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    Letter No.125
    2 June, 2000

    11 May 2000

    The Post Primary Teachers Association declares today Sam Parnell Day, after the man considered to be the founder of the eight hour working day in NZ. The PPTA says that its members commonly work 11 - 12 hours and is encouraging teachers to mark the day by stopping work after eight hours.

    13 May 2000

    Dairy farm staff are in short supply. Tom Lambie of Federated Farmers says that dairy labour shortages are a nation-wide problem and are a result of more and more dry-stock farms converting to milk production. NZ's milk production has increased 50% over the last ten years,.

    15 May 2000

    In light of the Hunn report, the government asks the Ministry of Social Policy, the Department of Labour and the State Services Commission to prepare a forward strategy for Winz. The government also asks the State Services Commission to prepare a paper for cabinet on a comprehensive strategy for the public service.

    16 May 2000

    The government is in discussion with polytechs and universities about a deal to freeze student fees next year. All details are not yet public, but it is believed that Minister of Tertiary Education Steve Maharey has proposed to give institutions a 2.3% rise in funding if they agree not to raise student course fees.

    Corrections Minister Matt Robson confirms that Ngawha, near Kaikohe, will be the site of a new prison. Robson says the Ngawha prison will run the best rehabilitation programmes available, will be designed in partnership with the community and will keep Northland offenders in the North ... near the support of their whanau/families. Robson believes it is important to see jobs available in Northland for prisoners once they are released, and says that the new prison goes hand-in-hand with regional development.

    Green Party justice spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says the proposed prison at Ngawha does not have the support of Northlanders and that Matt Robson has been captured by corrections officials. Tanczos says locals want small scale rehabilitative units with a focus on crime prevention, not a 350-bed prison.

    Coal mining jobs are disappearing in Australia. The miners' union says that during the last two years it has lost 30% of its Queensland and New South Wales membership through redundancies and mine closures.

    17 May 2000

    Shortages of experienced theatre nurses in Wellington Hospital has resulted in 19 operations being postponed last month.

    Business confidence sags after the announcement of interest rate rises. Finance minister Michael Cullen says he expects economic growth to have been very low or even negative for the first quarter of this year.

    Australian businesses are intending to hire more in the next few months. The Morgan and Banks' employer survey says the number of jobs there in Australia should rise 2.2%. At the same time, however, Westpac Melbourne says that consumer confidence is falling with interest rate rises.

    18 May 2000

    The international value of the NZ dollar hits a 15-year low against the US dollar. A low dollar encourages foreign tourism and commodity exports but will lift the prices of imported goods, as reflected in the recent petrol price rises.

    20 May 2000

    Women in retirement are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as men are. A report from the Retirement Commissioner says that women earn less and therefore save less than men do. The report also says that women live longer and their savings have to stretch further.

    23 May 2000

    Income-related rents for state housing tenants will be re-established on December 1st. Over 40,000 state tenants will have their rents reduced to 25% of their income. Other low income tenants will continue to receive the accommodation supplement. For a family of five in a state house, this will mean about $40 per week more to live on.

    As business confidence dips to 1998 levels, Ministers Michael Cullen and Margaret Wilson say they are open minded about the feedback they are getting to the Employment Relations Bill. The select committee hearing public submissions on the Bill will report back on June 20th.

    An Australian recruitment company survey says that fewer Australians are working extended hours. Kelly Services says 21% of people in paid work now work more than 40hrs/wk, down from 30% five years ago. However, counseling services in Australia report they are seeing an increasing number of people seeking help for workaholism.

    Helen Clark says the investment package into the arts will result in more jobs. Clark says that a strong and vibrant creative industry sector can provide sustainable employment and economic growth.

    25 May 2000

    Massey University proposes to drop 116 staff over the next two years, primarily in Palmerston North. Vice-chancellor James McWha says the university intends to discontinue courses that do not attract enough students. Staff losses will be in sciences, humanities, social sciences, and business.

    Winz spent over $25,000 for legal services on issues relating to the Hunn report. Attorney General Margaret Wilson tells parliament that the fees were for advice and attendance at meetings.

    In December, same-sex couples will be recognised as having equal status to heterosexual couples in regards to some state services. Same-sex couples, who are both on a benefit, will be able to qualify for state housing. The change will also see same-sex couples benefit levels based on the existing couples rate, rather than for two singles. For people over 25yrs, this could result in a combined reduction of their benefits of $49/wk.

    26 May 2000

    Massey University students dispute the vice-chancellor's statement that cutting classes is because of dropping student demand. Student president Matt Davies says that students were not consulted about the changes, and he blames the drained resources on Massey's aggressive expansion throughout NZ and to Singapore, Fiji and onto the internet. Davies: "We believe that Massey are stretching their resources too thinly and are not responsive to the needs of students at all Massey campuses."

    The police inquiry into the Waipareira Trust finds no evidence of criminal wrong-doing. Labour MP and former Waipareira CEO John Tamihere says any further inquiry into Waipareira's affairs would be a waste of public money.

    29 May 2000

    Four out of five dental graduates have student debts of over $80,000 and say their debts are inhibiting them from getting home loans or setting up a practice. Most dental graduates earn between $45,000 and $70,000, although those earning the higher amount tended to be working overseas.

    The BNZ predicts that economic growth figures will be above what had been predicted for the first quarter. Although the dollar has dropped substantially, the BNZ says that economy is on a 'firm foundation' and predicts that when the figures are out, NZ will have had 1% quarterly growth.

    Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson says paid parental leave has now become "a low legislative priority".

    30 May 2000

    The National Bank's monthly survey of business confidence reveals the biggest business confidence slump in the survey's history. The survey shows that a net 21% of firms expect general business conditions to deteriorate over the next year, a sharp reversal from the net 15% expecting an improvement in April. For the first time in two years, pessimists accounted for more replies to the survey (36%) than optimists (15%).

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