Whose job is it to make jobless job-ready?

July 18, 2017

The Opposition’s anti-immigration policies are based on the view that New Zealanders should come first for jobs.

They do under current policy, if they are ready and willing to work.

But what happens when they’re not?

Whose job is it to make the jobless job-ready?

When unemployment is as low as it is (4.9% in the March quarter), too many of those without jobs don’t have what it takes to take on even low skilled or unskilled jobs.

There are plenty of jobs which don’t require specialised skills but none don’t need people with at least basic numeracy and literacy, who turn up on time ready, willing and able to work, and continue to work willingly and ably for the required number of hours.

Not all businesses have the human and financial resources to deal with people who aren’t work-ready.

But the Warehouse is giving some young unemployed people a chance:

The Warehouse’s Red Shirts programme offers unskilled 16 to 24-year-olds the training they need to get a job.

It’s a three-week unpaid programme supported by the Ministry of Social Development.

The Ministry, which chooses who will go on the programme, pays for participants’ shoes and trousers, bought at cost price from The Warehouse.

“At the end of the programme their eyes are sparkling, their posture is up, they are able to hold a conversation with you,” The Warehouse’s Shari French told Newshub.

“It’s incredible, the self-esteem and the growth we see is amazing.” . . .

The programme teaches workplace safety, customer service and confidence.

“It’s absolutely essential we give them that before they turn 20, before they go onto a benefit,” Social Development Minister Anne Tolley told Newshub.

So far 250 young people have been through the course, with 70 percent of them getting jobs within three months and 50 of them working at The Warehouse.

The programme will now be rolled out to more Warehouse stores around the country and will take in a further 1000 young people.

Few if any small to medium businesses could do this without putting too much pressure on other staff but the Warehouse is showing that some bigger business could.

It’s also a reminder that sorting out social problems isn’t only up to the government and its agencies.

But it’s not an argument against immigration when too many employers can’t find locals ready, willing and able to work.


RSE workers leave union after 4 days

July 13, 2017

Union membership is low, so too is signing up people who don’t understand what they’re doing:

Attempts to sign up migrant vineyard workers in Marlborough to a union have hit a snag, with more than 100 workers joining then abruptly cancelling their membership.

The workers, in the region on the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, signed up to the Central Amalgamated Workers Union following a meeting last Thursday.

Union co-ordinator Steve McManus said the 118 workers – a figure disputed by the company involved, who claimed it was 111 – cancelled their membership just four days later.

McManus alleged the workers were pressured to leave the union, however the head of vineyard contracting company Hortus, Aaron Jay, has rubbished the claim.

Many thought they were signing up for insurance, and once they found out what the union was, how much it would cost and what it offered they became upset, Jay said.

The Hortus boss was told about the meeting, at the company’s accommodation facility Duncannon, on Friday by worker leaders concerned about what had taken place. . .

Jay said the workers had originally been happy to join, but once they understood exactly what was being offered they told him they felt ambushed, and upset.

“Unions definitely serve a purpose, I’ve got no problems with them as long as it’s done properly. A lot of the guys didn’t necessarily understand what they were signing up to,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on our morals, our values, who we are and what we do. I’m the sole owner and director of the business, so when they’re in New Zealand I’m responsible.

“We make sure they’re happy, and if that means becoming part of a union I’ve got no problems with that.” . . .

Jay is the RSE scheme representative for Marlborough, and his company, Hortus, has frequently been held up as an example of an employer following best practice guidelines.

The RSE scheme has just passed its 10th anniversary.

It’s been a success for employers who struggle to get staff during harvest and for the workers who earn good money to take back to their home countries.

There have been a few problems with a very few employers.

But this isn’t a case of a bad employer.

Nor of an anti-union employer.

This looks like a union taking advantage of people who didn’t understand what they were doing.

 


Labour now the Sweatshop Boys

June 23, 2017

Duncan Garner has the line of the day on the AM Show – he’s calling Labour the Sweatshop Boys.

He’s referring to the party’s botched intern scheme :

There are calls for Immigration NZ to investigate a Labour-linked election campaign which used unpaid labour in the guise of an education programme.

More than 80 overseas students have been doing unpaid “drudge work”, and living in a cramped Auckland marae without a working shower, reports political blog Politik. . .

Rivals ACT called the campaign a “sweat shop filled with immigrant labour”.

“I cannot believe the Labour Party’s do as we say, not as we do attitude. This is a new low for hypocrisy, even for them,” ACT leader David Seymour said.

“Who would believe in Labour’s promised crackdown on cheap student labour when Labour are one of the worst offenders in the country?” . . .

That is hypocrisy writ large.

National Party campaign chairman Steven Joyce said Labour had to explain how it could justify “exploiting” international students for its election campaign while it was also speaking out against international education providers.

“This is truly appalling behaviour both for its lack of human decency and industrial strength hypocrisy,” Joyce said.

“If the allegations are correct, Labour has brought international students to New Zealand on false pretences, failed to look after them, and failed to meet their obligations to the students in the most basic way, while at the same time campaigning against exploitation of migrants.” . . .

Employers are very, very worried about Labour’s threatened changes to immigration.

Skills shortage in many sectors including IT, trades, farming, contracting and hospitality mean employers are already struggling to get anyone to fill positions. They’re wasting time, money and energy working their way through the process of employing immigrants.

Labour’s threatened changes would make that much, much worse.

These employers are working hard making a significant and positive economic and social contribution to New Zealand.

Labour wants to hobble them and yet has the hypocrisy to bring in people from overseas, not to work in productive businesses,  but to campaign for the party, and do it without pay.

Compounding that, the party that is supposed to stand up for workers put them up in sub-standard accommodation.

Matt McCarten did a mea culpe yesterday but the party can’t blame the mess only on him.

Newshub has obtained internal documents outlining Labour’s ambitious plans to put foreign students to work on its campaign.

The plan shows the party needed to find $270,000 in funding to pull it off and was banking on unions to fund a lot of it. . .

The budgeting was based on 100 students staying for an average of eight weeks. The cost of feeding and housing them in motorhomes was estimated at $240,000, with an operational budget of $30,000 for petrol, venues and AT HOP cards.

The documents show First and Unite unions agreed to contribute $100,000, “white collar unions” – likely the likes of the PSA – committed to $50,000, while Union Trust put up a start-up loan of $25,000.

The plan was to get E tū and “other appropriate unions” on board too.

The Council of Trade Unions was also to be involved in management of the project, and while Labour has been distancing itself from the project, the documents explicitly states: “The programme and certification is the responsibility of Labour.” . . .

Hypocrisy is bad enough, but there are also questions over which visas the students are on.

. . . We know these “fellows” are being given free accommodation in exchange for their work, so they are in breach of their visitor visa conditions, if they have visitor visas.

It is possible they have other visas, such as work visas. But it is hard to imagine they could qualify for work visas, and the hypocrisy would be great – Labour bringing in unpaid fellows on work visas, while campaigning against such work visas.

So it looks like either Labour has arranged 85 work visas for its unpaid fellows while campaigning to reduce the number of work visas for unskilled jobs or Labour has been complicit in a huge case of immigration fraud.

Even if the students are on working holiday visas, there are other questions:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse did not know whether Immigration NZ or MBIE’s labour inspectorate was investigating the issue, but believed Labour had serious questions to answer about possible breaches.

Woodhouse said the students would be allowed to undertake the work if they were on working holiday visas, as Labour believed, but there were still questions about whether there had been breaches of employment law.

“What I am aware of is similar schemes to this have been investigated very seriously by the labour inspectorate because it is work masquerading as voluntary work, and I think that is also a question that should be asked of the Labour Party.”

Providing services for food and board counted as work under employment law, he said.

“Regardless of what visa they’re on, there are certainly questions about the nature of the work they’re doing and whether that meets the definition of employment.” . .

The Sweatshop boys and girls in Labour will be sweating over this.

Even if there is no immigration fraud, what they are doing is in direct contradiction of their immigration policy and their supposed role in protecting workers from exploitation.

 

 


SFF closing Fairton plant

May 18, 2017

Silver Fern Farms is planning to close its Fairton sheep meat plant:

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Dean Hamilton says the proposed closure is due to a significant decline in processing numbers over the last 10 years and the opportunity to now process the consolidated volume at its nearby Pareora site.

“There has been significant land-use change in Canterbury and Marlborough over the last decade and there are fewer sheep farms in these regions as they have made way for other uses such as dairy and wine. Higher returns from land-use conversion, and periods of drought in these regions have contributed to this decline in sheep numbers. While our beef processing volumes have risen significantly over this period, the lamb numbers available have steadily decreased.

“Fairton was consistently processing over 1 million lambs prior to 2010. Last season we processed under 500,000 lambs. This year that has continued to decline and we processed just over 325,000 in a six month seasonal operation.

“Whilst we believe the pace of land-use change has slowed considerably, we expect sheep numbers to consolidate around current levels rather than expand in the foreseeable future. It makes economic sense to consolidate this volume at our nearby Pareora site which has the capacity to process the combined numbers.

“Pareora is a large multi-species plant, an hour down the road in Timaru. Consolidating at one plant will provide a longer season with higher staff retention rates. We have recently invested $7m at Pareora to add to its capability.”

This will be tough on the hundreds of workers who will lose their jobs, and others who service and supply the plant and its staff.

But it comes as no surprise.

Sheep numbers have been declining for several decades but there is still excess capacity in meat plants.

Fairton’s closure isn’t the first and it is unlikely to be the last.

 

 


Can’t stand up much

May 5, 2017

Prince Philip is standing down from royal duties in August.

Because, in his words, he “can’t stand up much longer”.

He’ll be 96 by then.


Rural round-up

March 29, 2017

Health risk concerns for orchard workers – Pam Jones:

Cromwell orchardists are concerned about the public health risks of continued freedom camping by fruitpickers.

While no cases of illness have been reported, the summerfruit industry body says it has serious concerns about the conditions in which some orchard workers are living and the possibility of a breakout of transferrable disease.

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman and Cromwell orchardist Tim Jones said the possible impact on export crops was discussed at Summerfruit’s board meeting last month and about five Cromwell orchardists were concerned. . . 

New leader steps up in agri-tech – Sally Rae:

Tracmap’s new chairman says it is an exciting time for the Mosgiel-based agri-tech company.

Chris Dennison, who farms at Hilderthorpe, in North Otago, replaces Pat Garden, from Millers Flat, who has stepped down after just over a decade.

TracMap was established by Colin Brown in 2006 after he identified a gap in the market for a rugged and easy-to-use GPS guidance and mapping system, specifically designed for New Zealand conditions.

He initially saw the opportunity in ground spreading and the application was pushed wider as it had been developed. . . 

Competition provided impetus – Sally Rae:

Winning the Southland Otago Sharemilker Equity Farmer of the Year title gave Jono and Kelly Bavin so much more than a trophy.

Mr and Mrs Bavin, now regional managers for Southland Otago in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, won the regional title in 2015, which coincided with the dairy downturn starting ”to bite”.

But because they had entered the competition, and really evaluated their business and where it was going, that helped them get through the next two years.

”There’s not many times in your life you pick up your business, throw it on the ground and rearrange it again. That’s what we did,” Mr Bavin said.

Had they not made the decision to enter the competition, then ”things could have been totally different” for the Southland couple. . . 

Calamity on the Coast – Peter Burke:

A ghastly period: that’s how DairyNZ West Coast consulting officer Ross Bishop describes the situation facing the region’s dairy farmers.

They are deeply frustrated and struggling to maintain faith in their dairy company Westland Milk Products, he says.

The company is in a financial mess and chief executive Toni Brendish has the unenviable task of trying to return it to a reasonable financial footing. Already she has made clear there will be a lower payout for farmers and job losses at its factories. . .

Digging into low productive results:

Failure to meet its own goals for reproductive performance (industry targets) has been much talked about at Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF).

Farmers at a February 23 focus day debated the analysis presented and anecdotal comparisons with other farms in the region.

Taking a long term view, particularly if the current season is excluded, reproductive performance has improved on the farm over the past 13 years. But drilling into the detail reveals the farm only once met the industry target of 78% six-week in-calf rate (2013 mating period). Since then the trend in six-week in-calf rates has declined, raising many questions about what is limiting performance. . . 

Our Pinot is pushing the boundaries:

Allen Meadows is a self-confessed, “obsessive” Burgundy lover. So much so that his life is spent compiling advice and information on the world’s foremost Pinot Noir region.

His quarterly reviewBurghound.com was the first of its kind to dedicate itself to the wines of a particular region – and has become the go-to for lovers of the variety.  

While his reviews offer regular updates on Oregon and Californian Pinot, it is not often that other New World countries are included in his extremely popular review. Hence a tasting of 221 wines from New Zealand was an amazing achievement, organised by NZW’s Marketing Manager USA, David Strada. Just getting Meadows to a tasting was an accomplishment – but the end results which featured in Issue 64 of Burghound.com (October 2016) were even more so. . .

More timber trees for planting 2017:

A rise in the number of timber tree seedlings being produced indicates a recent decline in plantation forest replanting may be reversing.

An MPI survey of all 28 commercial forest nurseries in New Zealand shows stock sales in 2016 for planting this year were 52.2 million seedlings, compared with 49.5 million the year before.

Forest Owners Association Chief Executive David Rhodes says the increase in seedling sales is a positive sign the industry is gearing up for increased production, even if the trees planted now will not be harvested for about another 30 years. . . 


Best intentions worst results

February 21, 2017

LIving Wage advocates want employers to pay a minimum of $20.20 an hour from July.

The rate, more than $4 above the adult minimum wage, is at the level needed to provide families with the necessities, they say.

How many jobs will that cost?

The current Living Wage, of $19.80 has already cost 17 jobs at Wellington City Council according to a report by Jim Rose for the Taxpayers’ Union.

The report’s key findings were:

  • Seventeen Wellington City Council employees lost their jobs after being under the skill level required for the living wage.
  • Councils hire on merit, so candidates under the skill level commensurate with the living wage will be crowded out by higher-skilled candidates.
  • There is no consensus or scientific basis for the calculation of a living wage. Any calculations are politically subjective.
  • Any living wage in New Zealand will be abated by up to 40% by decreases in government transfers and increased income tax obligations.
  • Living wages shift the burden from means-tested taxpayers to ratepayers and business owners.
  • Below-living-wage employment allows for in-work training, where employees trade off lower wages for the opportunity to learn skills that increase their future earning potential. 

Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand nobly want to alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment with their activism for a living wage, but the evidence to date shows they are achieving the exact opposite. This report shows that a living wage will only make it harder for low wage earners to find work.

Contrary to intentions, living wage policies actually hurt the very people they seek to help. For the first time, we reveal that seventeen parking wardens lost their jobs at the Wellington City Council as a result of its living wage policy.

Living wage policies mean higher-skilled candidates apply for jobs previously occupied by lower-skilled candidates. Of course councils will hire on merit and shortlist the candidates who previously would never have applied for the lower, pre-living wage role. That’s exactly what happened when Wellington City Council brought its parking services in-house.

Minimum wage applicants do not get a shot against better-qualified candidates attracted by the higher wages. So much for the poverty alleviation and reduced unemployment.

The economic theory is clear that living wages do more harm than good, but the job losses in Wellington is the proof in the pudding. Councils should stop implementing these living wage policies which achieve so little but cost ratepayers who can ill afford it.

Living wage policies mean ratepayers pay more for less and achieve none of the intended poverty relief.

Those are very damning conclusions, but not surprising.

The Living Wage is based on what someone thinks a family of four needs to have a reasonable life.

It bears no relation to individual employee’s needs, ability or performance.

I have several reservations about Working For Families but it is a better way to help low income workers with dependent children than the living wage which takes no account of the value of their work.

The full report is here.


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