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Structural discrimination

Written By: - Date published: 9:58 am, August 20th, 2012 - 9 comments
Categories: class, poverty, racism, racism, Unions - Tags: ,

Structural discrimination is alive and well in NZ. It makes nonsense of all the right-wing “one law for all” and beneficiary bashing rhetoric, but anyone with two honest brain cells in their head knows that it’s true. A new report from the Human Rights Commission is being released today:

Minorities not getting fair go, says watchdog

Structural discrimination is a “real and ongoing issue” and Maori, Pacific and ethnic people are not getting a fair go in New Zealand, a Human Rights Commission report says. The report – A Fair Go for All? – is being launched at the Diversity Forum in Auckland today.

Minority groups are being disadvantaged by the country’s one-size-fits-all system in public services, which does not account for different needs and values, the report says.

“Put simply, Maori, Pacific peoples and ethnic communities are not getting a fair go in New Zealand’s justice, health and education systems,” said Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres.

“The evidence is that a monocultural approach continues to fail Maori, Pacific and ethnic communities.”

Some communities have problems accessing systems and services here because of structural barriers, the report says.

Key social indicators point to significant inequalities between ethnic groups in New Zealand, the report says, with life expectancy for Maori and Pacific people lower than for Europeans. …

The report aims to encourage discussion about initiatives to address inequalities by creating systemic change and to facilitate discussion between government agencies. ….

“Unfortunately, negative political opinion is sometimes used to erode small gains, programmes are shut down after only a few years’ implementation, targeted funding is cut and a refusal to see inequality in terms of ethnicity, despite evidence to the contrary, drives policy development.”

Just as one current example of what is going on:

Union members and their supporters occupied three Burger King stores on Queen St in protest at their treatment of immigrant workers. The move came as another union launched a network to improve the conditions of migrant workers. …

The union has taken cases to the Employment Relations Authority, saying Burger King is exploiting and abusing what it says is mainly a migrant work force that’s too scared to speak out. “It is because the company has told their managers to get them to quit their union because if they did speak to the union their visa wouldn’t be extended and then they’d have to go back to their homeland,” says Jerry Prakash of Unite Union. …

Mr Whitehead believes the number of migrant workers being exploited all across New Zealand could be in the hundreds of thousands.

From the same piece:

Burger King denies this, saying it doesn’t threaten its workers and that they are free to join unions.

Well they would, wouldn’t they. But this kind of protest doesn’t happen for no reason:

More than 40 protesters held an hour-long working conditions “teach-in” outside the Burger King outlet at Aotea Square in Auckland yesterday. … The Unite union national director, Mike Treen, said the protest was to speak up for the company’s workers about a culture of exploitation over pay and individuals being intimidated not to join the union.

We still have a long, long way to go before we eliminate structural discrimination in this country. And we won’t make any progress at all under a beneficiary-bashing “one law for all” type National government.

9 comments on “Structural discrimination”

  1. Carol 1

    Yes, this shows how dysfunctional our employment structure is. CEO’s paid a fortune while marginalised workers are exploited and dehumanised.

    And, of course, such corporations are happy to have high unemployment because some workers are grateful for any job, n matter how low the pay and nasty the work conditions.


    “There are now 162,000 New Zealanders unemployed, this number has risen by 1.1 percent – these figures continue to be alarmingly high. We need to focus on job creation, and support NZ jobs through government procurement. We need to boost training for Kiwi workers in Christchurch, build trains in New Zealand, retain good Government jobs, increase infrastructure projects, increase skill development programmes, reinstate tertiary spending cuts and stop hoping the market will fix this. Each percentage increase represents real people facing a miserable future unless together we take action.”

    And the stats show that the low paid workers who suffer most in this situation are Maori, Pacific and some other immigrants.

    • aerobubble 1.1

      People without income cannot buy goods and services, shrinking the economy, National love it.

  2. Dr Terry 2

    We appear to have Commissioners for lots of people, and they put out these splendid and well-founded reports. How is it that, as far as I can see, not one such report is treated other than contemptuously by the Government? Is there any great significance in the appointment of Commissioners in this day?

  3. Your excellent article appeared in our Daily News Digest on Discrimination!

  4. aerobubble 4

    Tax and redistribute. Joyce was on the Nation declaring that not taxing capital gains is good for the economy. He’s obviously wrong. Branding, for example, has to be paid for and so products cost more that are branded, there is a huge increase in value in companies who own such brands.
    Taxing an asset, or a capital gain, actually regulates the industry, provides a basis for value, and decreases the burden of taxation from other taxes. so if the government obviously delusional does
    not want a better functioning nation, why the hell would it care about discrimination. National don’t want better economy, they want to conserve the old regime or constant change, of opening up new
    areas to rent seekers. At its core National are corrupt, as Labour was. Nothing has changed because
    there is no good faith agreement, how can there be when the two major parties essential the same.
    Sure Labour says CGT now, but only because even the rent seekers see not doing so is a lose-lose.

  5. Mike Steinberg 5

    Why are Asians omitted from those statistics? I think you’ll find that they have lower imprisonment and unemployment rates than Europeans.

    I suppose that means that Europeans face structural discrimination in NZ??

    • Carol 5.1

      Asians that immigrate to NZ tend to be amongst the better off in their home societies – or at least from the middle income brackets.

      In contrast Maori and Pacific people tend to be amongst the lower income sections of their countries of birth.

      • Mike Steinberg 5.1.1

        There are asians who have been here for several generations though and didn’t necessarily arrive here from the better off sections of society. If structural discrimination was the problem de Bres suggests I would anticipate their intergenerational progress to be poor, but that’s not the case at all.

        Also, the same situation is seen with East Asian migrants in places like Brazil and the US who were brought over as indentured labour. Subsequent generations also tend to do rather well.

        I think you need to consider other bio-cultural factors for these trends.

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