26 April, 2000
23 March 2000
Prison authorities in Hawkes Bay tell orchardists they will have to give them more lead-in time if they want inmate labour to help pick fruit next year. Acting manager of the Hawke's Bay Regional Prison John Jamieson says his facility was asked by the fruit-growers for labour to pick fruit but could not comply because supervisory staff were already committed to other work.
Few Hawke's Bay orchardists have used a Winz scheme to train unemployed people to pick fruit for the dole plus a top-up in wages.
Students organise a march through Hamilton to protest the continuing problems students are having in receiving their allowances and loans. Heather Lyall of Fightback! says thousands of students still cannot buy books or pay rent. As the end of the first term nears, Winz reports that 24% of student allowance applications and 13% of student loan applications have not been finalised.
As the Queen visits Victoria, Australia, union officials present a petition asking for her royal assent to a 36hr working week. The state's building workers currently work a 38hr week.
In the United States, a settlement is reached between the lawyers of 1,100 women and two US government agencies regarding gender discrimination in their hiring processes, in some cases dating back as far as 23 years. If approved by a judge, each woman will receive close to $NZ1m.
24 March 2000
Nine people are working on a scheme aimed at improving health and living conditions in Otara, South Auckland. The workers go door-to-door giving residents advice on things like vermin control and how to approach landlords to get maintenance done. Otara Health, Winz, Housing NZ and the Manukau City Council jointly support the scheme.
Auditor-General David Macdonald makes preliminary inquiries into the contractual relationship between the Waipareira Trust and the Health Funding Authority.
Winz spokesperson Kate Joblin says that her agency's investigation into an allegation of the misuse of employer subsidies paid to the Waipareira Trust is focused on Winz staff, not the trust.
26 March 2000
Employment Minister Steve Maharey releases a 1999 Winz report on the Community Taskforce works scheme, which he says was suppressed by the previous National government. The Community Taskforce was the model for the Community Work (work-for-the-dole) scheme, and Maharey says the suppressed report supports his intention to dump the later scheme. The report shows that beneficiaries on the Community Taskforce were less likely to get work, and the scheme may have decreased the number of real jobs available. Many sponsors using Community Taskforce became dependent on it to get their work done, and Maharey says the main beneficiaries of the scheme were the organisations, not the workers.
Legislation ending the Community Work scheme will be introduced into parliament later this year.
27 March 2000
A group of food workers employed by Hubbard Foods begins a protest picket over pay and conditions. The company is run by the leader of Businesses for Social Responsibility, Dick Hubbard. The workers say they have stalled in their attempts to negotiate a new collective contract, and have "reached the end of their tolerance".
28 March 2000
The government announces it will lower the income threshold for people to be eligible for a Community Services card. The change is designed to see that pensioners will still be eligible for subsidised health care after their pensions increase in April. While the change affects 5,500 pensioners, Minister of Health Annette King says that the lowered threshold will mean that an extra 48,000 other low-income earners will now qualify for subsidised health care.
Employers Federation chief executive Anne Knowles raises questions about the government's decision to scrap the Community Work scheme. Knowles: "The scheme as represented to employers was to help the long-term unemployed gain work disciplines - like getting up and reporting to work on time in the morning. Employers were happy to support this worthwhile aim, as the work ethic is a major part of success in the workplace, and is hard to learn if you are at home on a benefit. Employers are keen to see the unemployed gain work disciplines and question why a scheme which addresses this should be axed..."
In Australia, recommendations by the Welfare Reform Reference Group may foreshadow that country adopting a work-for-the-dole scheme.
Up to 50 students occupy Victoria University's registry building overnight in support of "free education for all".
29 March 2000
Students also demonstrate at the registry offices of Auckland and Waikato universities in support of free education. In Auckland, students burn effigies of vice-chancellor John Hood and Winz CEO Christine Rankin but police disrupt the students' plans to spend the night. At Waikato, students do stay overnight in the registry building.
30 March 2000
The Bendon factory closes with 235 Waikato workers being made redundant. Bendon announced late last year it was moving its manufacturing operations to Asia.
Hamilton Mayor Russ Rimmington congratulates the courage of students occupying the registry office of the University of Waikato. Rimmington criticises the government's "weasle words" about wanting a knowledge-based economy but not backing that up with free education. University vice-chancellor Bryan Gould also supports the student protest and promises not to call police unless there is damage to property.
PM Helen Clark asks government departments to report to her if they have any concerns regarding the Waipareira Trust or its fulfillment of contracts.
1 April 2000
A number of legislative changes take effect including tax rate increases for high-income earners, an increase in superannuation, changes to the student loan scheme and the removal of private workplace insurance.
Five thousand people march in Greymouth to protest the government's decision to stop native-timber logging on the West Coast. The government has offered $100m to the three district councils and regional council to compensate for the loss of industry. The crowd was good natured but two of the speakers, Regional Council chairman, John Clayton and Labour MP Damien O' Connor, were booed and hissed when they suggested that while they supported sustainable management of Coast resources, the government's $100m offer to the West Coast was "essentially" a good offer. The crowd chanted "stick it, stick it". Grey District Mayor Kevin Brown says the people's message is clear: they want jobs, not handouts.
The proposed merger of NZ's two largest general insurance companies, State Insurance and NZI, is expected to cost 500 jobs.
2 April 2000
As many as 100,000 people demonstrate in Birmingham, England, to protest the sale of the Rover car manufacturing plant in Londbridge. The protestors expect up to 50,000 jobs will be lost if owner BMW sells the plant.
In an attempt to turn around the decline in trained teachers, British graduates are to be paid salaries to undertake teacher training. The UK government is offering as much as $NZ39,000 for people to train to teach maths, technology, science or foreign language.
3 April 2000
The government looks set to drop the age at which the minimum wage applies to adults. Labour minister Margaret Wilson and Youth Affairs minister Laila Harre say the age will drop from 20yrs to 18yrs, and the change will take affect from July, when the Modern Apprenticeship Programme begins. The Ministers are also calling for feedback on what people think the minimum wage rates should be for 16 and 17yr olds.
Most of the 141 mill workers at Coats Spencer Crafts in Mosgiel are made redundant as the company sells its knitting yarn operation and begins to shift its craft distribution centre to Auckland.
Massey University's Albany campus is building an enterprise centre and says it will create 800 jobs over ten years. Project manager Brian Chrystall says the centre will provide space, business services, technical advice and guidance to new businesses until they are ready to secure venture capital.
4 April 2000
Helen Clark says early reports on the Waipareira Trust indicate inadequate controls on public funds paid to the trust. She says she now intends to look to see if other trusts are having the same problems. Clark: "I am spreading my view on this to the whole system of contracting and whether there are adequate processes in place. Frankly, so far, I don't think there are."
6 April 2000
The Mayors Taskforce for Jobs is launched by 31 Mayors in Christchurch. See feature in this issue.
The full cost of the Winz charter plane debacle is still unknown and the agency may face yet another inquiry in order to determine it. What is known is that the conference and transportation costs were $235,000. In response to parliamentary questions Steve Maharey says that Winz also spent $148,505 determining how the incident had occurred and on related advice. This is comprised of $62,360 spent on public relations advice, $84,990 spent on legal advice and $1,155 spent on private investigators.
What the public still doesn't know is the amount of the personal grievance settlement to the sacked manager. Winz has offered to provide the information in secret to the Social Services Select Committee but the committee says that would compromise the principle that it was acting on behalf of the public.
7 April 2000
Wiliwan Sivoravong, convicted of underpaying Thai women working in her Auckland sewing factory, is fined nearly $300,000. Most of the money is to be paid as back-pay to her ex-workers.
10 April 2000
Cabinet decides that existing NZ tariffs are to be frozen at current levels for the next five years or until our trading partners come in line with our tariff levels. Acting Commerce minister Trevor Mallard says legislation will be introduced to stop the tariff cuts the previous government scheduled for 1 July.
Demonstrators gather in Washington DC to press the US government to relieve the debt of the Third World nations. The US Congress is debating whether it will provide $US210m as part of its share of debt relief.
13 April 2000
The Serious Fraud Office says it has found no evidence of fraud by Waipareira Trust in regards to Health Funding Authority money that was banked in an Aotearoa Maori Rugby League account. SFO director David Bradshaw says the money was paid in in error and was corrected.
14 April 2000
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank officials from the world's ten most industrialised nations meet in Washington DC. Thousands of people also arrive in Washington to protest the policies of these financial organisations ... in a mobilisation similar to last year's Seattle WTO protests.
The Group of 77, an international body that now has 133 member countries and represents 80% of the world's people, meets in Cuba. The meeting is aimed at finding ways of convincing the world's economic leaders to bridge the gap between poor and rich countries by better sharing the wealth of the world. The group is asking for permanent representation on the UN Security Council and says that Third World countries should be given decision making roles on the World Bank and IMF.
Recruitment agency Morgan & Banks says that many NZ companies are missing out on business opportunities by their reluctance to hire skilled foreign workers to meet their technology skills needs.
17 April 2000
In Washington, huge anti-globalisation demonstrations clog streets around the buildings where the IMF and World Bank meetings are being held. The police urge non-essential workers in the affected parts of the city to stay home.
18 April 2000
On the last day of their meeting in Washington, the IMF and World Bank call on their members for hasten debt relief to poor countries and to provide greater support for fighting AIDS. The Development Committee, which sets policy for the World Bank, also urges its members to open their markets to exports from the world's poorest countries. During the meetings, over 1,600 people have been arrested while demonstrating against IMF and World Bank policies.
19 April 2000
Staff at Massey University say that restructuring could cost 200 jobs. A delegation from the Association of University Staff warn the Tertiary Education Minister that the cuts being made by universities do not reflect the government's stated vision of the tertiary education system.
Farm economists say that good weather and rainfall is pointing to a positive year for farming, with incomes from stock farming expected to be up as much as $25,000 this year.
20 April 2000
Will British PM Tony Blair take paternity leave when Cherie, his wife, gives birth? She says she'd like him to, but he isn't so sure the country can run without him. The question stirs up a debate in Britain on work and family obligations.