Essential Information on an Essential Issue
14 April, 1998
- UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME
Highlights from Sally Learner's keynote address to the Universal Basic Income Network Annual Conference
Why not a Universal Wage rather than benefits?
- THE CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT
What it means for N.Z.
- BASIC INCOME CONFERENCE
The Universal Basic Income (UBI) NZ Network held its second annual conference
in Wellington late last month. The meeting attracted 50-100 people, including several
overseas academics. Keynote speaker was Canadian academic Sally Lerner, co-ordinator of
the Futurework internet conference.
The whole idea of a universal living wage may seem totally out of step with the overall theme
of the "leaner and meaner" welfare reforms now taking place in the western world. But a
recent OECD "Forum for the Future" identified a "universal citizen's income" as one of four
innovative approaches to finding "the balance between economic flexibility and societal
cohesion" (OECD: Societal Cohesion and the Globalising Economy, Paris 1997). The OECD's
consideration of the concept is part of an emerging international consensus that fundamental changes in
the nature of work driven by the twin engines of economic globalisation and rapid
technological change _ require serious attention.
In this issue of The Jobs Letter, we feature some highlights from Sally Lerner's keynote
address to the conference, and also an article by Wellington's
City Voice editor Simon Collins about the application of a UBI concept in NZ.
- FORESTRY JOBS TO GO
About 200 central North Island forestry workers are expected to hear this week that
their jobs will go after Fletcher Challenge decides to cut its harvest levels by 30%. The cuts are a
result of the Asian financial crisis hitting log exports. The job losses will be in harvesting crews,
and some trucking crews, especially those transporting logs to ports. The lay-offs will amount
to nearly a quarter of all the harvesting crews working in the region. Fletcher Forests is one of
NZ's largest log exporters, and it does not see the job situation improving dramatically in the
Meanwhile, the Port of Tauranga is instigating an industry review to offset a continuing slump
in log exports. It has seen exports at the port plummet 30% in the recent months _ almost all
sales related to South Korea and Port executives believe the downturn could last 2-3 years.
The Wood Industries Union estimates that already 350 union members in the forestry
industry have lost their jobs since December, with workers laid off at mills and factories all over the
country. Union Secretary Jim Jones estimates the total impact of the downturn as affecting over
1,000 workers in the past three months. He expects another 1,000 to lose their jobs before the end
of this year.
Source _ The Dominion 9 April 1998 "Fletcher jobs to go after log harvest cut" by Roeland van den Bergh; New
Zealand Herald 9 April 1998 "Axe hangs over 200 more forest jobs" by Bronwyn Sell.
- McCARDLE GETS THE JOB
Employment Minister Peter McCardle is to get the job he has hoped for being
sole Minister in charge of the new super-department being created out of the merger between
NZ Employment Service and Income Support. He will now oversee the transition process as
the department comes into being on the 1st October.
As Minister, McCardle will be responsible for running the department, and "all services to
be provided to working age beneficiaries". Social Welfare Minister Roger Sowry will retain
responsibility for Income Support until 1st October, and after this will be responsible for "services to
be provided for non-working age beneficiaries" (such as NZ superannuation and war pensions).
- The Social Policy Agency and the Labour Market Policy Group will not become a part
of the new super-department. The various Ministers will be purchasing policy and advice from
these agencies who will remain part of their existing Ministries. It has been decided that the new
department will not be a policy advice department, and that its contribution to policy will be limited
to operational perspectives.
- Legislation has been introduced into parliament to facilitate the establishment of the
new super-department. Main points in the Bill:
staff who transfer to the new department will be guaranteed no less favorable terms and
conditions than those they enjoyed in the department they are transferring from.
Nobody now contracting with any of the organisations that will make up the new
department can claim for breach of contract simply because administration of the contract is transferring
to the new department.
An amendment to the Education Act will transfer the administration of student allowances
to the new department.
The new super-department still does not have a name. This fact is a continuing source
of entertainment and creativity amongst its potential employees with various acronyms
and tongue-in-cheek suggestions circulating staff of Income Support and NZES.
Meanwhile, the Auckland design company Maxim has been commissioned to draw up the
serious options of name and logo for "market testing" the new "branding" with staff and stakeholders.
- Peter McCardle has been in the firing line of several personal attacks in the media in
recent weeks. Opposition parties have been trying to brand him as a "do-nothing member of
cabinet". Leading the charge has been Wellington's Evening Post, which in an editorial described
McCardle as PM Jenny Shipley's worst non-performing asset, and questioned what he had done to justify
his $135,000 salary since taking office. The paper described McCardle as "missing, presumably
During the debate on the introduction of legislation to create the new super-department,
Labour's Steve Maharey complained: "Have we had 16 months work on this, by this minister who has
only one portfolio, who does not do anything else, who never seems to be in the House, who
never seems to be in the electorate, who never seems to be anywhere?" Maharey predicts that
with McCardle's appointment to the new agency, the government will end up with another
Birch-Peters combination but it will be Roger Sowry who will be driving Peter McCardle.
- Expect: more visibility forthcoming from Peter McCardle, especially surrounding an
announcement on the community wage proposals, later this month.
Source _ Transition Talk Issue 14, 1 April 1988; Transition Talk Issue 15, 8 April 1988; The Evening Post editorial 28
March 1998 "Minister should front up"; Evening Post 6 April 1998 "MPs use Post editorial as weapon"; The Dominion 9 April
1998 "McCardle to head job and dole agency"
- NELSON JOBLESS REPORT
One of the most comprehensive surveys in recent years on local "barriers to
employment" has just been completed in Nelson. The research, based on a survey of 244 local job seekers,
was commissioned by the Nelson Tasman Regional Employment Committee. It's findings will
be controversial because it highlights how
institutional barriers (beyond the job-seeker's
control, such as type of jobs available, training costs, and the service of government agencies) are
considered more critical reasons for not finding a job, than
personal factors (such as age, gender,
ethnicity, access to childcare or willingness to work).
Top reasons identified as "barriers to employment": the type of work available, and the cost
of training. Lack of qualifications, unhelpful attitudes of government agencies and the
financial disincentives of wage and benefit levels were cited as the next most significant barriers.
The regional employment committee launched the survey because there was a consensus
amongst its members that "ad-hoc" information was not giving a true picture of the local
unemployment situation. The group felt they needed to quantify barriers to employment from the point of view
of those seeking work.
The group of job seekers in the survey had a wide range of vocational and educational
qualifications, and had attended a variety of training courses in the previous two years. Most were
seeking paid work, and very few regarded themselves as "unwilling to work". Most had access to
personal transport and childcare, and standards of literacy and numeracy were high.
The survey report recommended that government employment policy should focus on
reducing structural, or institutional barriers to employment, and that job creation should be
promoted through a co-ordinated regional economic development initiative. Report co-writer Liz
Richards: "There should be a more effective match between vocational skills training and industry
labour needs, and improved access to government employment agencies"
Source _ Nelson Tasman Regional Employment Committee " Barriers to Employment Survey" March 1998, compiled by
Liz Richards(Healthy Communities Co-ordinator) and Steve Richards (Village Community Trust)
- MAORI COMMISSIONERS NAMED
Two important commissions looking at Maori employment and economic issues were
finally appointed last month by the Minister of Maori Affairs, Tau Henare. The Commissions are a
part of four think-tanks on the major social issues effecting Maori, and were part of the
coalition agreement between National and NZ First announced in December 1996.
The Commissioners were selected in consultation with the Maori constituency MPs and the
New Zealand First caucus, and candidates were nominated by Maori organisations, Te Puni Kokiri,
The Commissioners are:
Maori Economic Development Commission
-- June McCabe (Chair), currently the Chief Manager Government Business for the Westpac
Trust, she is the former Chief Executive Officer of the Home Mortgage Company;
-- Ben Dalton, an Employment Adviser for the Community Employment Group;
-- Malcolm Henare, businessman;
-- Bill Osborne, Group Manager, NZ Post, and the Chief Executive of NZPIL;
-- Maurice Selwyn, businessman.
Maori Employment and Training Commission:
-- Rongo Wetere (Chair), Tumuaki of Te Wananga o Aotearoa;
-- Grant Berghan, Chief Executive Officer for Te Hauora o Te Tai Tokerau;
-- Druis Barrett, President of the Maori Women's Welfare League;
-- Judith Hawkins, self employed business consultant;
-- Reginald Ratahi, working with Te Whanau O Waipareira Trust;
-- Wally Stone, Chief Executive of Whale Watch Kaikoura.
Fuller profiles of the commissioners can be found on the TPK website at
Source _ the TPK website at http://www.tpk.govt.nz/press/named.htm
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