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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.122

    26 April, 2000

    Mayors Taskforce for Jobs

  • Commentary— from the Editors of The Jobs Letter
  • Who is Involved?
  • Voices — on the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs
  • Taskforce Website
  • Vivian Hutchinson: Making Hope Possible

  • Mayors Taskforce for Jobs Press Conference
    (left to right)
    Alan Dick (Napier), John Chaffey (Hurunui), Sukhi Turner (Dunedin), Garry Moore (Christchurch), Jim Anderton (Minister of Economic Development), Russ Rimmington (Hamilton), and Jill White (Palmerston North)

  • HALF THE MAYORS FROM around New Zealand have met in Christchurch to launch the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs. At the end of the meeting, the thirty-one Mayors set themselves the leadership challenge to help their communities achieve two employment goals:
    — that, by 2005, no young person under 25 years will be out of work or training in our communities.
    — that, by 2009, all people in our communities will have the opportunity to be in work or training.

  • Although the Taskforce was initiated by Christchurch City Mayor Garry Moore, and strongly supported by his fellow "metro" Mayors from Dunedin, Wellington and Hamilton ... the forum drew a strong attendance from Mayors in rural and provincial New Zealand.

    The Mayors report that there are "huge expectations" on the Labour/Alliance government at the moment ... and that this will require a "robust long-term partnership" with local government for their shared objectives in employment to be achieved.

  • Wairoa Mayor Derek Fox says that, being Mayor of a district with about 45% unemployment, and a community where 60% of the population have an income of under $10,000 a year, it was only natural for him to get involved with the Mayors for Jobs initiative. Fox: "I'm not looking for handouts. I believe we have genuine employment possibilities in Wairoa, and I'm looking for partners to bring those possibilities alive..."

    Palmerston North Mayor Jill White: "As Mayors we have the privilege and responsibility of taking on a leadership role ... I see the Taskforce for Jobs as giving Mayors the opportunity to work together to bring about change in this key area of our communities well-being."

    Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner says the Taskforce meeting struck a strong concensus, and the Mayors were challenging each other to "rise above politics" for what they considered was the most pressing issue facing the country. Turner: "We are fed up with ideology and the Westminster style of argy-bargy. We must be issues-based and pragmatic."

    Turner says that while city and district councils, private businesses and community groups had been working together on employment in their regions ... central government had been a missing link in the partnership needed to boost job opportunities. Turner believes that the change in government has signaled a change in attitude which gives confidence that progress can be made on these issues.

  • Some of the issues raised at the Taskforce meeting include :
    — the need for economic development and employment initiatives to recognise the importance of community economic development and community ownership.
    — the need for an extensive re-building of the not-for-profit sector in our communities.
    — the urgent need to devise programmes which address Maori and Pacific Island employment rates.
    — the need to give young people assurances about the future and retain them in our communities.

  • So what do the Mayors actually plan to do? A core-group of fourteen Mayors is forging an action plan which will stimulate greater collaboration between Mayors on local employment initiatives. The participating Mayors are also setting up smaller networking groups to challenge each other on progress, and to share "best practice" in job and training programmes. They also plan to work with local employment co-ordination groups to focus on their first goal: that no young person under the age of 25 years will be out of work or training.

    For the rest of this year, the Mayors Taskforce will organise a series of national forums to generate public dialogue on employment issues, and consult on the "bigger picture" facing the future of work and income in New Zealand today. With this in mind, the Mayors hope to meet and consult with Winz, Education Ministry and Labour Department CEOs, Maori and Pacific Island community leaders, and the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development. The Mayors also plan to meet with government employment and training Ministers to discuss longer-term strategies of co-operation, and establish joint funding.

  • Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore believes that the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs could create an important vehicle to promote strong partnerships between central and local government, community groups and the private sector. Moore: "We all need each other in our towns and cities throughout NZ and our leadership role is to get everybody talking and, to the best of our ability, co-operating. This will mean bringing unusual groupings together from time to time. We will have to challenge our lateral thinkers throughout the country. We will have to encourage both private and public entrepreneurs to be courageous. Without courage our economy will not grow ... and without leadership that courage will not be fostered."

  • Jim Anderton, The Minister of Economic Development, attended the final session of the Taskforce meeting (along with Ruth Dyson, Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment). He endorsed the call for "partnership" and outlined the Labour/Alliance government's plans for the $100m fund for economic development which will be targeted at the regions (see The Jobs Letter No.120).

  • At a later press conference, Anderton used the example of Southland's Topoclimate South programme to illustrate his partnership approach. The Topoclimate South programme aims to provide essential information on Southland soils and climate which will take the guess-work out of developing alternative land use opportunities in the region. Southland interests had already put in substantial funding to the programme, which they say has the potential to generate new enterprises with as many as 20,000 new jobs. Anderton says that he and PM Helen Clark were "absolutely committed" to this sort of initiative, and announced that the government will soon make a grant to the Topoclimate programme. Anderton: "Every region has opportunities and ideas which will benefit in the same way..."

  • The Taskforce meeting received letters of support from Steve Maharey, Minister of Social Services and Employment, and Paul Goulter, Secretary of the Council of Trade Unions. Both letters remarked on the need to address the economic framework behind our unemployment levels.

    Paul Goulter writes that the Council of Trade Unions was extremely concerned that Westpac Trust in their February issue of Economic Overview described the 6.3% unemployment rate as "worryingly low". Goulter: "In fact in the last ten years the number of jobless has grown from 175,900 to 222,200 people, and the number of under-employed has increased from 48,800 to 148,600. Unemployment is an issue which should concern every New Zealander..."

    Steve Maharey says that the assumption on the part of policymakers that there is a "natural" rate of unemployment is "... one of the more disturbing aspects of the policy orthodoxy over the last decade." Maharey: "In some quarters these sentiments surface when we are told that the present level of unemployment is as good as it gets. The Labour-Alliance coalition government totally rejects assessments of this kind ... and I am delighted to be the Minister of Employment in a government that is committed to once again making employment the centre-piece of its programme..."

  • Vivian Hutchinson, editor of The Jobs Letter, was invited by the Mayors to give a keynote speech at the Taskforce meeting. This speech has been published on the internet at
    Sources - letter from Steve Maharey to the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs 5 April 2000; letter from Paul Goulter CTU to the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs 6 April 2000; Christchurch Press 8 April 2000 "Mayors aim for `zero' NZ jobless" by Mike Crean; Personal statements from Core Group of Mayors Taskforce for Jobs 6 April 2000; Mayors Taskforce for Jobs Summary of Christchurch Meeting, and Action Plan; "Making Hope Possible" by vivian Hutchinson, based on keynote speech to Mayors Taskforce for Jobs 7 April 2000

    The move by the Mayors Taskforce to set their first goal on getting young people into work or training should find support from the Act Social Welfare spokesperson Dr Muriel Newman. Last week, Dr Newman also raised concerns over the number of young New Zealanders who are out of work. She released figures, received in answer to a parliamentary question, which show there are around 60,000 registered unemployed young people between the ages of 18 and 24. The figures also show that
    —almost 1,000 young people aged 20 to 24 have been registered unemployed for over 4 years.
    —about 5,300 teenagers aged 18 to 19 have been out of work for over 1 year, and 650 of these teenagers have been unemployed for more than two years.

    Dr Newman: "It is almost certain that most, if not all, of these young people have never had a job; they have gone straight from school on to the dole, and that is a recipe for disaster ... These young people must be the key target for welfare that doesn't just pay and forget but connects them with training, education, work skills and jobs. Four years on the unemployment scrap heap at the start of a working life means a tough road to get yourself a job. Action to get these forgotten young people on to schemes is essential."

    Source - press release 17 April 2000 Act NZ "Figures show Teenagers straight from school to dole" by Dr Muriel Newman

    The Act party is taking a lead in the opposition to the government's Employment Relations Bill, which is due to come into force on August 1st, replacing the ECA or Employment Contracts Act. Act leader Richard Prebble is hosting a series of seminars in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to explain the Bill to employers, before submissions on the Bill close on May 3rd .

  • Just before Easter, Labour Minister Margaret Wilson released hundreds of pages of Cabinet documents and policy advice on the Employment Relations Bill. The previously confidential papers, released under the Official Information Act, show that Treasury and the Labour Department have both raised serious concerns about the controversial legislation, warning of increased strike action and job losses.

    The Bill seeks to "re-balance" NZ's industrial relations framework by giving greater weight to the role of unions and "good faith" bargaining in the workplace. But Treasury says the Bill shifts the bargaining power in favour of employees, and employment costs will increase. Treasury: "Such cost increases could work against the employment growth the government is seeking..."

    The Labour Department also warns that the Bill could compromise the government's other social and economic objectives. Although it is likely to improve workplace fairness and justice, the Labour Department says "... there is a risk that an increase in wages for unionised workers will lead to lower levels of employment and a consequent increase in unemployment."

    Minister Margaret Wilson told The Dominion that several of the concerns raised in the documents have already been addressed in the legislation. She said the Treasury suffered from a "narrow" view of the world, and some of the Department of Labour's assumptions were based on "spurious evidence".

    Source - The Dominion 22 April 2000 "Labour law trouble and strife" by Mathew Brockett; Press release 13 April 2000 Act NZ "Prebble Goes on tour against Employment Bill"

    Will CEG find new life? A spokesperson for Steve Maharey says that a decision about what will happen to the Community Employment Group (CEG) will be announced at the end of this month, after the release of the Hunn report on Winz. Most of the regional management of CEG were made redundant last year, and its functions were drawn under the control of the Winz Regional Commissioners.

    Employment Minister Steve Maharey has previously said that the shift of CEG to Winz was done without adequate consultation, and this will be reviewed in the Hunn report. It is possible that CEG will be put back into the Department of Labour or be included in Jim Anderton's new Economic Development Ministry.

    The shortage of registered nurses in NZ has reached "crisis level" according to health practitioners. Residential Care NZ, representing 550 hospitals and rest homes, says that senior rest-home nurses and hospital nurses risk burn-out by doing additional duties to cope with chronic staff shortages. The problems: the nursing workforce is aging, fewer people were taking up nursing as a career and graduating nurses are being lured overseas by better money.

    Ian Powell, of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, says his members experience the effects of the nursing shortage daily. He says the problem comes from the attempt to commercialise public hospitals where nurses have been regarded as "a balance sheet liability rather than an invaluable asset." He also says that student loans act as a disincentive for newly qualified nurses to stay in the country.

  • Meanwhile, representatives from a leading Texan hospital have come to New Zealand in the hope of enticing up to 100 NZ nurses to work in the US private healthcare system. Deanna McKinney, of the Covenant Health System, says the severe nursing shortage in the US makes it impossible to recruit enough staff locally, and has forced the company to look outside the US for workers. The Texans are offering salaries that are well over double what nurses would earn in NZ.

    Jo Wallis of Geneva Health International (formerly Lampen Healthstaff and Medstaff International) has offices in Auckland and Wellington and London, and is handling the recruitment for the Texan hospital. Wallis: "Worldwide, there is a growing shortage of trained nurses. New Zealanders still have the reputation of being able and willing to turn our hands to whatever is required - which makes us highly sought-after internationally. Add to that the excellent reputation of our training programmes and there's no doubt that many of our international clients would be more than pleased to see a squadron of Kiwis in their hospitals..."

    Source - New Zealand Herald, 5 April, 2000, Texan raiders offer big dollars for 100 nurses, by Martin Johnston; Weekend Herald, 15-16 April, 2000, Shortage of nurses a crisis: doctors, NZPA.22 April 2000; Press release from geneva Health 3 April 2000 "US desperately seeking 100 NZ nurses"

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