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    Letter No.99
    14 May, 1999

    22 April 1999

    Most NZ'ers support proposals for paid parental leave, according to a National Business Review -- Compaq poll. The poll finds that 53% of people support most of the provisions in Laila Harre's private member's Bill, asking for 12 weeks paid leave for the mother. Two questions lead the debate: Who should pay for it, employers or taxpayers? And, should it be paid at a flat rate or be related to the person's pay rate?

    A new organisation is set up in Palmerston North with a three year goal of helping to create 1,000 jobs and $300m in new business for the Manawatu. New Vision Manawatu is an independent organisation that has the backing CentralPower, the Manawatu District Council, the Palmerston North City Council and Massey University.

    23 April 1999

    ACT's Muriel Newman continues her welfare campaign. The front page of The Dominion features her asking Associate Social Services Minister Peter McCardle for information about seven people legally being on the domestic purposes benefit for 26 years.

    25 April 1999

    Work and Income NZ may have an informal arrangement to help the police locate and arrest beneficiaries who are suspected criminals. The informal agreement is highlighted in the New Zealand Herald by the case of a Wellington man the police were seeking. The police contacted WINZ for the last known address of the man. On visiting the address, the police were told the man no longer lived there. The police returned to WINZ with that information. Given that a beneficiary is required to inform WINZ of any change of address, the agency legally stopped the man's benefit. When he appeared at a WINZ office to inquire about why his benefit was not paid, staff notified the police, who arrested the man.

    27 April 1999

    John Sands (NZ) Ltd, NZ's largest greeting cards manufacturer, announces it is closing its manufacturing plant in Auckland. The company will do all its manufacturing at its Melbourne facility from later this year. Up to 50 jobs will be lost in the move, but the company will continue to maintain the 230 sales, marketing and distribution staff in NZ.

    Following a programme of placing social workers in high schools in Penrose and Tamaki, social workers are also to be assigned to several other North Island primary and intermediate schools. From June, social workers employed by local social service providers will have a base office in one school and have responsibilities for two or more additional schools. Education Minister Nick Smith says the Social Workers in Schools pilot is intended to make early interventions with at-risk pupils with the intention of reducing truancy and drug and violence problems later on. The schools involved are in Northland, the East Cape and in Porirua East and Cannons Creek. The service will be funded by the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service.

    29 April 1999

    Not all polytechs are experiencing dropping student rolls. The Bay of Plenty has an increase in student numbers of 37% and at the Auckland Institute of Technology enrolments are up 11%. Enrolments are also up at the Auckland College of Education, Unitec Institute of Technology, Manukau Institute of Technology, Northland and Waikato Polytechs.

    However, student rolls have fallen in polytechs in Gisborne, Timaru and Christchurch. Executive director of the Association of Polytechs Jim Doyle says there is evidence that delays in paying student allowances by WINZ had an impact on this. Doyle says these polytechs had students dropping out of their courses during the enrolment process, presumably because they had no income.

    30 April 1999

    Bruce Jesson 1945 -- 1999. New Zealand's leading Left intellectual, and political commentator.

    Voting by students on compulsory student union membership at the nation's 31 tertiary institutions is completed. The result is that 19 universities, polytechs and teachers colleges are retaining compulsory membership and 12 are making membership voluntary. Last year the government passed an act that required each tertiary institution to hold a referendum on the issue by today.

    The Japanese unemployment rate hits 4.8%, the highest ever recorded in that country.

    3 May 1999

    Complaints by social services agencies in March about the treatment of their clients by staff at the Palmerston North WINZ office has resulted in a review of some WINZ work practices there. Spokesperson Grayson Rowse says that case managers' work on special needs grants and advances to beneficiaries is being checked, as well as the work of receptionists. Rowse tells The Dominion the complaints are being taken seriously. WINZ held the first of a planned on-going programme of forums with the community agencies to stay in touch with their concerns. Meanwhile, PN Mayor Jill White asks any beneficiaries with problems with WINZ to contact the council which is compiling a file of complaints.

    4 May 1999

    The latest figures on the US economy show an annually adjusted growth figure of 4.5% for the first quarter. The US economy has now been expanding continuously for nine years. Consumer spending was up 8% in the quarter and it is cheaper than ever to employ staff. The cost of labour rose a mere 0.4% in the same period.

    The National Library will be cutting 60 staff in an overhaul of the library announced today. Staff were told in December that nine jobs would be lost but today chief executive Christopher Blake circulates a report indicating a major restructuring which will result in vast changes, much of which is based on a philosophical shift to a New Zealand and Pacific Island focus of the library. This shift means the library will no longer be interested in the substantial non-New Zealand collections it now holds. It will also shed many of the services it currently offers. The immensity of the restructuring has staff worried about further job losses. The National Library currently has about 400 staff.

    Nationally, the number of unfilled teaching jobs at the beginning of this school year is not as great as the number required at the beginning of last year. The Ministry of Education says that 418 positions were unfilled at the beginning of this school year as opposed to about 570 vacancies at the same time last year. The most difficult to fill vacancies are in some parts of Auckland and in Southland. Mathematicians are the most sought after secondary school teachers. Fewer new arriving overseas teachers were hired this year.

    Community Services cards are not being obtained or used by thousands of NZ'ers who are eligible for them, according to the Women's Information Network. The holder of a Community Services card is entitled to a subsidy on many of their health care costs. Network co-ordinator Toni Allwood says that according to national income figures, 53% of NZ'ers are eligible for a community services card. But given the number of cards in circulation, 878,000 NZ'ers could have cards who haven't applied. Allwood suggests the authorities should promote the card through a TV campaign on the same scale as they did with the benefit fraud campaign. WINZ spokesperson Robert Brewer says his agency uses the promotional strategy of putting publicity material in every pharmacy and doctors office. Brewer says there has been a 3.5% increase in cards issued this year over last year. He expects the number to increase at about the same amount again this year.

    Housing NZ is getting out of the house ownership business. Minister of Housing Tony Ryall tells parliament that about 800 of the 1,075 new houses acquired by Housing NZ during the second six months of 1998 are being leased from private owners for terms of between 15 and 20 years. During the same period, 1,841 houses were sold.

    WINZ is taking an increasing number of benefit fraud cases to court. Associate WINZ Minister Peter McCardle says the agency expects to take 2,300 people to court this year, up from 460 cases last year. Last year about 1% of all the cases WINZ investigated went to court.

    More bank branches are likely to close costing more jobs in the banking industry according to a KPMG. Over 500 bank branches have closed since 1993, 113 of them last year. Banking staff was reduced by -7.6%, or 1,914 people, last year. Ombudsman Liz Brown says that complaints about banks also rose 43% during the past six months.

    5 May 1999

    The Inland Revenue Department launches its internet-based payroll filing system. Hardcopy filing of the monthly returns is expected to become redundant, as are 800 IRD staff who will no longer be needed to receive the returns.

    Permanent NZ staff at the ANZ bank dropped by 814 over the last twelve months. Casual staff rose by 76.

    Redundancies are announced in the Hawkes Bay as the electricity line companies are separated from their generation companies, as stipulated by energy sector reform legislation. Hawkes Bay Network general manager Malcolm Walker tells 28 billing and call centre staff their jobs are finishing at the end of June. Two weeks ago, Wairoa Power director Bill Clague told 27 staff their jobs would finish as his company sells its line business. Clague says that many of his staff will find jobs with the new owners or with contractors.

    Mussel farming company Sanford announces an expansion programme at its Havelock site in the Marlborough Sounds. Sanford expects to employ 40 additional staff.

    6 May 1999

    Unemployment figures for the first quarter of 1999 show that there has been an increase of 15,000 jobs in the NZ economy and the jobless rate has dropped from 7.7% to 7.2%. Two-thirds of the new jobs are part-time.

    7 May 1999

    The buoyant US economy seems to have put into question the assumption that low unemployment results in high inflation. Modern economists have worked on the assumption that an unemployment rate of below 6% would cause wages to rise, fueling inflation. However, in the US, unemployment is now at 4.2%, the lowest in 29 years and inflation is also at a low level. The Federal Reserve Bank chairman Alan Greenspan attributes this to increased worker productivity through industrial investment in technology. Greenspan tells international bankers that the threat to inflation now is the overvalued American stock market.

    8 May 1999

    Labour Party leader Helen Clark announces policies affecting jobs and low income people. Clark says a Labour Government will create jobs by promoting industries with better support for exporters and small businesses. She also says they will cut the cost of tertiary education, reverse the recent cuts to national superannuation and restore income-related rents to 25% for state housing for low income tenants.

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