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    Letter No.133
    30 October, 2000

    10 October 2000

    Tranz Rail is restructuring and cutting its workforce from 4,000 to 600. The company is selling its long distance passenger services and will contract out its engineering, maintenance and ship operations by 2002.

    The proposed sale of Fletcher Energy to oil company Royal Dutch Shell will result in the loss of 150 out of a total of 185 staff, mainly in Taranaki.

    NZ's second-largest internet provider Ihug is to lay off up to 60 of its staff of 350.

    Wellington's WestpacTrust Stadium is introducing biodegradable utensils and crockery as part of its "zero waste" plan. Operations Manager Tim Ryan says the amount of recyclable material coming from the stadium has already created a job at a Petone recycling firm. Ryan: "The good thing about recycling is it actually saves money and creates work."

    NZ ranks seventh out of 35 countries surveyed for their economic growth potential by Merrill Lynch.

    Baking Industry Training Organisation Competenz reports a 65-75% shortfall in trainee bakers. There are few young people training to replace an ageing workforce and there is an exodus of bakers to Australia. Competenz chief executive John Broadhead says only 550 people are training as bakers in NZ, and up to 2,000 people are needed for our 1,200 bakeries.

    An Otago University study finds that discrimination based on ethnicity and gender is still a major problem in the job market. The study reports that Maori, Pacific Islanders and other ethnic minorities earn at least 9% less than Pakeha in the same job with the same qualifications. See story in this issue.

    11 October 2000

    NZ Post is to close regional mail processing centres between mid-November and March with the loss of 100 jobs. The Timaru, Ashburton and Wanganui centres are closing, and manual mail processing in Napier and New Plymouth is being cut back.

    Deputy PM Jim Anderton suggests the Government buy Tranz Rail services. He says the National party should have leased the rail network when it sold Tranz Rail. Anderton: "Now they're owned by this outfit who wants to lease them back to the people who used to own them at huge profits to themselves. They must think we're a bunch of suckers."

    The Auckland Regional Council and other Auckland councils are already negotiating with Tranz Rail to buy out its lease on Auckland's commuter lines, and have asked the government for financial help. Many international firms have expressed interest in running the Auckland service.

    12 October 2000

    The Commerce Commission declines Royal Dutch Shell's application to buy Fletcher Energy, as it is concerned the company could end up controlling the NZ gas market. The decision pushes the NZ dollar to another all-time low of 39.64 US cents.

    Massey University staff withdraw their High Court challenge to the university's restructuring plan. The university reduced layoffs from 116 to 44 after some staff agreed to retire early or work only part-time.

    Jim Anderton says talks are under way to get paid parental leave back on the legislative agenda.

    13 October 2000

    The NZ Herald reports that the Australian economy shed 30,500 part-time jobs last month, as industries not associated with the Olympics slowed and workers stayed home to watch the games. The Olympics created 9,700 full-time jobs, but 40,200 part time jobs were lost while the games were on. The result counters predictions by economists that 17,000 jobs would be created.

    Cellphone company Ericsson NZ and San Francisco-based GeoVector Corporation are to jointly develop state-of-the-art "point and click" cellphone technology. The technology will let cellphone users receive information about points of interest, for example restaurants, by pointing their cellphone in the general direction of their request and pressing a button. The partnership will initially create up to 40 Auckland jobs over the next two years, and has the potential to create more work as the technology develops.

    The Government has decided to make foster-parenting a paid profession. The Family and Foster Care Federation has launched the first stage of a registration programme for foster carers. Child, Youth and Family Services will pay the federation $1.5 million over three years to train 500 foster carers a year. Also launched was the accreditation phase, which enables foster caregivers to gain nationally recognised qualifications in caregiving that can also be accredited towards a social work diploma or degree.

    15 October 2000

    The Government plans to address the digital divide _ the gulf between those with access to the Internet and those without. It is expected to earmark school homework centres, post offices, public libraries and maraes as playing a central role in providing public internet access.

    Business confidence in Australia is dropping as interest rates rise. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says it expects both business activity and investment growth to slow further.

    The NZ Institute of Economic Research's quarterly survey shows 45% of firms surveyed expect business conditions to worsen over the next six months, compared to 42% in the June quarter. Unemployment is expected to increase as firms plan to invest less.

    Business Roundtable chairman Ralph Norris and chief executive Roger Kerr are among the high-profile businessmen not on the guest list of business leaders invited to a forum with senior Government ministers next week. The list is also notable for its lack of representation from South Island business people.

    A survey commissioned by the Human Rights Commission reports that 31% of women, and 13% of men in NZ, aged 18 and over, are sexually harassed in their lifetime, mostly at work. Younger women are targeted more often, and in 75% of cases the perpetrator is in a more senior position than the complainant, and is considerably older in almost every case.

    The Dominion reports that 20,000 tradespeople have left NZ since 1995. The Industry Training Federation says there is evidence that local tradespeople are being headhunted by overseas companies, particularly Australian. The electrical supply industry, forestry and building are targeted most.

    Deputy PM Jim Anderton has suggested making some selected university subjects, science and engineering, free, in a departure from the Alliance policy of universal free tertiary education.

    PM Helen Clark says she supports the proposal in principle, provided the subjects are genuinely short of students.

    16 October 2000

    A Government-commissioned report says a quarter of NZ's youth commit a crime before the age of 19. The report also says the court system and lack of police respect towards youth are not reducing reoffending and often increase offending.

    Steve Maharey responds to Jim Anderton's call to make some tertiary subjects free. He says it is likely that money will be allocated towards scholarships to encourage more students into particular subjects.

    Royal Dutch Shell says it is still trying to find a way to purchase Fletcher Energy, despite the Commerce Commission declining the move.

    17 October 2000

    NZ companies in areas as diverse as timber and catering, will lose millions of dollars a year in income, when the final series of Xena, Warrior Princess winds up production in April next year. Between 150 and 200 cast and crew will lose their jobs, although the Screen Directors and Producers Association predicts they will not have difficulty finding other work.

    The Independent Business Weekly reports that, according to the IT Association of America, there will be 850,000 IT vacancies in the US by January 2001. The huge shortage of staff has provoked a talent war, and in-demand workers can now demand huge salaries, wear what they want and work the hours they choose.

    Jim Anderton says the low NZ dollar is a reflection of the true state of the NZ economy and is not likely to pick up again soon . Anderton says the low dollar is an opportunity to develop the economy around an exchange rate that reflects the real economy.

    The former head of the now defunct Maori Employment and Training Commission, Rongo Wetere, says he can see no political will to eliminate unemployment. He says it is pointless tackling Maori unemployment without declaring war on all unemployment, and unemployment must be removed from the political arena and treated as a national emergency.

    International students bring $545 million into NZ, and account for 10,000 full-time jobs created, according to the Asia 2000 Foundation.

    18 October 2000

    MCK Metals is cutting 38 jobs, mainly in New Plymouth, as the company restructures. Chief executive Philip Bower says the restructuring is the result of a weak NZ dollar, increased competition from Asian imports, and weakening demand in its prime market Australia.

    160 more beds are to be added to Rimutaka Prison in the Upper Hutt, and 40 new staff are to be hired for a high-medium security unit.

    The mayors of New Plymouth, the Far North and Southland sign a pact to co-operate on boosting productivity and creating jobs in rural NZ.

    19 October 2000

    The Mayors Taskforce for Jobs meets with Government ministers in Wellington. See story in this issue.

    The Dominion reports that Jim Anderton is preparing a final business plan for his People's Bank, and expects Cabinet to consider it in the next month.

    NZ Post is to close the North Shore Mail Centre, with the loss of up to 44 jobs.

    20 October 2000

    Inland Revenue is posting information packs to tertiary students this week explaining how they can have the interest on their student loans written off if they are studying this year.

    Hundreds of skilled and highly qualified refugees are unable to get work because they are not being taught enough English, says Refugee and Migrant Service director Peter Cotton. He says refugees cannot afford to pay for English tuition, and the best efforts of volunteer groups do not enable migrants to learn English to a level that enables them to get work.

    24 October 2000

    After the Government_Business forum in Auckland, the Government announces changes to the immigration laws to make it easier for skilled immigrants to settle in NZ, and also a new regime for tax on research and development. A taskforce to look at ways to increase foreign investment is also to be established.

    Carpet-maker Cavalier is to close its 75-year-old Auckland wool scour next month, with the loss of about 30 jobs.

    25 October 2000

    The Government is spending $6 million to improve student loan processing. 120 more people are to be hired for Palmerston North's student services processing centre, and Winz is to hire 160 extra staff to handle student loan applications, and deal face-to-face with loan problems.

    The Government is to spend $91 million over the next five years rebuilding the mental health workforce. The money will address a wide range of problems including shortage of skilled staff, poor morale, recruitment and staff retention problems and inappropriate training.

    26 October 2000

    The America's Cup brought an estimated $640 million into NZ, and created extra work equivalent to 10,620 fulltime jobs. $437 million of that money went into Auckland alone. The estimate is about half what was predicted prior to the event that the regatta would bring into the country.

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