Pay rise ought to be commended

17/08/2016

Spark is  introducing a benchmark salary above which its staff are paid.

All non-commission full-time staff will earn at least $40,000 a year, and front-line commission employees who earn a lower base salary will earn an average of $42,000.

If compared to the current living wage of $19.80 an hour, $40,000 a year minimum falls short at $19.23 an hour.

Spark general manager of human resources Danielle George said the company wanted to “do the right thing” for its staff and attract the best talent, as well as contribute to turning New Zealand into a higher wage economy. . . 

“We have revised our entire value proposition, exploring how we can best deliver base pay and meaningful benefits, all designed to meet the needs of a very diverse workforce.”

The new Spark pay policy has benefited more than 250 staff who have received pay increases over the past two years to bring them up to the new level. . . 

That ought to be cause for commendation but the Council of Trade Unions’ Richard Wagstaff doesn’t think so:

“Their $40,000 salary that they’re promoting is actually a little under the living wage which doesn’t really inspire too much in terms of fair pay for people.”

Spark says the pay scheme is a commitment to a higher-wage economy, and once you take into account staff benefits, the overall package is better than the living wage.

“We want to do the right thing for our people and to attract the best people to a career in Spark,” says general manager of human resources Danielle George.

“If that sets a standard that encourages others to follow, that’s got to be a good thing for New Zealand.”

Benefits include credit towards Spark products and services, life and income insurance, flexible working arrangements and interest-free loans to buy company shares. . .

Spark is offering more than $4.00 an hour more than the minimum wage which is $15.25.

Paying that is a legal requirement and it’s reviewed each year, taking into account that increasing it could price some people out of jobs and threaten some businesses. The living wage is an artificial construct which takes no account of what’s affordable.

Another union, the PSA is praising three Wellington mayoral candidates who support the living wage:

The PSA held a forum for candidates which was attended by Justin Lester, Jo Coughlan, Helene Ritchie, Keith Johnson, Andy Foster, Nicola Young and Nick Leggett.

Mr Lester, Ms Ritchie and Mr Leggett confirmed they support the Living Wage for all council workers, including those employed through contractors and council-controlled organisations.

“We’re extremely pleased to hear three candidates plan to build on the good work already done by Wellington City Council towards making this a fairer city”, PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay says.

“The PSA decided to hold this forum to hear from the candidates first-hand about their vision for Wellington – including their stance on local ownership of local services and privatisation.

“Wellington City Council has already taken great strides towards becoming New Zealand’s first accredited Living Wage council since it voted to do so in 2013.
“We know this has the backing of Wellington’s voters – what’s now needed is a mayor and a council that will deliver on the promises and finish the job.”

Do voters really support that and if they do, are they happy to be rated more to pay for it?

Unlike the minimum wage, the living wage takes no account of the value of work being done or the danger that some businesses couldn’t survive if they were forced to pay it.

It’s also based on what a vicar thinks a family of four needs to participate in society which ignores the fact that not everyone has to support a family of four on their wages, and if they do Working For Families would give them a generous top-up if they were on a low wage.

New Zealand isn’t a high-wage economy and that’s a weakness. But the solution is increased productivity and upskilling, not the job-threatening imposition of the so-called living wage.


Missing the point

13/01/2014

The Council of Trade Unions has wants pre-employment drug testing for beneficiaries scrapped.

. . .  The pre-employment drug test policy, introduced in July last year, makes testing compulsory for some jobs.

The CTU said it should be scrapped after the ministry revealed it has no data on the amount of money saved by cutting the benefits of those who have failed the tests. . .

The CTU has been against this policy, introduced by National, from the start and this is just another excuse to oppose it.

But they’re missing the point of the policy.

Unemployed beneficiaries are supposed to be work-ready and someone who tests positive for drugs won’t be.

If the unions put their concern for workers ahead of their political allegiance to Labour they would get the point and also understand the danger workers under the influence of drugs could pose not just to themselves but to other workers.


Left don’t learn from history

10/10/2012

The statistics on the youth unemployment rate are unequivocal – it increased far more steeply than rate for older adults when the youth minimum age was axed by Labour.

But have people and parties on the left learned from that? No.

Yesterday Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson announced a starting-wage for young people and immediately got this response:

Lower wages no solution – from the Council of Trade Unions.

Poverty pay won’t give young people skills or jobs – from the Service and Food workers Union.

More youth to pack for Australia – from  Hone Harawira.

National offers young workers a hefty pay cut – Metiria Turei.

And low wage no future at all from David Shearer.

None of these people have joined the dots between increasing the cost of employing young people and the sharp increase in the unemployment rate for that age group.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association has a far more positive view of the starting-wage:

Everyone concerned about our alarming rates of youth unemployment should be celebrating today’s announcement on the Starting-out wage, says David Lowe, Employment Services Manager for the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

Then they will be looking out for more ways to help, he said.

“Without an incentive an employer with a choice between an experienced worker and an inexperienced worker will choose experience every time,” Mr Lowe said.

“Though there is no silver bullet for creating jobs for young people, the Starting-out wage offers a vital first step up the employment ladder.

“Unless there is an incentive for taking on the added issues of employing youth workers, young people will continue to be over represented in the unemployment numbers.

“The Starting-out wage will restore a form of youth rates that were abolished in 2006 and which proved, as predicted, to hurt the very people its supporters were trying to help.

“Independent research from Pacheco at the time found job opportunities for youth would fall by nearly 20 per cent for all teenagers if youth rates were abolished, but that turned out to be very conservative.”

BusinessNZ also sees the starting-wage will benefit the economy and communities:

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says having to pay unskilled teenagers at adult rates makes it hard for many young people to get a job.

“Not being able to get that initial job prevents many young people from gaining workplace skills, further reducing their future employment chances.

“A starting-out wage at 80 per cent of the minimum wage for the first six months’ employment will make it easier to employ a young person so they can gain those vital workplace skills.”

Mr O’Reilly said the policy announced today would particularly benefit teenagers who were vulnerable to being trapped on a benefit through being unable to compete effectively for a first job.

Costings indicate that with accommodation and other applicable subsidies unaffected, a teenager on a starting-out wage would earn more than if on a benefit.

“Getting more young people into jobs – especially including those currently on a benefit – will benefit the economy and communities all through New Zealand,” Mr O’Reilly said.

If employers have to pay people the same rate they are almost always going to favour age and experience over youth and inexperience.

Enable them to pay younger people a bit less in recognition of the bigger investment required in training and the bigger risk with people with no work experience, and they will be more willing to take them on.


Speakers lets sun shine on access

26/07/2012

Proving once more that sunlight is a good disinfectant, Speaker Lockwood Smith has released a list of members of the public who hold access cards to Parliament:

Dr Smith said that members of the public were only given approved visitor status if they had been security cleared and agreed to their names being public.

“The benefit of being an approved visitor is that the person does not have to be security screened each time he or she comes to Parliament. Instead, an approved visitor can access the public areas of Parliament through a security cleared entrance”, said Dr Smith.

 CARD HOLDERS
Name Organisation
Nicholas Albrecht Vector
Tim Clarke Russell McVeagh
Peter Conway Council of Trade Unions
Daniel Fielding Minter Ellison Rudd Watts
Charles Finny Saunders Unsworth
Helen Kelly Council of Trade Unions
Tony O’Brien Sky TV
Phil O’Reilly Business NZ
Leigh Pearson L.A. Pearson Limited
Barrie Saunders Saunders Unsworth
Mark Unsworth Saunders Unsworth
Jordan Williams Franks & Ogilvie
Rasik Ranchord Parliamentary Breakfast Group
 Philippa Falloon Former MP’s spouse
Lady Jane Kidd Former MP’s spouse

Striking on a political whim

19/10/2010

The NBR reports:

Thousands of workers from Kaitaia to Bluff will stop work for two hours on Wednesday to attend union meetings protesting against the Government’s employment laws, says the Council of Trade Unions (CTU).

Imagine the chaos if employers, contractors and sole operators stopped work every time they disagreed with government policy.

It wouldn’t happen of course because these people can’t afford to stop work on a political whim. Funny how the people they pay, can.

Is it just coincidence the strike is being called by the CTU which played a big role at the Labour conference last weekend?

Is it another coincidence that they they didn’t strike at the many actions of the previous Labour-led government which compromised productivity and provided disincentives to employment?


CTU puts politics in front of jobs

30/07/2010

The Council of Trade Unions is withdrawing its co-operation with the government on trade agreement  issues.

Helen Kelly, CTU President, said: “We have always raised our concerns – sometimes very strongly – about trade agreement negotiations in terms of tariff reductions, labour standards and other matters but we have also been prepared to work with government and business to promote the best possible outcome for New Zealand.”

“But now this Government has gone down a path which tries to compete with other countries through reducing fairness at work for New Zealand wage and salary earners.”

The Government had invited Richard Trumka, the President of the AFL-CIO (central union organisation in USA) to New Zealand and a visit was scheduled for early next year. This visit would have been significant for both countries. The CTU has agreed with the AFL-CIO that he should now not come given the attacks this Government has unleashed on wage and salary earners. It would be untenable for him to be here meeting a Government that stands against all he believes in.

Not surprisingly Trade Minister Tim Groser is unimpressed:

It is disappointing that the Council of Trade Unions has requested the United States union movement pulls its support for the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, Trade Minister Tim Groser says.

“Negotiating new trade agreements is one part of the Government’s broad-based plan for faster growth and more jobs. The CTU’s moves against this particular trade opportunity are puzzling and could actually cost jobs,” Mr Groser says.

“It’s particularly disappointing that the CTU is prepared to put petty politics ahead of New Zealand’s economic and trade interests.

“New Zealand and New Zealanders stand to benefit substantially from further successful trade deals – particularly with large and influential economies such as the United States. These deals will help us create higher-paying jobs and enjoy better living standards.

“I’m therefore sure the CTU’s members will be keen to know why their organisation is, in effect, working against their own interests in such a way.”

Quite.

We are a tiny nation which depends on trade to fund and supply the many things we can’t grow and make ourselves.

We are at considerable disadvantage because of other countries’ restrictive trade practices.

They make our goods more expensive for overseas consumers and reduce returns to our producers which has a detrimental impact on our economy which in turn hampers opportunities for job creation and retention.

This government, and the previous one, put considerable effort into trade deals. The CTU’s petty politicking has just made that more difficult.


Smaller deficit not opportunity for loosening reins

13/07/2010

A combination of lower spending and higher revenue in the 11 months to May resulted in a better-than-expected $4.74 billion operating deficit before gains and losses in the 11 months to May 31.

Finance Minister Bill English is sensibly saying this doesn’t change the government’s commitment to sound management of its finances and ongoing fiscal discipline.

Treasury expects revenue to come in close to forecasts for the full financial year ending June 30 and at least part of the lower spending track to be reversed in June.

“The Government has made good progress in keeping spending under control and delivering a faster-growing economy that will help grow our revenue.

“However, in many ways, restraint in the public sector is only just starting. We still have a significant medium-term challenge to get back to surplus as soon as possible. Budget forecasts show that will not happen until 2015/16 – but I would like us to be back into surplus sooner,” Mr English says.

“In our first two Budgets, the Government took early steps to bring deficits and government debt under control. We will build on that over the next few years by living within our $1.1 billion annual allowance for extra operating spending and weeding out lower priority spending.”

Some on the left, like the Council of Trade Unions, see this as an excuse to increase spending which doesn’t say much about their financial understanding.

The deficit may not be as bad as it was expected to be but it’s still worse than it ought to be and the need for fiscal rectitude hasn’t diminished.

Continued restraint now will speed the return to surpluses which are what we need for long term financial stability.


9 day fortnight gains cautious support

12/03/2009

The Councils of Trade Unions is cautiously supportive of the government’s  proposal for nine day fortnights to help employers:

The Council of Trade Unions – which helped formulate the scheme – said it provided a strong basis for unions and businesses to negotiate deals which could prevent job losses.

National secretary Helen Kelly said the Government subsidy was “essential’ to make it acceptable to workers, but she also expected employers to contribute to the costs.

The lead of the Labour Party Phil Goff is also able to see something positive:

Labour leader Phil Goff said the scheme was “helpful” but the Government needed to move quickly on help for smaller businesses.

 Labour’s president  takes a more blinkered view:

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union said the pay out was “underwhelming”.

“Unless employers are willing to meet this subsidy with a substantial top-up of their own it’s unlikely to be accepted by workers,” national secretary Andrew Little said.

“As far as the EPMU is concerned, this will be a bottom line.”

 But then as Keeping Stock and Kiwiblog both point out he’s wearing two hats and in this case his the brim of the political hat is obviously stopping him seeing anything which he might appreciate if he was only wearing the union hat.

Further to this, Roarprawn points out that unions have assets and maybe now’s the time for them to use them to help their members.

PS – I was wrong yesterday about the scheme applying only to workers in unions. It applies to businesses with 100 or more staff which will be unionised and there is a subtle but important difference between that and giving assistance only to union members.


Unions start campaigning

14/09/2008

Unionists will start handing out Council of Trade Unions election pamplets tomorrow.

The won’t contain words or images which could be seen to be persuading people to vote for or against any party or parties though because that would contravene the Electoral Finance Act wouldn’t it?

Update: No Minister  has a related post.


You can’t eat lifestyle

06/09/2008

In seven of the last 10 years more than 20,000 people have left New Zealand permanently.

That’s around the population of the whole Waitaki District.

The concerning thing is not just the numbers but the reasons  people are going with family ties now adding to the pull of higher wages.

Council of Trade Unions economist Peter Conway said that while money was an important factor for workers, migration to Australia was becoming generational and ingrained behaviour for New Zealanders.

“The really concerning thing about the numbers we have now is that it’s starting to look like a long-run trend,” he said.

“It’s not the fact we’ve lost over 30,000 in any one year, because that’s happened before. There is a gravity effect around this.

“If you go to Sydney and you need a bed for the first couple of weeks, chances are you are going to know someone; you’ll have a cousin there or something.

“It’s just become so much easier to go back and forth. Fifty-two per cent of our long-term immigrants go to Australia … and it’s not really overseas to people any more.”

Conway has studied wages on both sides of the Tasman for several years.

Taking into account annual exchange rates and purchasing power disparities, there was a 36.4% gap between Australian and New Zealand wages.

“People say it’s all about mining, but if you take mining out of their productivity figures and take agriculture, forestry and fishing out of ours, you have still got a huge gap with Australia,” he said.

“They are a bigger economy so they get a bit of an agglomeration effect, but also they have kept investing in capital and kept investing in skills, and they have had a better way of investing the rewards.”

Those all make significant impacts on the differences between here and there. Another is that year after year the Australian government has given tax cuts, allowing people to keep more of their hard-earned money.

But there are other factors taking people across the Tasman:

New Zealand Institute of Management chief executive David Chapman said retention of executive-level staff had been a long-term problem.

“There would be a lot of New Zealand families and mine would be no exception where the bright young people head off to Sydney and so forth because that’s where the bank wants to take them because that’s where the big jobs are,” he said.

“That’s been a worry for a while now. It’s a bit like the drift from Wellington to Auckland, but now it’s the New Zealand-Australia drift.”

Chapman said the Kiwi lifestyle was no longer enough of an incentive for managers to stay in New Zealand compared with their career ambitions.

“What drives managers is the companies that they work for, and the problem in recent times is that the ownership of a lot of those companies has moved to Australia and that has tended to relegate New Zealand to branch office operations,” he said.

“That means a lot of our good management talent gets taken to Australia to the headquarters of these companies. That has been going on for a few years now.”

And Australian companies are moving to Asia …


Farmers & CTU debate pay

03/09/2008

Farmers and growers need long term strategies  for developing their own workforces to counter labour shortages, Councils of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly says.

Her comments follow reports that short-staffed dairy farmers were being exploited by southern farm workers demanding “ridiculous” wages.

Peter Macfarlane, director of dairy farm workers recruitment company Greener Horizons Workforce, said some southern farm workers with little experience were demanding up to $50,000 a year plus free accommodation from farmers struggling to attract staff.

This was about $15,000 a year more than would normally be paid, Mr Macfarlane told the Southland Times.

The farm workers, who industry sources said worked between 50 and 60 hours a week on average over a year, were attempting to cash in on the booming dairy industry and record dairy payouts.

I’m not sure that 50 and 60 hours average over a year is correct. Dairy staff work longer hours during the milking season but have much shorter days over winter and farms use relief milkers to take the pressure off fulltime workers.

“There are people out there exploiting the situation because of the staff shortage,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“They are asking to get paid way more than their skills and ability deserve.”

But Ms Kelly said the admission by Southland dairy farmers that they were paying New Zealanders $35,000 per year for 50 to 60 hour weeks was shameful, particularly at a time when they were pressuring the Government to relax immigration requirements.

I’ve already disputed the hours and she’s not taking into account the value of the accommodation which comes on top of wages and is worth at least another $10,000 a year.

Yesterday wine growers were also complaining about the cost of labour while harvesting record crops, she said.

“The dairy farmers are openly admitting that New Zealand workers are available but that they turn them away because they are expecting $50,000 per year – hardly great riches for the long hours and hard work expected of them.

“We are also concerned to hear that it is apparently easy for farmers to replace these workers by employing foreign workers simply to reduce wages.

“Our immigration policies exist to fill genuine skills shortages, not to replace New Zealanders seeking work and not to cut wages and conditions.”

There is a genuine skills shortage on dairy farms – unemployment is very low and it’s extremely difficult to find New Zealanders with the desire and ability to milk cows.

Ms Kelly said New Zealanders were paying huge prices for dairy products and farmers were making more money than ever.

“It is an irony that farmers are happy to accept market demand as an excuse for higher and higher costs to consumers but don’t accept it when it has the same impact on labour costs.”

Ms Kelly said it was time some of this money was committed to building a sustainable industry, including decent wages, training, prospects and conditions of work.

The market has pushed up the cost of all farm inputs including labour. We don’t object to paying people a fair wage. The objection is to paying people with no skills or experience far more then they’re worth – where else could someone without qualifications or experience start on $35,000 plus a house? We’re also mindful that the costs won’t drop when returns inevitably do.

There is good training for farm workers from AG ITO, to universities.  Those with ability and application have good prospects and, while their will always be bad exceptions, there isn’t generally a problem with conditions.

The problem is supply and expectations – too few people willing and able to do the job for a fair wage.


8 new names on Labour list, but where?

31/08/2008

TV3, The Herald and Stuff all carry news that the Labour list had eight new faces who were promoted over some sitting MPs.

However, none have the whole list nor do they say where the newcomers are placed on it. The Labour website is paid for by parliamentary services so won’t mention candidates either.

On the running average of polls Labour is likely to have no more MPs after the election and may have fewer so Helen Clark will have the task of keeping disaffected MPs in line to add to her troubles.

The new people on the list are:

Rajen Prasad, former Race Relations Conciliator and Chief Families Commissioner;  Jacinda Ardern, a senior policy adviser to British Home Secretary Sir Ronnie Flanagan; Raymond Huo a lawyer and writer;  Phil Twyford, former global head of policy for Oxfam;  Council of Trade Unions secretary Carol Beaumont;  Maori education advocate Kelvin Davis; Carmel Sepuloni,  an equity manager at Auckland University; and Stuart Nash, who stood in Epsom last election and if memory serves me right conetested and lost the selection for Napier.

I wonder if the CTU will have the same problems with their secretary standing for Labour as the EPMU does with Shawn Tan standing for Act?

Update: I see on Keeping Stock that I should have checked Scoop which has the full list.

Exactly who gets in on the list depends on the party vote and which canidates further back on the list win seats because each seat won puts those in front of them on the list back a slot.

On current polling anyone past the mid 30s will be unlikely to get in unless they win a seat which could include some MPs.

Damien O’Connor at 37 followed by  Judith Tizard, Mark Burton, Mahara Okeroa, Martin Gallagher, Dave Hereora to  Louisa Wall at 43 will be unlikely to still be in parliament unless they win seats. Lesley Soper doesn’t have a show at 77 and unless she requested to be in a totally unelectable position it’s an insult to put a sitting MP so low.


%d bloggers like this: