This is probably our last chance to really express our distaste at the way things are shaping up. What we at NZES appear to be witnessing is a straight-out corporate take-over and may the biggest fish survive! This will without doubt cause some serious resentment"

    NZES general manager Tony Gavin is angry that the letter has been distributed, saying it is "both inappropriate and entirely unacceptable". Income Support is a much larger organisation, and so a lot more of its staff will get jobs in the new agency.

    PSA organiser David Fowler says his union is unhappy with the way the merger is going, and sees the integration process as being "a competitive, rather than co-operative system of getting new jobs". Labour's employment spokesman, Steve Maharey is predicting between 200-300 redundancies from the Employment Service.

    Source _ New Zealand Herald 25 August 1998 "Merger procedure unfair" by Chris Daniels;


    The Labour Department has been continually surveying its staff over attitudes towards changes in the employment strategy and the creation of the new Work and Income Department. The information on this research has been released publicly following an Official Information Act request by the Evening Post in Wellington.

    The latest research was conducted by UMR in July from a department-wide telephone survey of 300 staff members. The key findings were :

    75% of all staff now think that the change is a good move. These numbers are unchanged from the research done in December 1997. The main reasons cited were the logic of the one-stop shop concept, better customer service and more efficient delivery of services at reduced cost.

    There was a big reduction in the number of affected staff who think they will be able to work well together with former Income Support staff (35% in December to 13% now). Three-quarters of staff now think there will be significant teething problems, up from half in December. The staff cite principal difficulties as differing cultures and philosophies, different operating systems, disparities in salaries and contract conditions, and the need for re-training.

    There was a big drop in numbers of staff who thought the change would be good for them personally - down by a third to 28%. Many more now thought the change would make no difference to them personally, while only 11% thought the move would be bad for them.

    Staff tended to feel well-informed about the new management structures and staff transfer protocols. But they felt less well-informed about employment conditions in the new agency, and about the way their work would change on 1 October.

    Among affected staff, 44% feel management is doing a good job and 32% a fair job. Just 10% of staff say senior management have done a poor job handling the change issues.

    Source _ Transition Times No.41, 21 August 1998

    The privatisation of the Employment Service in Australia continues to be controversial, with Sydney employment agencies leading a revolt in demanding major reforms to the three-month old Job Network.

    A meeting of representatives from 80 agencies almost a quarter of the 311 "job providers" licensed nationally under the Australian Job Network _ called for a series of specific reforms from the federal Minister of Employment, Dr Kemp. They say that if the reforms don't go ahead, many agencies face the threat of closure and the unemployed in Australia will not be getting the help they need.

    Agency representatives were asked whether any agency was doing well under the Job Network. An executive told the Sydney Morning Herald that "not one hand went up". Another newspaper, The Australian, has found that a third of the agencies are in financial strife, and a leaked document has revealed that the government's own provider, called Employment National, is also not meeting targets for placing the long-term unemployed.

    The main reform the agencies want is the ability to find work for those unemployed who are not on welfare, and therefore don't qualify for government subsidies for the agencies finding them jobs. The agencies also want to enable wider access to Job Network's lists of unemployed so they can offer jobs nationally.

    The number of unemployed in Australia is now just over a quarter of a million, or 7.8% of the workforce. The number of long-term unemployed _ those out of work for over a year has jumped to 32.3% of jobseekers, the highest level in five years.

    The Jobs Network controversy was given a four-page feature entitled "Employment for Sale" in last week's Time magazine. It concluded that the scheme had "few happy customers".

    The bold policy move into privatised job placement the first by a national government anywhere in the world had been proclaimed by Dr Kemp, a former professor of politics, as "one of the great social reforms of the last 50 years in Australia". But Jonathon Fowler, spokesman for the Small Business Association of Australia, told Time: "Its an academic exercise prepared by an academic who hasn't got a bloody clue about job creation or job management "

    Critics argue that difficulties with Job Network illustrate that the profit motive is not a proper basis for community services. Roy Green, director of the University of Newcastle's Employment Studies Centre, says: "The government thought the market would solve everything, but that's not the way things work". A report by the Australian National University's Research School of Social Sciences describes Job Network as "a system where altruism and capitalism collide It is under-funded and poorly constructed _ a recipe for a costly mess."

    Source _ Sydney Morning Herald 12 August 1998 "Agencies demand major job network reforms" by Philip Cornford; Sydney Morning Herald 14 August 1998 "Labour renews attack on dud Job Network" by Stepahnie Peatling; Time magazine 17 August 1998 "Employment for Sale" by Susan Horsburgh

    The Hikoi of Hope ( see the last Jobs Letter begins its journey to parliament this week from the far reaches of NZ. Former arch-bishop and governor-general Sir Paul Reeves plans to be at Cape Reinga to march alongside Bishop Whakahuihui Vercoe for the first kilometres of the long trek to Wellington. He told Gordon Campbell of the Listener that he "knows all the arguments about keeping religion out of politics". Reeves sees the march as an expression of hope for the democratic process itself an act of faith that the system is still capable of responding charitably to the people it supposedly serves.

    Reeves: "It is an interesting thing that the Anglican church, which is middle New Zealand, has made this decision to march. And is willing to run the risk of being laughed at, in order to do it. This may prove to be even more than interesting: it may be timely"

    Source _ The Listener 29 August 1998 "Church vs State" by Gordon Campbell

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