NZEI letting teachers down

November 13, 2018

If unions don’t understand why they aren’t always well regarded they need look no further than this:

The teachers’ strike is going ahead tomorrow because the venues for union meetings were already booked.

The primary teachers’ union offered that explanation when asked why the pay offer it received on Thursday wasn’t enough to avert next week’s action. . . 

The NZEI’s teacher lead negotiator Liam Rutherford told the Weekend Collective the offer came through really late in the piece.

“And so to that extent, we didn’t consider calling off the strike because we’ve got venues booked around country.”

Rutherford says they have been really flexible, but when you already have so many meeting venues booked, a half day to consider an offer is not enough. . . 

The Employment Relations Authority recommends teachers accept the offer.

Teachers have a lot of sympathy for their claims not just for more pay but also for better conditions.

But continuing with  strikes before considering the latest offer will do them and their cause absolutely no good.

That the union justifies continuing strike action because it has booked meeting rooms will erode sympathy further.

NZEI is letting teachers down and this nonsense supports the argument that too often unions do what’s good for unions, not their members.


Where’s line between exchange and exploitation?

January 11, 2018

An organic farm has been found to have exploited thousands of travellers:

An organic farm near Christchurch was ruled to have breached the rights of workers it said were volunteers by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), following an Inspectorate investigation.

While no records were kept on site at Robinwood Farms Limited, the sole director and shareholder Julia Osselton said that she had over a thousand people travel through her business every year.

“Rather than enjoying a genuine volunteer experience, these people were exploited as free labour for the profit of Ms Osselton’s businesses,” says Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden.

“While Ms Osselton claimed that these workers were ‘WWOOFers’ engaged in a cultural and skill based exchange, and not employees, our investigation showed this was clearly not the case.

“It is not acceptable for businesses to attempt to evade their obligations by calling their workers volunteers and simply rewarding them with a bed and some food.

In theory there might be a line between an exchange and exploitation, but it would be difficult to draw it in practice.

If people are working they must be paid at least a minimum wage and if they’re getting accommodation and food, that is probably liable for fringe benefit tax.

“This practice is unfair to businesses that do follow the law and pay their employees, and takes advantage of the good nature of travellers who may not know their employment rights.”

Evidence uncovered on the farm in Tai Tapu showed the so-called ‘volunteers’ were working up to 40 hours per week, often as labour hired out to garden or cut firewood for Ms Osselton’s profit.

They were paid $120 per week in addition to food and accommodation, regardless of hours worked or what work they performed, with a visitors book on site showing many to be from overseas.

This account of the businesses was supported in witness accounts from a New Zealand woman and a Chinese man who both had worked for Robinwood Farms between November and December 2015.

Both said Ms Osselton did not supply them with employment agreements, minimum wage or annual leave for their work. The ERA ruled they were each owed over $2600 in arrears.

A witness statement from another worker provided to the ERA recalled ‘inhumane’ living conditions, where they slept in a small storage room under the stairs without proper ventilation or a heater.

The Inspectorate was also told that food was routinely collected from waste bins at supermarkets before being fed to workers at Robinwood Farms along with spoilt meat.

The ERA already ruled against one of Ms Osslelton’s businesses for her use of volunteers, with more than $20,000 paid to a Spanish man employed by Karamea Holiday Homes Limited.

While penalties to be paid by Robinwood Farms for the breaches are still being discussed, the company could be liable for up to $20,000 per employee per breach.

“Wherever a worker is being rewarded in a business at whatever level, the Labour Inspectorate’s starting position is that these people are employees and minimum employment standards apply.”

Anyone concerned about their employment situation, or the situation of someone they know, should call 0800 20 90 20 where they can report their concerns in a safe environment.

This clears up any doubts about whether WWOOFers are paid workers of not.

If they’re being rewarded for their work in any way they are employees and therefore covered by employment law which requires the payment of minimum wages and adherence to other conditions designed to prevent exploitation.


Rural round-up

January 27, 2016

NIA shows duty cuts to major export destinations – Neal Wallace:

Annual duty savings of $272 million will be removed on exports to five signatories to the Trans Pacific Partnership with which New Zealand does not have trade agreements, the Government revealed today.  

Trade Minister Todd McClay released the national interest analysis (NIA) on the 12-country agreement which largely confirmed trade benefits it had announced earlier.  

The NIA revealed exporters paid duty of $334 million a year on exports to five countries with which NZ does not have free trade agreements, the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico and Peru. . . 

Westland Lowers Pay-Out Predictions as Global Dairy Prices Predicted to Remain Low:

Westland Milk Products, New Zealand’s second biggest dairy co-operative, today announced a drop in its pay-out predictions for 2015-16, saying a forecast 15 to 25 percent reduction across all commodity products for the remainder of the season is the driving force behind the decision.

Chairman Matt O’Regan says the new predicted payout of $4.15 – $4.45 per kilogramme of milk solids (kgMS) (previously $4.90 to $5.30 per kgMS) will be grim news for Westland’s shareholders but, given the widely publicised state of the global dairy market, not unexpected. He says lower prices are expected to remain for this season and probably into the second half of 2016 – the beginning of the 2016-7 season. . . 

New Zealand’s future agri-leaders in running for trans-Tasman award:

• 2016 Zanda McDonald Award finalists announced

Two young New Zealand agri-business professionals have made it through to the finals for the 2016 Zanda McDonald Award.

Dean Rabbidge, a dairy, beef and sheep farmer from Wyndham, Southland, and Erica van Reenen, an agricultural and environmental consultant with AgFirst, based in Manawatu, have been selected as finalists alongside soil scientist, Wesley Lefroy, from Western Australia.

The three, who attended interviews in Brisbane late last year, will join the PPP ‘Capital Connections’ Conference in Wellington in March – where the award winner will be announced. . . 

Drought in South Island enters second year:

Widespread drought conditions in the South Island mean the medium-scale event classification will be extended until the end of June, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.

“Extra funding of up to $150,000 will go to local Rural Support Trusts with $40,000 of this going to the North Canterbury Trust,” says Mr Guy. 

Speaking with farmers at a sheep and beef farm in Weka Pass, Hurunui, Mr Guy acknowledged this is the third time the classification has been extended.

“Marlborough, Canterbury and parts of Otago were originally classified as a medium-scale event on 12 February 2015 and have had very little rainfall for more than a year now. . . 

Drought resistant pasture being investigated:

Scientists have identified a type of plant that recovers quicker than others after drought and are taking the next steps to get it on to farmers’ paddocks.

But they say it could be eight to 10 years before it is available.

The Primary Growth Partnership – Transforming the Dairy Value Chain is funding the research into pasture resistance.

It comes at a crucial time with 2015 being the hottest on record and Marlborough, Canterbury and parts of Otago enduring their second season of drought. . . 

Industry Challenged by new forest technology:

Foresters face paradigm shift for logging steep slopes

The tables are being turned on foresters and logging contractors in British Columbia. Disruptive technology from New Zealand is set to create a whole new way of logging in B.C.’s forests. When meeting challenges to safely harvest NZ’s steep sloped forests, practicing foresters found convincing safety advantages with the new harvesting technology.

In recent years, loggers in New Zealand’s forest industry faced safety challenges in tree falling, especially on steep slopes. There was no choice but to reduce accidents. Up and down the steep, forested country, people turned to the safety of mechanised harvesters. Simultaneously, safety and productivity improved. . . 

Intensifying workplace laws means there are no longer any ‘family farms’ and they can’t be an extension of a backyard playground – John Brosnan:

It’s a new year on farm.

You have negotiated the Christmas and the New Year breaks with the team, so now is a good time to take a breath and consider – what next?

Well first out the gate will be the new WorkSafe legislation which comes into force 1st April this year. Are you prepared for this? Have you prepared an operational plan and put in place a robust health and safety policy? Do you and all your employees have a means to adhere to it? . . 

Canterbury dairy farm penalised for employment law breaches:

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered Viewbank Dairy Ltd near Rakaia to rectify employment law breaches discovered by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Labour Inspectorate and pay $7,500 in penalties.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Labour Inspectorate visited the farm as part of an audit to check for compliance with minimum employment standards on dairy farms. A number of breaches were identified and an Improvement Notice was issued. The Inspector brought the case before the ERA when the employer failed to comply with parts of the Notice.

Labour Inspectorate Southern Regional Manager Stuart Lumsden says the investigation found that several workers had been treated as casual employees when in fact they were permanent. . . 

Take advantage of steady nutrient costs:

The Fertiliser Quality Council (FQC) says current stability around fertiliser prices will give farm budgets an early boost for 2016 – but only if farmers are quick to seize the opportunity.

The two main fertiliser manufacturers, Ballance and Ravensdown, have kept costs for major nutrients under control since September 2015 – despite economic volatility caused by last year’s slide in the value of the New Zealand dollar.

The FQC says there’s no knowing for how long the good deals will continue and urges farmers to take advantage of the co-ops’ goodwill while it lasts. . . 

Karaka Select Sale Commences Today:

The first day of the Karaka Select Sale commences today at 11am with Lot 448 to Lot 670 going under the hammer.

The Sale will be streamed live online. To view the live stream, click here.

There have been 27 Group 1 wins from graduates of the Select Sale over the past three seasons. The new season has seen Mongolian Khan (Holy Roman Emperor) and Tarzino (NZ) (Tavistock) both land Group 1 races during the Melbourne Spring Carnival. . . 


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