Return to Jobsletter Home

To the last Jobs Letter

To the next Jobs Letter

Download Acrobat file

To this Letters Diary

To this Letters Features

To the Index







    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.107

    13 September, 1999

    A look at how the APEC agenda effects workers and jobs.

    The Apec leaders summit in Auckland has been dubbed "the most important international event this country has hosted since 1840". It was certainly a unique opportunity for New Zealand to promote itself as it hosted the leaders of the Asia-Pacific region including Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and US President Bill Clinton.

    The Apec's stated agenda has been a wide one of building "stability, security and prosperity for our peoples". In practice, the Apec Summit centered on freeing up trade and reducing tariff barriers in the region, while also providing an opportunity for "bi-lateral" meetings between participating countries, and being a point of focus for current crises such as East Timor.

  • The Apec Summit also saw many community groups and activists gathering to promote alternatives to the mainstream economic agenda. Auckland did not hold the usual "people's summit" meetings that have become a regular feature of world leader's gatherings overseas, but did see two small conferences "Reclaiming Apec" and "Alternatives to Apec" held at Auckland University. The Methodist Central Mission also held several well-attended public meetings on trade and human rights issues. The Apec week also saw the inaugural conference of Businesses for Social Responsibility, led by cereal manufacturer Dick Hubbard, and featuring the internationally renowned futurist and economist Hazel Henderson.

    In this special issue on Apec, we present two of the alternative views on how the Apec free trade agenda has effected jobs here in New Zealand — from Robert Reid of the Apec Monitoring Group and Jeanette Fitzsimons, leader of the Green Party.

    One of the government's main goal's for Apec this year was to "broaden support for Apec". As part of a larger project, Apec commissioned a communications strategy from Consultus NZ to advise on making trade and investment more relevant to the general public. The September 1999 report concedes that "current efforts to bridge the community perceptions gap are not working…" The report recommends using a "social marketing" communications strategy to "act as an intermediary between policy-makers and the general public, opening more channels of communication than traditional community consultation and voting behaviours…"

    Auckland author Professor Jane Kelsey describes the report as "chilling" saying that the Consultus advice to NZ and other Apec governments seems to "rely more on spin-doctoring than participatory debate and the ballot box." Kelsey reports that the Consultus advice is to "harness existing sympathy" rather than "convert antagonistic opinion."

    The Consultus-recommended toolbox of public relations tools comes in a down-market version (cost for a country the size of NZ: $377,000) to a Rolls Royce approach (cost: $15 million). Their ideas include: a promotion/competition for schools, based on "what's in your shopping trolley"; case studies and testimonials for the media, fronted by "effective communicators from the business world"; sponsorship of journalists to report on New Zealand companies doing well; and an Internet-based trade game with "hot buttons" to take players to the home pages of sponsoring export/import-oriented companies. They also suggest a campaign logo extolling New Zealanders to "Buy Global."

    Source — Jane Kelsey in The New Zealand Herald 15 September 1999 "Slick spin-doctoring the way to make all of us love Apec"

    Veteran protestor and employment activist Sue Bradford was in Auckland for the Apec week, and active in the street protests. But, during the Apec talks, Bradford decided to trade her megaphone for a shopping trolley — protesting at the amount of basic consumer goods that NZ imports. Bradford invited the press to New World in Remuera and filled a shopping cart with products ranging from cat food to cornflakes imported from Asian nations or Australia.

    She says that economic links through Apec and closer economic relations with Australia have contributed to a large balance-of-payments deficit and rising unemployment. Bradford: "All these products represent job losses for New Zealand. Free trade gives some consumers slightly cheaper goods at the cost of putting many of them out of work." Among the items that went into Sue Bradford's trolley was a Team New Zealand polo-shirt with "Made in China" on the label.

    Source _ The New Zealand Herald 10 September 1999 "Free-trade foes say it with food."

    The Labour Party has picked up the call for "community banking" alternatives in NZ (see The Jobs Letter No.105). In releasing their social security policy, Steve Maharey says a Labour Government will explore the feasibility of community banks. He sees their policy as very different from the Alliance's plan to set a new state bank, because the community banking approach is one that is not owned by the state, but is a locally-based co-operative partnership.

    The Labour policy recognises the problems caused by the closure of more than 500 bank branches in New Zealand since 1993. Rising fees and charges mean many low-income households find the mainstream banking system too expensive. Maharey: "One model we'll look at is the Bendigo Bank in Victoria, Australia, which involves the community creating a trust so local investors become shareholders in their local bank. The bank offers a full range of services including loans, investments, superannuation, and insurances. All profits are split 50-50 between it and the local community.

    "Another possibility is to base community banks loosely on credit unions, allowing them to expand the services they offer while ensuring they come under appropriate prudential control. Alternatively Labour would support NZ Post expanding its provision of agency services for existing banks, to preserve a much wider spread of banking services …"

    Source — Labour press release 9 September 1999 "Birch wrong: community banks explained"

    Labour's ACC spokesperson Ruth Dyson says that New Zealand must heed the warning from Western Australia where thousands of jobs are being lost as a direct result of a privatised work injury compensation scheme. Dyson reports that in Western Australia, workers compensation premiums have increased by an average of 35% this year and are predicted to rise by another 50% next year. Dyson: "Some businesses have seen their premiums rise five-fold over the last two years. As a result, staff are being laid off and many businesses are folding. The same problems can be expected in New Zealand as a result of National's privatisation of ACC…"

    Dyson says that some employers, especially the big ones, have been able to negotiate attractive deals with insurance companies desperate to grab a large share of this new market. But she believes these premiums are not sustainable and it is inevitable that they will rise significantly. Labour's policy: it will rebuild ACC to restore it as a "well-managed single public model" of delivering injury prevention, rehabilitation and compensation.

    Source _ Press statement from Ruth Dyson 6 September 1999 "Jobs under threat from privatisation of ACC"

    Long distance runner Siegfried Bauer is embarking on a pre-election "Right to Work" run in order to publicise the plight of unemployed in New Zealand. He will be leaving Wanganui on October 1st and plans to be in Auckland on the 17th. Bauer is a well-known NZ athlete who has broken many Australasian long-distance running records.
    Source — flyer from Siegfried Bauer

    This electorate contains 19,794 households, of which 52% have household incomes below $30,000 per year before tax. This is 18% above the rate for the country as a whole. There are 28,137 adults aged 20-59 in the Kaikoura electorate, of whom 63% are in paid, full-time work. Another 14% are in part-time work. Unemployment in the electorate is 5% below the national average. No localities in the Kaikoura electorate have high levels of deprivation.

    (— Electorate statistics compiled by Judy Reinken, and based on 1996 Census).

    Source _ Judy Reinken, statistics based on 1996 Census of Population and Dwellings

    Britain's Labour government has been caught up in the debate over the European Union's working time directive, which seeks to address the rise in working hours by limiting the hours people may be required to work.

    A Cambridge university survey found that people in all kinds of occupations report a greatly increased pace of work in the past five years because of reduced staffing levels. Insecurity about losing status and promotion contribute to overwork as much as the fear of losing jobs. Britons work an average 44 hours compared with Europe's 40 hours. More than 4m people work more than 48 hours, a figure that has doubled in recent years: one in five men works more than 50 hours a week.

  • The EU working time directive's modest suggestion is that people should not be expected to work more than an average of 48 hours a week (the equivalent of six eight-hour days), with three weeks' paid holiday a year (four from this November) and the right to a 24-hour rest period every week.

    There were already all kinds of exceptions and ways countries can adapt this directive. But Britain has insisted on an opt-out clause allowing any workers to "volunteer" to ignore it. No other country has used this clause. Now, the British Labour government has laid regulations to further weaken the directive — leaving employees working unpaid overtime with no legal protection against pressure from employers. They have also ensured that employers will not have to keep records of the hours worked by those who have "volunteered" to opt out … so there will be no way of checking.

  • Guardian commentator Polly Toynbee says that, in opposing the EU working time directive, the Labour government is throwing away a chance to engage people in an issue very close to home — the shrinking of time. Toynbee: "Ask most people about their jobs and everywhere the cry is the same: their lives are out of kilter, they are running faster yet getting less pleasure for it, earning more but getting less for it, they are squeezed, pressured and stressed. The technology that was supposed to free us has had the opposite effect, making one person do the job of many.

    "The government should have seized on the EU directive with enthusiasm, sold it to the voters, celebrated its intention and urged employers to embrace its spirit, sent people home and made overwork a shame and not a pride. It would have been largely exhortatory, as no law can stop people determined to over-work. But just as the race relations act worked by changing the atmosphere of the times, here was a chance to shift attitudes towards work ..."

    Source — The Guardian Weekly 15 September 1999 "Time is not on our side" by Polly Toynbee

    NetAid is coming. The latest global charity concert — dedicated to ending extreme poverty in the world —will be staged on October 9th. The project will bring together for the first time the power of the internet and the global reach of television and radio.

    On Oct. 9 there will be overlapping concerts at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, Wembley Stadium in London and the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The featured musicians including Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Jewel, Bush, the Corrs, Counting Crows, Celine Dion, the Eurythmics with Annie Lennox, Wyclef Jean with Bono, George Michael, Robbie Williams and Jimmy Thudpucker ( . The concert will be carried on the MTV and VH1 cable television channels and the BBC.

  • NetAid brings together the most extensive partnership the United Nations has ever formed with private enterprise in trying to relieve poverty in the developing world. With this project, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has teamed up with Cisco Systems — which makes much of the complex communications equipment that forms the synapses of cyberspace. Cisco has agreed to underwrite the project with assistance from the consulting firm KPMG.

    Don Listwin of Cisco Systems describes NetAid as a "new internet model for social change" Listwin: "Just as the internet has revolutionized business, the internet can help lift the hopes of communities in need by bringing ideas, people and resources together in ways never thought possible. NetAid will use the largest scale internet technology ever deployed to tackle one of the world's largest problems… "

  • The director of the UNDP, Mark Malloch Brown, says that Netaid is not just another charity telethon. The heart of Netaid is not the concerts, he says, but a website ( which is being created to allow people around the world to participate in antipoverty efforts long after the music is over. The website will allow the UNDP plans to work with non-governmental organizations in creating opportunities for people to learn, contribute time and money, exchange ideas and expertise, and join with those leading the fight against extreme poverty.

    Malloch Brown: "Unfortunately, extreme poverty is on the rise. More than one billion people around the world live in extreme poverty, on less than the equivalent of one dollar per day. The existing tools and resources to combat the world's worst poverty are clearly insufficient. NetAid will be a lasting weapon that will help mobilize people that were not involved previously, and create new virtual communities that will work together to eradicate extreme poverty.

    " This is organized very differently from the earlier things like We Are the World or Live Aid, which were intended to meet the immediate knee-jerk fund-raising potential of the event. For me, the money will come, but it will come out of building a very large group of people in the millions who will keep coming back to the issues through the website…"

    Source —

    "All people in our communities have a stake in the success of Apec. We want to ensure they achieve their full potential for improved economic and social well-being. We particularly welcome the more active participation of women and business in Apec's work this year.

    "We recognise that income and wealth disparities between and within economies can pose a challenge for social stability. Appropriate social safety nets play a role in facilitating economic and social adjustment. We welcome efforts by Apec economies, and other institutions, to address social safety net issues and to encourage further efforts to maintain employment and environmentally sustainable growth…"
    Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, from the Apec Leaders' Declaration

    "After 15 years of Apec-style free trade and investment policies, most New Zealanders have given up waiting for an economic miracle. Social statistics omitted from the Government's glossy Apec brochure on the "reformed economy" make pretty grim reading.

    " One in six New Zealanders, and one in three children, now lives in poverty. In the decade from 1986, the median personal income of New Zealand adults fell by over 13 per cent. Maori incomes fell most.

    "Over roughly the same period, the richest 5 per cent of New Zealanders increased their share of national income by one-quarter, and the top 10 per cent of the population by 15 per cent — an outcome which Treasurer Sir William Birch described as "an inevitable part of increasing rewards for effort" and "sending the right signal."

    "The unemployment rate of over 7 per cent is way above the 4 per cent we had in 1987. We now have 32,000 fewer filled full- time jobs than then, but double (243,900) the number of part-time jobs.

    "On the economic front, we have fallen way behind Australia in economic growth rates. Last week's figures show the trade deficit is worsening. In 1998, New Zealand was ranked 20th out of 25 OECD countries on export growth performance indicators.

    "A separate survey of 45 countries showed we were one of five countries to lose international market share over the previous six years. Total foreign debt at March 1999 was an enormous $101.9 billion, or 103 per cent of GDP. The current account deficit for the year to March 1999 was around 6.4 per cent of GDP, bridged by more asset sales, overseas borrowing or erosion of Government reserves.

    "Meanwhile, profit from foreign investments, especially privatisations, flowed out of the country. In the year to December 1998, the entire $2.79 billion foreign investors earned as profit, plus another $11 million, was taken as dividend — there was no net reinvestment.

    "A growing number of business leaders and economic commentators now question the scorched-earth approach to domestic industry and unilateral trade and investment liberalisation pursued since 1984 ..."
    Professor Jane Kelsey, Apec Monitoring Group and author of Reclaiming the Future: New Zealand and the Global Economy

    "APEC is about making it easier for business to grow - about solving the problems of our ice-cream manufacturer, and similar problems of all other exporters. It's designed to encourage business in the region by making it easier and simpler. That's the standard by which it should be judged over the next two decades …"
    International Trade Minister Dr Lockwood Smith

    "APEC is anti-worker and anti-women. Hundreds of jobs have been lost in the car assembly, clothing and footwear industries because of New Zealand's APEC commitments. APEC is part of the network of treaties, forums and institutions that seek to subjugate the many for the enrichment of the few…"
    Maxine Gay, President of NZ Trade Union Federation

    "The goal of an equitable and open trading system, while easy to articulate, requires committed political leadership to achieve. In the Apec economies — as well as in the wider world — there are a multitude of competing voices seeking to advance ideas and views on every aspect of economic trade and social policies.

    "Old policies that have failed are constantly re-circulated by special interest groups. New policies that are working well are condemned by others. So it is no surprise that in such an environment the simply-stated proposition — that free and open trade is in everyone's interest — can get lost.

    "The difficulties get exaggerated, and the benefits undersold. Often there is a great weight of support for the status quo and much less to support the new vision, the Apec vision, the daring vision to lower barriers to trade, and all can win. It sounds too good — but its true."
    former NZ Prime Minister Jim Bolger, introducing US President Bill Clinton to the Apec Business CEO Summit

    To the Top
    Top of Page
    This Letter's Main Page
    Stats | Subscribe | Index |
    The Jobs Letter Home Page | The Website Home Page
    The Jobs Research Trust -- a not-for-profit Charitable Trust
    constituted in 1994
    We publish The Jobs Letter