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    Letter No.100
    18 June, 1999

    8 May 1999

    The International Labour Organisation estimates more than one million people are killed at work every year, 12,000 of them children. A quarter of a billion people suffer workplace injuries that cause them to take time off of work.

    9 May 1999

    A parliamentary debate on the student loan scheme illustrates a lack of research being done on the impact of the loans on students and their families. While Associate Revenue Minister David Carter reported the student loan scheme has almost $3 billion out on loan, he was asked what monitoring the Ministry of Education has done on the impact of the scheme? Education Ministry group manager Elizabeth Eppel says it would be very difficult to monitor the impact of the scheme because information on students' ability to get other loans for houses or business start-ups is not available. Eppel says her ministry is attempting to get information on student earnings and debt levels from the Inland Revenue Department.

    10 May 1999

    Joblessness in British men may be creating an underclass of solo mothers in Britain, according to visiting professor Lord Robert Sidelsky. He says that a huge number of young British men lack skills, education and earning power which have made them "unmarriageable". Sidelsky says an effective welfare-to-work programme may result in more stable relationships at that level of society. Sidelsky, a political science professor at Warwick University, and chair of the Social Market Foundation, is in NZ as a guest of the Business Roundtable.

    The NZ Council of Social Services suggests that many middle income families are not aware that they are eligible for Family Support and Independent Family Tax Credits. The threshold for qualifying for FS is $36,000 and for IFTC is $40,000.

    West Auckland's Te Whanau o Waipareira Trust is to be legally recognised as having the same status as an iwi. The move will give the trust the ability to assume greater responsibilities for providing government funded social services. Like an iwi, the trust will also be allowed to assume guardianship for children under Family Court orders.

    12 May 1999

    The Auckland City Council applies to parliament to pick up the tab for the $5.2m it is budgeting to spend in preparation for the APEC meeting there. The council says additional spending is primarily for upgrading footpaths, removing graffiti, extra cleaning, police and litter collection, as well as banners, flags and media hosting. One of the items included in the budget is $30,000 for housing the homeless people who regularly sleep in Auckland Domain, right next to the meeting venue.

    All universities are concerned with the disincentive the student loan scheme is having on people to take up tertiary education, chancellor Morva Croxon tells Massey University business graduates. As an illustration, Croxon says statistics show that an average $20,000 loan would take a man 17 years to repay and a woman 51 years.

    13 May 1999

    As the number of people on the domestic purposes, sickness and unemployment benefits has reduced each month so far this year, Work and Income NZ Associate Minister Peter McCardle tells parliament this is a sign that the economy is growing and the reforms in social welfare are working. Treasurer Bill Birch, however, expects numbers to rise again next year.

    Workers taking a dispute to the Employment Tribunal for adjudication can expect to wait over a year for their case to be heard. There has been a near doubling of cases brought to the Employment Tribunal over the last seven years. Tribunal chief Alastair Dumbleton concedes that the wait is too long and that his organisation is failing to meet its objective for a speedy settling of cases.

    Opinions on the causes for the delays range widely. Labour's Pete Hodgson says the government is deliberately under resourcing of the Tribunal as a means of deterring people from bringing cases. Government minister Max Bradford says the fault lies with one side or the other dragging their cases out. The general counsel for the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says one factor is the increasingly complex arguments being presented by lawyers.

    Housing NZ is creating five "big houses" from ten former state units to accommodate extended families. Adjoined flats are being combined and renovated to provide adequate space for large families in South Auckland, West Auckland and Porirua.

    16 May 1999

    A rise in the consumer price index of 0.7% in the US last month is the largest jump since 1990. Economists are concerned that the US Federal Reserve Bank may lift interest rates to counter this threat of inflation. Such a move in the past has sometimes triggered international currency traders to shift their investment funds out of vulnerable economies.

    17 May 1999

    Staff at the severely fire damaged Pacifica Seafoods' mussel-processing plant, east of Nelson, are told their jobs are finished. The 190 workers at the Rai Valley factory had been sent home on full pay for the last three and a half weeks since the fire. The company says workers will be offered redundancy in line with their employment contracts. Within the next two weeks a decision will be made as to whether the factory will be rebuilt or if the facility will be re-sited in Nelson, Blenheim or Christchurch.

    Lack of effective visionary leadership in Maori business and policy making is high on the list of reasons why Maori are falling behind economically, according to a report by the Maori Economic Development Commission. Chair June McCabe says Maori leaders need to take up the challenge of nurturing and providing an environment of optimism, resourcefulness and cooperation. McCabe: "In some cases the vision of leadership may mean recognition and acceptance that the younger, educated members, rather than kaumatua, possess the necessary skills to drive and achieve the business agenda."

    The announcement that Brazil's gross domestic product has grown 1.2% over the previous quarter means the country is no longer in recession. However, there are arguments about whether growth in GDP is a reliable measure of economic well being. Unemployment is now a major problem in Brazil although there is dispute over the figures. The government says unemployment is just over 8.1%. In contrast, unions claim the figure hit 19.9% in San Paolo in March. Without a comprehensive social welfare system, it is difficult to validate either statistic.

    18 May 1999

    Benefits have been suspended for 25 people since last October because they refused to cooperate with the work-for-the-dole scheme.

    A rise in the Thai GDP looks like that country maybe coming out of recession. However, unemployment is unimproved and exports are flat. Last year Thailand gdp dropped 9%.

    19 May 1999

    The pending integration of the Community Employment Group into WINZ hits the media. Radio NZ reports that the CEG staff submission on the integration includes comments that the WINZ corporate image will not help them with their image with their work with community groups. The staff also say that a closer alignment with WINZ would destroy CEG's good reputation.

    The Director-General of the Department of Social Welfare Margaret Bazley is appointed the part-time position of head of the Fire Service Commission. She takes up the job of implementing the restructuring of the Fire Service while at the same time tending her duties at DSW.

    Morrinsville loses 80 jobs as Anchor Products announces it will close its milk powder plant there. About 20 staff are being offered work at other company facilities.

    The student loan scheme is growing. Over 250,000 people now have student loans. Alliance education spokesperson Liz Gordon says this is an increase of 30,000 over last year. 10,000 now owe over $35,000.

    20 May 1999


    New call centre and service staff are being recruited in Hamilton by Natural Gas Corporation. NGC is hiring a further 50 staff as it takes on the billing and servicing of the gas customers of Genesis Power. Genesis is one of the companies that bought a portion of what was ECNZ.

    21 May 1999

    Wages have all but stopped rising. The latest figures from Statistics NZ show wages have risen 30c over the last twelve months, or 1.7%. This is the slowest growth in worker income since 1995.

    The British government's attempt to means-test and restrict the incapacity (invalids) benefit is meeting sustained opposition from within its own party. While Prime Minister Blair and social security secretary Alistair Darling say they will push ahead with the reform, 67 Labour MPs have signed an amendment blocking the bill.

    23 May 1999

    Every year since 1995, the information technology industry in New Zealand has had increasing staff turnover numbers. Last year, IT staff turn over was at the alarming rate of 31%, according to Sydney-based IDC consultant Peter Hind. He says this is the major reason why IT projects run over budget, come in late, or are just never finished.

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