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    Letter No.142
    12 April, 2000

    2 March 2001

    The National Business Review reports that WINZ has conducted an undercover `sting' operation to identify staff who sell lists of Winz customers' contact details to debt collection agencies.

    ACT's Owen Jennings describes the Minister of Economic Development Jim Anderton's offer of $200,000 each to five regions as a "sop" to unproductive bureaucratic consultants.

    4 March 2001

    Unemployment in France is now 9% of the workforce. This is in contrast to the June 1997 high of 12.6%. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin claims the improvement to be the result of the introduction of the 35-hr working week, youth employment schemes and measures to help the long term unemployed back into work.

    The British government announces a 10.8% increase in the minimum wage. The lowest paid full-time workers in Britain will soon be earning £4.10/hr or just over $NZ14/hr.

    5 March 2001

    A report by the State Sector Standards Board criticises the over emphasis on economic efficiency in the public service. The report advises the government to adopt a formal statement of expectations of the state sector.

    6 March 2001

    Tens of thousands of international sailors, primarily from the Philippines and Indonesia, are virtually slaves, according to a report tabled at Apec shipping talks in Sydney. Ships, Slaves and Competition calls for shipping companies, cargo owners and port authorities to help to eradicate the poor safety conditions, excessive hours, unpaid wages, starvation, rape and beatings it says are common practices.

    7 March 2001

    As part of the government's intent to strengthen social policy, Social Services Minister Steve Maharey says the Social Policy Ministry will begin working as a "social treasury". The ministry will have a staff of about 60 senior policy officials who will focus on the barriers people face to fully participating in society. As a step in this direction, Maharey says the ministry will publish the country's first annual report on the social health of the nation. The inaugural Opportunity for All is due out in June and Maharey is considering introducing legislation that will make this social health report an annual requirement for future governments.

    Possum product producers say that regional councils' indiscriminate use of pesticides is damaging the fledgling industry and affecting employment opportunities. Exotic Game Meats manager Adele Beazley says that using 1080 poison in inaccessible areas is sensible but using it where possum hunters are active works against the industry's ability to supply the new export markets that are being establishing.

    8 March 2001

    On International Women's day, Women's Affairs Minister Laila Harre, restates her commitment to getting substantive paid parental leave laws passed. Harre suggests a Taskforce be set up that includes the coalition government partners, unions, employers and community groups to develop new legislation. PM Helen Clark has said that the paid parental leave issue will be addressed in this term of government.

    The Winz corruption sting, which has at least four Winz staff and two debt collectors facing prosecution, may have trouble achieving convictions because the main person in the undercover operation allegedly has a long list of dishonesty convictions.

    9 March 2001

    The South Island expansion of the New Zealand Dairy Group sees the company wanting to recruit 200 staff by the end of this year. The new staff are needed to service the company's manufacturing sites at Clandeboye near Timaru and Edendale near Invercargill.

    The Warehouse, NZ's largest retailer, may begin offering banking services at it stores by the end of this year. Warehouse CEO Greg Muir says his company has been investigating the idea along with a mainstream bank but that no agreement has yet been made.

    11 March 2001

    For the first time in many years, the Security Intelligence Service advertises its job vacancies in daily newspapers. According to SIS director Richard Woods, the ads are designed to find a small number of career intelligence officers by drawing on a large pool of talent. Placing the ads, according to Woods " …is consistent with the greater openness and transparency of the service in recent years."

    12 March 2001

    A study says that 5 million people in Britain are living in poverty. The Breadline Europe study says that 9% of all Britains say that their income is far less than they need to purchase necessities. The lack of necessities is how poverty is defined by 117 world governments and is agreed to be: lacking food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.

    13 March 2001

    A new meatworks is planned for Marton, in Rangitikei, which will create 200 jobs. Canterbury Meat Packers confirms it has purchased land and intends to build a processing plant for the high-quality North American and European lamb trade.

    A further 3,500 primary and secondary school teachers are needed in order to provide adequate education to NZ children, according to the Staffing Report, prepared by the Ministry of Education. The report says that a 10% increase in school staffing levels would benefit learning.

    Winz CEO Christine Rankin has instructed her lawyer to write a letter demanding Green MP Sue Bradford apologise for publicly saying Rankin had been promoted beyond her capability. Steve Maharey says he had no forewarning of the action and that he should have been kept informed of this kind of activity.

    14 March 2001

    State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham apologises for not warning the government about Christine Rankin's threat of legal action against Sue Bradford. Rankin had alerted Wintringham's office of her intentions and Wintringham acknowledges that the information should have been forwarded to the Social Services Minister.

    Electricity prices for household users increased by 4.3% over the last 12 months. Electricity prices decreased for commercial users by 7% and decreased for industrial users by 22% over the same period.

    The government issues a public consultation document on the future of industry training. Consultation ends on 11 April.

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    15 March 2001

    The Australian owned chain of 60 Deka stores will stop trading in July with the loss of 1,400 jobs. Seventeen of the stores will be re-opened as Farmers stores that will employ about 400 staff.

    16 March 2001

    PM Helen Clark and seven government ministers travel to Gisborne for two days of meetings with about 120 invited Maori leaders. Clark says her team is there to see how the government's Maori programmes were working. The Dominion notes that chairmen of some of the country's largest iwi, as well as Wairoa mayor Derek Fox, have not been invited.

    The Serious Fraud Office is investigating whether property developers paid large sums to a Winz employee in return for finding premises for Winz offices.

    18 March 2001

    A Marae-DigiPoll of Maori says that while many of them say they would support a Maori party, only 9% say they would vote for it. Of those polled, 60%, say they would vote Labour.

    19 March 2001

    ACT Social Welfare Spokesperson Muriel Newman questions the validity of Steve Maharey's student summer jobs figures. Maharey had said there were 28,657 summer placements for students this year. Newman says that 17,000 of the jobs lasted no more than one week and that three out of ten jobs were for less than one day.

    20 March 2001

    The Department of Corrections will soon launch its revamped inmate employment scheme that will include training in information technology. Traditional inmate training has revolved around farming, forestry, horticulture, painting, carpentry, laundry and kitchen services.

    21 March 2001

    Job losses in Fiji have reached 20,000 since the 19 May 2000 coup, according to the Fiji Peoples Coalition Government. There are no official statistics but the FPCG claims that in one urban area 34 businesses have closed over the last ten months. It says that an average of one garment factory per week has been closing, including United Apparel that announced this week it is laying off 250 workers. Forum Shoes, in Ba, has recently laid off 200 workers.

    22 March 2001

    University students in Wellington march to demand the reinstatement of the Emergency Unemployment Benefit for students who can't find a job over summer, regardless of their parent's income.

    The Southern Cross private hospital in Napier announces it will close next month with the loss of 30 permanent and 15 casual staff.

    23 March 2001

    Otago University Student's Association President Ayesha Verrall accuses Steve Maharey of misleading the debate over the Emergency Unemployment Benefit. Verrall says Maharey is deliberately confusing the improved services from Winz with increased student eligibility for the EUB. The fact is the eligibility requirements are unchanged.

    NZ's current account deficit improves. Statistics NZ estimates the current account deficit for the 12 months to September to be 5.5% of the gross domestic product, down from 7% last year.

    Proctor & Gamble, the giant American-based consumer products producer announces it will cut 9% of its workforce. Proctor & Gamble currently employs over 100,000 people.

    25 March 2001

    A Colmar Brunton survey says that 72.9% of NZ'ers either agree or tend to agree that tertiary students who cannot find summer work should be eligible for financial assistance.

    26 March 2001

    Technology giant Motorola announces it is cutting its international workforce by 3.1% or 4,000 people.

    27 March 2001

    Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says that she is disappointed that the government is doing nothing about the transportation problems she says will arise with the expected increase in forestry production. Fitzsimons says that the foreign owners of NZ train tracks, Tranz Rail, are clearly not investing in the maintenance of routes that would handle the freight. She says the default alternative will create expensive infrastructure demands on roading by logging trucks that would be avoided if logs were moved by rail.

    NZ consumer confidence is flourishing. The WestpacTrust-McDermott Miller Survey indicates that the middle and upper income earners, who drive the consumer economy, are substantially more optimistic now than they were six months ago. This is in contrast with a drop in consumer confidence both Australia and the US, our two biggest trading partners.

    NZ schools have begun the school year with 345 teaching vacancies.

    While Dominion Breweries backs down on its decision to close its Monteiths Brewery in Greymouth, Green Party co-leader Rod Donald questions how reliable this `backtrack' is. Under threats of a consumer boycott, DB agreed to retain the historic brewery but Donald points out DB has not guaranteed the 14 redundant staff will get their jobs back.

    28 March 2001

    The current Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Geoff Dangerfield is appointed CEO of the Ministry of Economic Development.

    29 March 2001

    Social Services Minister Steve Maharey says his department is planning measures to identify the fathers of children who are being raised on the domestic purposes benefit but whom the mother has refused to identify. The number of unidentified fathers has nearly doubled over the past eight years and Maharey's comments are targeting men who pay nothing towards the state support of their children. Currently, a DPB recipient forfeits $22/wk if they "unreasonably refuse" to name the other parent of their child.

    A new social security agreement with Australia is signed. Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Jim Sutton says the agreement sets up a cost-sharing mechanism in respect to payments to superannuitants, veterans and those receiving disability benefits.

    Hawkes Bay grape growers blame Winz for bureaucratic bungling which deprived them of a financial lifeline to pick their frost damaged crop earlier this year. Winz rejected the application to fund 100 workers to pick damaged grapes but Steve Maharey has now authorised Winz to provide Taskforce Green workers for the job.

    30 March 2001

    Two of NZ's major export industries, dairy and tourism, say they have had a buoyant year and expect further growth. Dairy Board spokesperson Neville Martin says that his industry grew 5.4% last year and he expects a "stunning" year to come. Tourism Holdings executive Sean Murray says that tourist numbers increased 11% this year and the industry expects 6% to 8% growth next year.

    Steve Maharey reports it cost just over $10,000 to change the name of the Benefit Crime Unit to the Benefit Control Unit. Maharey says he hopes to launch the unit's new strategy in the next few weeks.

    The slowdown in vehicle manufacturing sees Delphi Automotive Systems cut 11,500 jobs, or 5%, from its workforce in North America and Europe.

    31 March 2001

    Thousands of South Korean students and laid_off workers clash with police. The demonstration are in protest of the government's corporate restructuring programme that has resulted in thousands of job losses since February.

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