January 11, 2012

Purlieu –  piece of land on edge of forest; outlying district or region; environs or neighbourhood; place where one may range at large; a person’s haunt or resort.


Word of the day

January 11, 2012

Purlieu –  piece of land on edge of forest; outlying district or region; environs or neighbourhood; place where one may range at large; a person’s haunt or resort.


Women’s world shearing title won by Kiwi

January 11, 2012

Te Kuiti shearer Kerri-Jo Te Huia broke a world women’s shearing record by shearing 507 lambs in eight hours, just over one a minute.

If we’re celebrating that we need to congratulate Irish shearer Ivan Scott who broke the men’s world shearing record by shearing 744 lambs, two more than previous record holder Hawkes Bay’s Cam Ferguson who broke the previous record last year.


Unions for unions or workers?

January 11, 2012

Unions are supposed to be to advocate for and support workers.

As the series of strikes by the MUNZ in its dispute with Ports of Auckland continues at considerable cost to the company, its customers and the workers, it looks like this union is working in its own interests rather than those of its members.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross  reckons MUNZ is biting the hand that feeds it:

Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.

Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

Macdoctor reckons the dispute isn’t about money, it’s about control:

Is PoAL controlled by the shareholders and the board, or is it controlled by the union? That is what the fight is about. The lives of the stevedores involved are a secondary consideration, as are the customers and the business of the port. Even less of a consideration are the ratepayers who will wind up all paying higher rates should PoAL be permanently damaged by this squabble.

Whaleoil and Keeping Stock both have posts quote POAL communications manager Catherine Etheredge who says:

I can confirm that the average remuneration for a full time stevedore, in the year ended June 30, 2011, was $91,480. The average remuneration for a part time stevedore (guaranteed at least 24 hours work a week) was $65,518.

53% of full time stevedores (123 individuals) earned over $80,000. 28% (43 individuals) earned over $100,000 with the highest earner making $122,000.

The averages were calculated by POAL’s payroll team based on actual payments, including for leave days, medical insurance and superannuation contributions. (For employees covered by the collective agreement, POAL matches their superannuation contributions up to a maximum of 7%.) We excluded those who had worked for less than the full 12 months e.g. had left part way through the year.

Employees are also entitled to 15 days sick leave per annum, accruing up to 45 days. All shift workers are entitled to five weeks annual leave. Training for all stevedoring tasks (crane driving, straddle driving and lashing) is undertaken in house and is paid for by the company.

One question that has been asked is how many hours you have to work to earn that $91,000. Stevedores who earned the average $91,000 in the 2010/11 financial year were paid for an average of 43 hours per week, excluding leave days. If you factor leave days in, that increases to 49 hours per week.

This leads to the key issue for the company – the high amount of paid downtime – an average of 35% of total hours paid. An employee getting paid for a 43 hour week is only working around 28 hours; for a 40 hour week, 26 hours. In a busy week, employees get paid for 66.5 hours but can only work for a maximum of 44.5.

On Monday 9 January, to give a recent example, we paid 26 staff a total of $5,484,80 for downtime, because they were entitled to be paid until the end of their set eight hour shift even though the ship had finished & they had gone home. In another example employees worked two hours of an overtime shift but were paid for the full eight hours.

This is not a cost-efficient nor sustainable labour model, especially when the company is not covering its cost of capital, cannot therefore justify further investment in order to grow, and its closest competitor has a labour utilisation rate in excess of 80%. (At Port of Tauranga stevedores start and finish work when a ship arrives and departs).

The company has offered an upfront 10% increase to hourly rates along with the retention of existing terms and conditions in return for more flexible rosters which would significantly reduce the amount of paid downtime. Employees would have the opportunity to plan their roster a month in advance. This proposal would result in a people being remunerated for fewer overall hours at a higher rate than they would currently get for the same paid hours. To be fair, until such time as container volumes recover/improve, the 10% increase to hourly rates would not (as some commentators have suggested) push average remuneration over $100K.

Catherine Etheredge
Ports of Auckland

It’s very difficult to understand the union’s position in the face of these numbers.

Fonterra cuts domestic milk price

January 11, 2012

Fonterra will reduce the wholesale price of milk on the domestic market at the end of this month.

“Fonterra Brands New Zealand has notified retailers that there will be a reduction in wholesale milk price effective January 30. International dairy prices have softened since the highs of earlier last year,” the spokesperson said.

“While they are on the rise again, we would expect to see local prices come down slightly,” the spokeswoman said.

Fonterra said it was ultimately up to retailers to set the price of milk for consumers.

The last sentence is the operative one.

There is a significant variation in price in different outlets which reflects the store mark-up not the wholesale price.

Fonterra can reduce the wholesale price but it’s up to retailers to pass the reduction on to customers.


Rural round-up

January 11, 2012

Educating the politicians – Hugh Stringleman:

Farmers were criticised as “affluent and effluent-rich” during the general election. They responded by voting blue (National) in every rural electorate except the West Coast. But the green wave in the 50th parliament will now grab farmers’ attention.

For the first time since 1996, under the MMP election system, a minor party gained more than 10% of the party vote in the recent election, and that was the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Greens gained nearly 11% of the party votes cast and will have 13 MPs in the new parliament.

They include young urban activists, environmental campaigners, party officials, academics, and an organic farmer. . .

Farming 2011 a year to celebrate despite the sorrow – Tim Cronshaw:

It’s not often the planets line up to form a near-perfect farming year.

History shows it’s a long time between drinks before the party hats come out. The 1890s were memorable as a period of recovering wool prices and the advent of refrigeration when sheep meat could be safely shuttled off to the motherland.

So was the wool boom of 1951 when prices tripled overnight from United States troops needing warm uniforms during the Korean War.

Otherwise, there have been more mundane than good years in Canterbury farming and, at times, it’s bordered on the ugly as debt levels pile up. Not this season though. . .

Taranaki farm’s spirited growth strategy – Sue O’Dowd:

Establishing stands of native bush on his farm has been a spiritual journey as much as a practical one for an Egmont Village farmer who now sees himself as a custodian of the land.

Last month, Prime Minister John Key presented a Taranaki Regional Council certificate to Wayne Peters and Alan and Barbara Harvey, of Opunake, for completing the riparian planting programme on their farms.

What started as idle curiosity led to Mr Peters developing a passion for Maoridom and embarking on a spiritual journey, during which he studied te reo, established links with Maori organisations promoting health and wellbeing and learned about New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. . .

Cartels protect producers not consumers - Offsetting Behaviour:

Mark Schatzker explainshow Canada’s agricultural cartels help keep quality produce from Canadian foodies (HT: @acoyne):

But here’s what hasn’t been said about supply management: It is the enemy of deliciousness.
If you have ever wondered why you can buy heritage chickens such as the famed poulet de Bresse in France but not in Canada, or pastured butter the colour of an autumn sunset in Ireland but not in Canada, or why it’s so hard to find pastured eggs here, the reason is supply management. . . 

From city to country – Eileen Goodwin:

Ask Sandy Price for tips to give prospective lifestyle farmers and she does not muck around.   

 “If you’re not prepared to get your hands dirty, don’t get into animals.   

 “Where there’s livestock, there’s dead stock.”   

 Sheep were high maintenance, so dealing with unpleasant problems, such as flystrike and maggots, or a complication of  lambing when a ewe pushed its innards out, were part of the      job. . .

Olives heart of family’s new lifestyle - Lynda Van Kempen:

For the good oil on Bannockburn, look no further than Trevor and Sue McNamara.   

The married couple “walked out of our life” in South Otago 18  years ago and shifted to Central Otago with their two young children, for a change of lifestyle.   

They have never looked back or regretted taking the gamble, and say they are truly living the good life on their 0.8ha property . . .

Remarkables Park Stud rivals best antlers in country:

Remarkables Park Stud in Queenstown, renowned for consistently producing huge two year old stud sire stags, says its successful breeding programme now has it rivaling the best antlers in the country.

In 2012 its breeding programme has produced many multi-pointed yearling Spikers, including a massive 27-point Spiker sired by Craigie, crossed over a daughter of Hamberg, a German trophy stag.

Craigie, with a 601 SCI (Safari Club International) international trophy score, is famous for having produced one of the biggest sets of antlers ever seen in the world. . .

Countrywide’s November issue is available here.


Chch needs southern support

January 11, 2012

Quote of the day:

“It’s distressing enough for people in Christchurch to have to go through the difficulties that the earthquake events continue to present, without actually scaring them completely by suggesting that they’re going to have to relocate to Dunedin.”

It comes from Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee in response to Dunedin City Councillor Lee Vandervis who said that rather than rebuilding Christchurch it should be relocated to Dunedin.

Like most who were students at Otago I have a soft spot for Dunedin but the idea of relocating Christchurch there is ludicrous.

Some quake refugees have moved south but that’s very different from relocating the city infrastructure like the port and other services as Cr Vandervis is suggesting.

Many refugees have moved north or emigrated and if the city wasn’t rebuilt it’s more likely that people and businesses would choose those options over Dunedin.

Fortunately, most Christchurch people want to stay in or near the city which is their home and they have the backing to do so from central and local government which is committed to the rebuild and recovery.

Dunedin, and the rest of the South Island should be co-operating with and supporting that not trying to compete with the city.

Without a strong, vibrant Christchurch the whole of the south will suffer and the growing population imbalance between North and South Islands will get even bigger.

UPDATE: Just spotted a link on Facebook to Lonely Planet’s post-quake guide to Christchurch :

After two weeks on-the-ground research in Christchurch recently– Lonely Planet’s third visit since the February 2011 earthquake – we’re confident the city is one of New Zealand’s bravest and most resilient communities.

Our latest visit was unlike any other Lonely Planet research gig, with virtually all of the bars, cafes and restaurants recommended in our 2010 New Zealand guidebook no longer open. But amid the occasional uncertainty of aftershocks, Christchurch is re-emerging as one of NZ’s most exciting cities.

If you’re heading to the South Island of New Zealand, definitely spend a few days in the city. There’s still plenty to do, and you’ll be supporting the new businesses inspiring Christchurch’s renaissance. Note that there is considerable demand for Christchurch accommodation, and booking ahead is strongly recommended.

Lonely Planet sees what Cr Vandervis cannot – the city is still open for business and we should be supporting it.


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