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    Letter No.114
    21 December, 1999

    3 December 1999

    Treasury announces an unexpected government surplus for the four months to October. The surplus means the incoming government has about $300m more money than expected.

    4 December 1999

    The Privacy Commissioner Bruce Slane criticises the Winz data matching of clients with other government agencies saying the benefit fraud figures are of doubtful integrity and that the procedure is not cost effective.

    5 December 1999

    The new government will not rush into raising the minimum wage or increasing benefits, as the Alliance is calling for. Prime Minister Helen Clark says the minimum wage will be lifted once information is collected that indicates the appropriate level of increase. She also says raising benefits $20/wk was never Labour policy.

    Clark says her immediate social policy priorities are to insure people have the opportunity to get off benefits. To begin with, the government is restoring the training incentive allowance to 100% of course fees and reinstating the training allowance for 15 and 16 year olds.

    6 December 1999

    Party leaders Helen Clark and Jim Anderton sign a coalition agreement. The agreement states the four broad objectives of the government, the processes for managing the coalition, how policy will be formed and what the party balance in the cabinet will look like.

    A Winz manager at the Naenae office is sacked as police investigate an alleged fraud worth more than $20,000.

    Ken Douglas, former NZ Council of Trade Unions president, says the Seattle WTO demonstrations will be a watershed. Douglas, who was at the Seattle WTO meeting last month, says that in the future, no conference will be able to ignore public expectation that the world trading system must integrate the issues of the environment, human rights and trade union rights.

    The Australian Council of Trade Unions presents its case for `a living wage' to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. The ACTU lobbies to raise the minimum wage $24, to $410 ($NZ520).

    7 December 1999

    As Trans Rail tells staff it needs to cut 42 jobs in Lower Hutt, only ten workers agree to step down. Rail and Maritime Transport Union's Wayne Butson says the ten skilled workers who agreed to leave are intending to move to Australia.

    The directors of Trans Rail award themselves a 15% pay rise.

    The Green Party takes up seven seats in parliament, after Jeanette Fitzsimons picks up the Coromandel seat on special votes, and the party also gains 5.2% of the overall vote, also on specials. Seven other election night MPs are pushed out: three Labour, two National, one Alliance and one NZ First list candidates.

    North Shore Student Job Search supervisor Craig Dyason says the office often finds racial prejudice being expressed by potential employers of students.

    There were a record number of jobs being advertised in NZ newspapers in October. There were 31.5% more situations vacant listed in November than there were in November 1998, according to the monthly ANZ survey.

    8 December 1999

    A private employment scheme for people over 45 years old is yet to get a toe hole in Auckland. While Grey Skills in Christchurch employs 130 older tradespeople, Auckland manager Phil Mark says Grey Skills has been open in Auckland for a month but has had little success in attracting clients.

    9 December 1999

    As the new cabinet line up is announced, Steve Maharey will become the Minister of Social Services and Employment and takes responsibility for the community and voluntary sector.

    PM-designate Helen Clark says there will be an investigation of what she calls a "culture of waste and extravagance at Winz".

    In a move, partly designed to keep tabs on money tagged for Maori needs, Helen Clark appoints Sandra Lee, Tariana Turia and Parekura Horomia as Associate Ministers of Maori Affairs to keep tabs on the funding process. Clark: " a very major and justifiable concern of Maori has been the disappearance of money spent on Maori needs in the budgets of mainstream government agencies."

    The unemployment rate drops in Australia to 6.7%. However, the participation rate drops at the same time.

    10 December 1999

    Retail chain Kathmandu's Australian stores and warehouses take on 120 NZ students through Student Job Search Canterbury. Kathmandu's NZ retail operations manager Hamish Scott says the company is holding an Australia-wide sale and requested the NZ students because they were finding it difficult to get Australian workers during the busy sale and new year period. The NZ students have their airfares and accommodation paid for, as well as a promise of eight to ten weeks fulltime work.

    12 December 1999

    Deputy PM Jim Anderton meets with possum industry leaders and textile industry leaders in the Far North regarding job creation projects there. Anderton says possum industry leaders have training courses planned for the new year that would immediately create potential for 100 jobs, and hundreds if not thousands of jobs in the long term.

    Personal computer retailer and assembly company Gateway cuts 40 jobs. Most of the job losses are in the company's Albany plant. Australia and NZ Gateways managing director Peter Heath, says that three areas of operations were being contracted out and that some redundant staff had joined companies involved in these contracts.

    A new telephone call centre is to be built in the Far North. Datacom says it will locate in the Far North and employ between 100 and 200 workers to answer 0800 calls and do data entry. Winz will be setting up information technology training programmes to provide skilled workers for Datacom. Yvonne Sharp, district mayor and member of the Far North Economic Development Taskforce, says that one year's work by the seven member taskforce had cost only $1,000 and has produced this magnificent result.

    13 December 1999

    Job growth is on the cards, according the latest Morgan and Banks job index survey. Of the more than 1,100 companies survey, nearly 40% say they plan to increase permanent staff numbers over the next six months. Over the same period, 12% stated they intended to cut staff.

    Social Service Minister Steve Maharey says that his previous call for Roger Sowry to sack Winz CEO Christine Rankin was a protest activity used when he was opposition spokesman. He acknowledges that it is neither his right now, nor was it Sowry's responsibility, to hire or fire Rankin. This responsibility lies with the State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham.

    After Ansett NZ pilots strike, and their subsequent lock-out, the company achieves its objectives of cutting labour costs as the airline's 46 pilots are made redundant. Ansett says the new contract delivered productivity increases that meant fewer pilots were needed.

    The ANZ is doubling the fee it charges for overseas payments to be made into its customers' accounts. The increase, is from $5 to $10 per transaction. Grey Power's Frank Moloney says the 10,000 pensioners who receive pensions from the UK and the Netherlands will be hit hard. He expects the increase will soon extend across all banks.

    Helen Clark says the government will take swift action on student loan interest rates. She says students need to know when they are enrolling this coming year that they will not be paying interest while they are studying.

    14 December 1999

    After the takeover of Ernest Adams by Goodman Fielder in October, a total of 82 jobs are being cut in the resulting restructuring. Plants and people right around the country are affected: The closure of the baked goods in Christchurch will see 110 jobs go, as will a further 27 Christchurch jobs when the company reduces its pastry production there. As the company's Palmerston North pie-making business is relocated to Wiri, near Auckland, 40 jobs will be lost but the Palmerston North cake and pudding production site will take on 50 more workers. In Auckland, 35 new workers will be required at the pie and pizza site. There will be 10 new staff taken on at the company's Invercargill pastry plant.

    A group of Sydneysiders demonstrate outside a Kathmandu retail shop that is employing NZ students. Among them is New South Wales Labour Council secretary Michael Costa who says there are large numbers of local youths whom Kathmandu should be offering these retail opportunities to.

    15 December 1999

    State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham has received verbal information from Winz regarding the $106,000 severance payout to a manager and has decided no further investigation is warranted.

    16 December 1999

    Helen Clark tells the Council of Trade Unions affiliates that the Employment Contracts Act will be repealed and replaced by the middle of 2000.

    17 December 1999

    Helen Clark expresses outrage that Winz paid a consultancy firm to prepare briefing papers for the incoming government. Clark says that briefing a new government is a core business to any department and that having to have consultants do it points to a fundamental lack of capacity by the government's largest department.

    19 December 1999

    Social Welfare and Employment Minister Steve Maharey tells the Dominion that the government does not have confidence that Winz CEO Christine Rankin can deliver the government's agenda.

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