|No.174||21 October 2002||Essential Information on an Essential Issue|
of key events over the last few weeks.
MAYORS TASKFORCE SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT
MAKING THE AGENDA FOR CHILDREN HAPPEN
TEXTILE SECTOR GOING FOR GROWTH
OBJECTIVITY OF ACC ASSESSORS QUESTIONED
SKILLS SHORTAGES DUE TO LOW BIRTH RATES
THE “INCOME GAP” BETWEEN MAORI AND EUROPEAN
DISPUTE OVER LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS
PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYER ORGANISATIONS
Download this issue
as a PDF file
Index to Features
24 September 2002
There are more construction apprenticeships available in the Auckland area than young people to fill them, according the Construction Industry Training Organisation. Regional manager Bernard Te Paa says he used to keep a list of would-be apprenticeships for the rare times a builder rang seeking one. Now he has a waiting list of a dozen builders wanting apprentices.
Construction companies admit that they are now paying the price for not taking on apprentices during the 1990s. Clearwater Construction manager Wayne Carson says everyone is aware there has not been much training going on in recent years and there is a real skills shortage in the industry.
International telecommunications equipment manufacturer Alcatel announces 10,000 more job cuts worldwide on top of the 20,000 cuts it made in June.
25 September 2002
Army nurses worked at Palmerston North Hospital in August to help relieve a staffing shortage. MidCentral Director of Nursing Susan Wood says plans are in place to use more army nurses next year.
Affco meatworkers in Wanganui agree to pay cuts in order to keep the Imlay plant from closing. The company now plans to upgrade the plant but union secretary Trevor Beamsley warns that it is likely the plant will require fewer staff when it re-opens.
The US Federal Reserve Bank board holds interest rates at 1.75%, continuing them at the lowest rate in 41 years. Board member Robert McTeer argues for a still lower rate, saying the economy is not creating enough jobs.
27 September 2002
Budget advice services lost nearly a quarter of their volunteers nationally over the last year and Federation of Family Budgeting Services executive officer Raewyn Neilsen says at this rate, in four years time there will be no service.
The total of all the debts of people seeking help at the country's budget advice services increased by 20% last year. The Federation says the same number of people came through their doors but individual debts were larger and more complex than in previous years.
30 September 2002
The NZ Association of Private Training Providers is preparing a legal claim for compensation for investments its members made in courses that will not go ahead due to a funding cap imposed by the government in this year's Budget. The Association's lawyer Mai Chen says that previous assurances by Associate Minister of Education Steve Maharey had led training providers to make significant investments in courses that they will now not be funded to run.
A Warehouse "megastore" due to open in November on the outskirts of New Plymouth will employ up to 100 people in full and part-time jobs. This will be the second Warehouse store in the district.
1 October 2002
The International Monetary Fund predicts the NZ economy will grow 4% this year and 2.9% in 2003.
2 October 2002
Tens of thousands of jobs are at risk as insurance companies who provide indemnity policies for building certifiers refuse to renew policies due to the risks poised by the "leaky building crisis". Graeme Coe of the Master Builders Association says private building certifying companies currently control about 10,000 construction projects and if they cannot do inspections because they lack insurance, the immediate and downstream effect on jobs would be enormous.
Carter Holt Harvey dismisses alternative proposals presented by staff and will go ahead with its plans to lay-off all maintenance workers at the Kinleith pulp and paper mill and contract out the work. The company also announces further restructuring plans that could see a total of 590 redundancies at the mill (out of a current workforce of 770 people).
90 fish processing jobs will go as Sanford Ltd says it will close its Nelson factory.
Minister of Disability Issues Ruth Dyson says it is wrong that people who care for disabled family members are not paid for their work. She says the Ministry of Social Development is undertaking policy work on the issue.
4 October 2002
Verizon communications, the biggest US telephone company says it will cut a further 8,000 jobs after cutting 23,000 jobs last year.
6 October 2002
Benefit advocacy groups involved in a working party to improve the way Special Benefits are allocated say there has been significant improvement in the way Winz staff approach applications for Special Benefits.
Micha Peled's film Store Wars is shown in Auckland after a brief tour of screenings around NZ. The film claims that retail chains such as Wal-Mart in the US have created a class of "working poor" and heartless town centres. The film's local promoters draw comparisons between the US chains and The Warehouse chain and shopping malls in NZ.
7 October 2002
Australian job ads rose by 3.2% last month, the largest rise in nine months and 10.7% higher than at this time last year. The unemployment rate is hovering around 6.2%.
European telecommunications companies Colt and Mobilcom cuts 800 and 1,850 jobs, respectively.
9 October 2002
NZ job ads were up slightly in September and are nearing last year's highs according to the ANZ survey. Most economists are predicting unemployment to fall below 5% when the quarterly statistics are released in November.
The largest telephone company in Europe, Deutsche Telecom, is to shed 50,000 jobs or about half its workforce by 2005.
10 October 2002
The NZ Institute of Economic Research predicts the economy to grow even faster than this year's 4% but cautions growth may be curtailed, in part, by a shortage of skilled labour.
40% of the doctors registered to work in NZ were trained overseas according to Associate Minister of Health Ruth Dyson.
11 October 2002
Of the 15,600 cases that Winz said it was willing to reassess because it had applied incorrect criteria to "living arrangements in the nature of marriage", just over 2,000 have asked to have their cases reviewed.
Investment banks in the US and Britain, which cut about 81,000 jobs in the last two years, continue to shed staff. Merrill Lynch is expected to make 2,000 further staff cuts and JP Morgan is cutting another 3,500 staff.
The national poverty rate has risen in the US for the first time in 12 years. Almost 33 million Americans live below the poverty line and 41 million lack health insurance.
US Senator Jean Carnahan calls for Congress to extend unemployment insurance past the 13 weeks currently allowed by US law. She says an alarming number of workers have been unemployed for more than six months and by the end of the year more than two million workers will have exhausted their unemployment insurance and will have moved onto welfare.
15 October 2002
Up to 35 NZ employers and local authorities attend the third New Zealand Jobs and Futures Expo in London with the intention of luring back expatriate NZ'ers and recruiting skilled migrants.
The economy of Singapore has contracted 10.3% over the last year as a result of a slump in global demand for Asian exports.
17 October 2002
Up to 25 bureaucratic positions are to be cut by the Hawke's Bay District Health Board and service cuts will follow.
18 October 2002
Sun Microsoftsystems is to cut its international workforce by 4,400 people.
CABINET ROOM SIGN-UP TO AFFIRM YOUTH EMPLOYMENT GOALS
The Mayors Taskforce has grown significantly over the last year, and now involves a total of 51 Mayors, representing two-thirds of the country’s local authorities. Many of the Mayors are involved with local employment projects with the support of the Employment Catalyst Fund (see feature in this issue) and government agencies such as the Department of Work and Income and the Community Employment Group.
The Mayors have agreed to work with government to provide opportunities for policy input by local communities, and to ensure that innovative and flexible decisions can be made at the local level. They will promote close co-operation between local economic and employment development organisations to minimise duplication and build on successful structures.
The Mayors Taskforce and government will also work together to promote new solutions to unemployment which reflect the changing nature of work in our country. From the agreement: “What we are most concerned about are the long-term trends for work and income in our communities. The parties to this Memorandum affirm that there is no continuing justification for the “waste of New Zealanders” through unemployment. There needs to be a concerted leadership effort at both local and central government levels about the quality of work and the creation of more opportunities for our children and our children's children.
“The jobs of the future will certainly still come from new business opportunities. However, we also need to be concerned about the quality of people’s working lives. We also need to ensure that all people, including Maori and Pacific Island people, have access to existing and new work opportunities. The parties to this agreement can play an important governance role in leading and facilitating the future direction on behalf of our communities...”
— Full text of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of New Zealand and the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs 2 October 2002 available on the Beehive website at www.beehive.govt.nz/ViewDocument.cfm?DocumentID=15039
Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey: “The Mayor’s projects are excellent examples of a practical approach to local employment creation. Some are assisting employers to overcome labour shortages and others are promoting apprenticeships and on the job training. One of the key projects is a joint pilot project with Career Services and Skill New Zealand which is helping Government to improve its understanding of the transition from school to work.”
Local Government Minister Chris Carter says the signing of the agreement with the Mayors is a concrete example of the strength of the relationship between central and local government. Carter: “By working together in partnership, central and local government can make a real difference to the communities we serve. The Memorandum of Understanding sits well alongside other initiatives such as the Central Government/Local Government Forum, chaired by the Prime Minister, and recognises that getting people into sustainable work is a key step in building strong, safe and prosperous communities ...”
Taskforce chairman and Mayor of Christchurch Garry Moore says that the Mayors were trying to push the government by setting their original timeframe, but the government has been reluctant to sign up to a target that it felt it might not be able to meet. Moore says the Mayors are still campaigning for their “stretch” goals to be embraced by all New Zealanders, and he points out that significant private sector groups such as the Business Council for Sustainable Development (which includes The Warehouse and Fonterra) have already given their support.
While in Wellington for the Beehive sign-up, the Mayors Taskforce also met with leaders from the Combined Trade Unions (CTU) to encourage them to enter into partnership with this initiative.
Other members of the Mayors Taskforce include Murray Anderson (Ashburton), Bob Parker (Banks Peninsula), Malcolm Macpherson (Central Otago), Juno Hayes (Clutha), Meng Foon (Gisborne), Owen O’Connor (Gore), Basil Morrison (Hauraki), Tony Arps (Hurunui), John Terris (Hutt), James Abernethy (Kaikoura), Sir Barry Curtis (Manukau), Bob Francis (Masterton), Stan Scorringe (Mackenzie), Peter Tennent (New Plymouth), John Forbes (Opotiki), David Buist (Papakura), Clive Geddes (Queenstown Lakes), Grahame Hall (Rotorua), Michael McEvedy (Selwyn), Mary Bourke (South Taranaki), Jan Beange (Tauranga), Wynne Raymond (Timaru), Jim Gerard (Waimakariri), David Owen (Waimate), Les Probert (Wairoa), Bob Harvey (Waitakere), Alan McLay (Waitaki), Chas Poynter (Wanganui), Kerry Prendergast (Wellington), John Drylie (Westland), and Craig Brown (Whangarei).
Sources – The Jobs Letter Editor vivian Hutchinson was present at the sign-up ceremonies in his capacity as Community Adviser to the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs. Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of New Zealand and the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs 2 October 2002; Press Release NZ Government 2 October 2002 “Government and Mayors commit to partnership”; Christchurch Press 7 October 2002 “Taskforce deadline may move out” by Kelly Andrew; Northland Age 8 October 2002 “Far North Trail on the Mayoral List”
MAYORS MEET WITH MINISTRY OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
MAKING THE AGENDA FOR CHILDREN HAPPEN
The Agenda for Children claimed input from over two-dozen government agencies and many more non-governmental organisations and individuals. But social service agencies apparently found the Agenda to be more a series of good news stories, speculation on how current policies will be helpful and "possible future developments". Whether it was the phrasing that sounded like a wish-list or the lack of a budget to back up the government's document ... alarm bells rang in the community sector that the Agenda might never be translated into action.
The report: "While the Agenda has been widely welcomed for is vision and principles, many non-governmental organisations are disappointed that it does not propose more extensive actions and that Government has not yet committed funding in principle to ensure its effective implementation. The purpose of this paper is to influence Government to act. Making it Happen identifies key actions that are an essential part of full implementation of the Agenda for Children".
On top are two items that would make up half this cost: extending family tax credits to all of the poorest New Zealand families (not just those who have a working adult); and making cost of living adjustments to family support, the value of which has been whittled down as it has been fixed at its 1998 level.
Making it Happen also promotes:
lifting the maximum benefit abatement rate threshold to $130 per week,
acquiring 1,000 state houses per year,
allowing all children under 18 access to free health and dental care,
and implementing and evaluating Te Rito: the Family Violence Prevention Strategy.
The report also argues that local authorities need encouragement and support to develop strategies and policies for children. It also asks that all monetary and fiscal policies be evaluated not only for their impact on inflation, debt and economic growth, but also in terms of how they will effect families and young people.
Source Making it Happen October 2002, published by the Institute of Public Policy at AUT, Children's Agenda and UNICEF New Zealand; The Daily News 10 October 2002 "Groups push govt on child welfare" by NZPA; The Independent 16 October 2002 "Billion-dollar wand to magic poverty away" by Chris Trotter
TEXTILE SECTOR GOING FOR GROWTH
The new industry strategy states the intention of lifting export sales to $1 billion by 2008. With 17,600 workers, the sector is a substantial employer even though this is only half the number of workers it had in the 1980s. The industry recognises that improving management and training new workers are key factors if the sector is going to grow to its potential.
Source New Zealand Herald 16 September 2002 "Ambitious plans for textile growth" by Kevin Taylor.
OBJECTIVITY OF ACC ASSESSORS QUESTIONED
Dr Harvey Williams of Christchurch describes the problem of as a "bad culture" in the organisation, rather than a few "bad apples". That assessment is arguably supported by an ACC document that refers to claimants as "stock", and the corporation's intention to purge 1,500 long-term claimants from its books this year.
The media reports have also accused ACC managers of shopping around for medical assessors to get the decisions they want. Barrister John Miller, a Victoria University senior lecturer and authority on ACC law, says he knows of a patient who went through 12 different assessors before ACC got the opinion they wanted. Miller claims that many patients who are "exited" from ACC wind-up on an invalid's benefit.
Wilson says that ACC uses over one thousand doctors or medical academics to provide assessments of claimants that come from lists provided by specialist colleges, and that none of these professionals have contacted ACC concerning the conduct of staff.
He believes it is rare for ACC to seek a second opinion unless time has elapsed from the first. He also says that 75% of ACC claimants who are assessed as able to return to work do not end up on a benefit but that 9% do go onto invalid's benefits.
Source Sunday Star Times 13 October 2002 "Doctors put ACC bullies on blacklist" by Pravin Char; "Patients sick of ACC hard line" by Donna Chisholm and Pravin Char; and editorial "Worries over ACC practices"+Monday's herald piece.
SKILLS SHORTAGES DUE TO LOW BIRTH RATES
Arkless argues that economies must grow at an average of at least 1.5% or they begin to collapse on themselves ... and, in order to grow at this rate, countries must add to their population by at least 2.1% per year. But Arkless points out that for nearly two decades the population growth in industrialised countries has slowed. During last year, the population in G8 countries grew a mere 1.6%.
Industrialised countries are beginning to experience the effect of this declining birth-rate trend by no longer having enough people coming out of schools and universities to fuel their industries and grow their economies. Arkless predicts that by 2008, North America alone will have five million job vacancies for which there will be no suitable applicants and there will be an international "brain drain" towards richer nations that will threaten countries like New Zealand.
Source The National Business Review 13 September 2002 "War on talent" by Bob Hosking
THE "INCOME GAP" BETWEEN MAORI AND EUROPEAN
While income increases for Maori were 5.2%, average Maori earnings still lagged behind at $428 per week or 86.6% of that of the general population. This is a similar to the gender "income gap" with the average female income now at 87.7% of the average male income.
The study finds that a large proportion of Maori, particularly males, leave school with no qualifications and when they find work, it tends to be in elementary, low-skilled, low-paid jobs. Compounding the problem, and undoubtedly contributing to Maori unemployment figures, is that there are proportionately fewer low-skilled jobs being generated in the economy.
Over the past ten years, job growth in New Zealand has been increasingly biased towards skills-based occupations that are not accessible to low-education achievers, therefore extending the "income gap" between working Maori and working non-Maori. The paper concludes that government policy development should focus on Maori educational levels as a means of closing this "income gap".
"The Mediating Effects of Occupation, Industry, Hours of Work and Locality" by Sholeh Maani, September 2002, available the Treasury website at www.treasury.govt.nz/workingpapers/2002/02-17.asp
Source Press release Statistics New Zealand 26 September 2002; " The Mediating Effects of Occupation, Industry, Hours of Work and Locality" a Treasury working paper by Sholeh Maani, September 2002
DISPUTE OVER THE LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS
Minister of Social Services Steve Maharey explains that the first figure is taken from the Household Labour Force Survey and is the number of people who have had no paid work whatsoever for two years. This is one of a number of international reporting standards and allows NZ statistics to be compared to those of other countries on the same basis. The larger statistic, from Winz, includes all people who have been continuous registered as unemployed for two years but may have had periods of work while registered.
Source The Daily News 4 October 2002 "Maharey offers misleading employment stats, says Act" by Sharon Lundy (NZPA)
PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYER ORGANISATIONS
A PEO acts as a company's administrative boss, handling human resource issues like payrolls, withholding tax, superannuation schemes and health insurance. The concept apparently appeals to the owner/boss of small businesses who are often the most experienced or key person whose time and energies are better spent on production or marketing than on human resource functions. Using a PEO is one way a small business can have the services of a personnel manager when they do not need a full-time one. PEOs can also lower the cost of health insurance, an integral part of US employment contracts, by grouping a small business's employees with others, therefore getting the benefits of large scale buying.
The PEO industry in the US today claims to be "employing" as many as 3 million workers.
Source Houston Chronicle 11 May 2002 "Will the real boss please stand up?" by Adam Geller