Arses and Elbows

Written By: - Date published: 11:35 am, July 1st, 2018 - 50 comments
Categories: business, class war, cost of living, discrimination, employment, equality, minimum wage, wages, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

A few weeks ago, it was reported that

All core public service employees are being given a pay rise to at least the living wage of $20.55 [and it] will apply to full-time, part-time and casual employees.

That’s good. And in line with commitments made during the election campaign, there’s a “Triangulation Bill” at the Select Committee stage of proceedings that would end the rort of workers by employment agencies. Currently, a worker employed through an employment agency has no claim against the employer who actually runs their place of work. So the purpose of the triangulation bill is

..to ensure that employees employed by one employer, but working under the control and direction of another business or organisation, are not deprived of the right to coverage of a collective agreement, and to ensure that such employees are not subject to a detriment in their right to allege a personal grievance.

So far, so good.

Taking those two movements in the area of workplace relations, would it not be reasonable to expect the public service to prepare for or even pre-figure some of those changes? It seems not.

IRD have changed the agency it uses for some 130 of its call centre workers, and the Employment Agreements they are being asked to sign, quite frankly, beggar fcking belief.

Their new employer will be Madison Recruitment. Against the backdrop of changes coming through, IRD have chosen to use an agency that expects workers to accept not necessarily being told what their wage will be; nor an indication of where they are to work; or even a description of the work, and no indication of  expected hours of work.

Just widgets then. Not people.

And IRD spokesperson, Pete van Schaardenburg (that’s him in the picture), is cute enough when asked for comment, to point out that the call centre workers workers are not IRD employees and claim it would inappropriate for him to comment on the Employment Agreements offered by the Agency that IRD itself had chosen as the result of a tender process.

So core public service workers will get a living wage, but not workers in core public services who are employed through agencies. And the living wage will be rolled out to casual workers over time, but again, not if they are employed through an employment agency.

Does the Triangulation Bill before select committee confront that iniquity? Not being familiar with the details of the bill, I’m not sure. But regardless, what is going on when, on the one hand government has made all these noises about improving worker’s wages and conditions, and on the other, government agencies are contracting out through employment agencies such as Madison with their repulsive Employment Agreements in a move that could easily be seen as a wage cutting exercise?

Update. After publishing this post I came across a press release from Unite where they state that Stuart Nash has not responded to their communications over IRD contracting out to Madison. I’d be thinking that’s not a very good look at all, given that Nash was also “unavailable for comment” when the stuff article linked to in the post was published.

50 comments on “Arses and Elbows”

  1. cleangreen 1

    Un-believable again I am gob-stopped at this.

    Privatisation of public workforce employees is toxic to our core prinipals here as they always have a same excuse for not being held responsible for our public services, “as they are not as IRD spokesperson, Pete van Schaardenburg claims ‘workers are not IRD employees and claim it would inappropriate for him to comment on the Employment Agreements offered by the Agency,

    Classic excuse use by ‘privateers’ to not answer to any critisisms of their acrtions.

  2. Pat 2

    “A spokeswoman for Revenue Minister Stuart Nash said he was unavailable for comment. “

    • Bill 2.1

      I saw that in the stuff article I linked, but thought I’d let it slide on the grounds there could have been a genuine enough reason for Nash not responding in time for publication.

      But since putting the post up, I’ve come across this on scoop.

      Unite has contacted IRD who refused to meet to discuss these issues.

      Unite has contacted Minister Stuart Nash who has not responded.

      edit – so on the grounds that the presser from Unite is dated the 28th (meaning they sought a response from Nash before that date), and the stuff article was last updated on the 30th…I’d say Nash is being a (insert word or words of choice)

      Fuck it. I’ve updated the post to include Nash’s silence.

      • Pat 2.1.1

        I wonder if he’ll find time to comment in the coming week?

        I know they arnt going to get any favours from the status quo interests but they really do appear determined to make life as difficult for themselves as possible at times.

      • Gabby 2.1.2

        I choose ‘tory mole’.

      • Chris 2.1.3

        Just like with social welfare issues (and no doubt plenty of others) Labour’s chickens are coming home to roost. It’s again getting close to rubber hits the road time. I remember in 1999 when everybody relaxed and thought things will be sorted because we’ve got the ‘right government’. Then Labour shafted us. We were at the same time too stunned to do anything and too scared to complain because surely ‘it must be a mistake’. Then Labour kept shafting us. By the time we realised we couldn’t stand by and watch any longer the baton has been handed to Keys and his mates. Baby or no baby, if the left lets this happen again we’re fucked.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Against the backdrop of changes coming through, IRD have chosen to use an agency that expects workers to accept not necessarily being told what their wage will be; nor an indication of where they are to work; or even a description of the work, and no indication of expected hours of work.

    Which is ridiculous in many ways:

    1. IRD actually need that call centre filled with well trained staff and so it would be better to have the call centre as part of IRD rather than getting a contractor.
    2. Getting a contractor in to do it won’t be saving any money but it will make the service worse.
    3. It looks like IRD is about to contract a company that is actually breaking the law which is not a good look for any government department but especially IRD.
    4. Keeping people on below living wage rates is detrimental to the community.

    • Craig H 3.1

      As someone who used to work in the IRD contact centre, temps were used to do easy stuff in peak times like tell people their IRD number and update addresses – all easy enough to learn. Not that I endorse actually using temps, but it’s not like they are used to do anything difficult.

      • Bill 3.1.1

        I see that you’ve written you do not endorse using temps.

        But I’m a bit lost on the “not difficult” angle that implies it’s somehow okay to view and treat people as widgets as long as what they are doing isn’t difficult…

        • Craig H 3.1.1.1

          Updating addresses and similar aspects of the work are not difficult. Explaining things like taxes, working for families and Kiwisaver to employers, on the other hand, is difficult, and why training is important, as is not treating staff like widgets.

          One issue is that there is a lot of work around July particularly, and a lot less work around Christmas, so IRD struggles with that a little. To go away from temps or fixed term employees requires accepting a little fat in the system at that time of year – fine by me but needs a mindset and budget shift.

    • dukeofurl 3.2

      This came up some years back for Social Welfare call centres, and WINZ directly employed them rather than have a contractor operate the centre( and all the wrong info being given out as a result)
      Dont know if it applies still ?

  4. adam 4

    Another glorious example of the labour party being right wing (economically)

    • Incognito 4.1

      Let’s briefly consider the possibility that Labour has ‘inherited’ this from the previous government.

      Inland Revenue spokesman Pete van Schaardenburg confirmed the department had gone out to tender to select a partner to provide “contingent labour across our business” in November and had selected Madison Recruitment.

      “We gave our existing provider Salmat, which has provided contingent labour for our contact centres only, a six-month notice period. The service provision from Salmat will end on September 30.

      As you can see in the link below, the Government Tender Request for Proposals (RFP) opened on 7 Nov 2017 and quickly (?) closed 20 days (!) later on 27 Nov 2017.

      As you know, the current Government got sworn in on 26 Oct 2017.

      The Tender was awarded on 21 March 2018.

      https://www.gets.govt.nz/IRD/ExternalTenderDetails.htm?id=19207205

      • Bill 4.1.1

        Not quite getting you there Icognito.

        Government sworn in on Oct 26. Tender process begins after that date, ends just a month after that date, and is decided on, fully five months after that date.

        So unless I’m missing something around a new government being “locked-in” to processes that haven’t even started when they assume the position of office, then the “brief” entertainment of the idea that this was ‘inherited’ has been and gone in a blink.

        Or maybe that was what you meant to illustrate?

        • dukeofurl 4.1.1.1

          Public Service Act doesnt allow Ministers to ‘ choose the providers’ nor the terms and conditions of any contracts for the departments they oversee.
          They ARENT CEOs
          if they did interfere directly they would be told to FO. – Happens more than you think
          https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/sites/default/files/2017-06/cabinet-manual-2017.pdf

          Under section 33 of the State Sector Act, chief executives must act
          independently in matters such as the appointment, promotion, or disciplining of individual employees. They are not responsible to their Minister in such matters. Generally, the duty of independence and the obligation to act as a good employer will make it inappropriate for a chief executive to involve the Minister in any staffing matter.

        • Incognito 4.1.1.2

          At the change of Government last year IRD was “in the middle of a large-scale transformation” (see link to BIM below), i.e. the process was well and truly underway before the RFP was announced. I tried unsuccessfully to find anything more specific info in the BIM but there certainly is some interesting information about planned and already-actioned restructuring & reorganisation of IRD and some of the most relevant info to the OP can be found on pg. 28 & 29. For example:

          We are exploring alternatives if the new organisation design cannot be fully implemented on 12 February 2018 as planned, due to some concerns raised by one of the unions about the selection processes for some of the new roles. While this will not prevent the implementation of Release 2 in April 2018, it may compromise the effectiveness of our new ways of working.

          Nonetheless, as noted above, embedding a new organisation design, systems and processes as we seek to downsize our workforce will be challenging and will take time. During this time, clear and honest communication with our people and constructive engagement with our unions will continue to be our key areas of focus. [There’s more in the 39-page document]

          http://www.ird.govt.nz/resources/5/6/567a4e90-731e-4ba8-a682-6120a06e49ac/briefing-for-the-incoming-minister-of-revenue-2017.pdf

          I don’t know at what stage IRD got legally locked in with Madison but there are various levels (i.e. at various stages of contract negotiation) of being ‘locked in’.

          Given that IRD, as a Government Department, is autonomous I’d question how much direct , if any at all, oversight and/or involvement the accountable Minister has (had) at any stage of the overall process.

          My comment @ 4.1 was to Adam who, IMO, was tilting at windmills by trying point the finger to Labour as the responsible party [pun] for IRD’s internal decisions regarding “employment matters” and considering this “[A]nother glorious example of the labour party being right wing (economically)”; it has no bearing on the IRD issue.

      • adam 4.1.2

        Incognito you have not saying anything I did not say. The economics has not changed. So it’s the same hard right economics we have had for sometime now, some will argue this is it just playing itself out.

        As for this tender, BFW, politics is the art of changing one’s mind. But if they want to prove how slavish they are to this hard right economic plan, then by all means keep supporting this silliness.

        • Incognito 4.1.2.1

          Adam, whether you like it or not, and no matter how much you think it is the case, the Minister has (had) no say in this as it is up to the IRD management to make these decisions – the large funding package was approved in November 2015 by the then-Cabinet.

          There are strict rules around the tender process and procurement and they cannot be changed on a whim.

          • adam 4.1.2.1.1

            The process argument. It really is the argument of people who have got nothing else.

            The point of left politics, is change, and change to benefit working people. The point of agreement is that socialism, in one form or another will bring about that constructive change.

            To embrace hard right economics, and say the process made me do it – is no different that saying “I’m only following orders”. You have to ask how well does that argument hold up with the voting public?

            • Incognito 4.1.2.1.1.1

              I note that you conveniently ignored the main argument in and of my comments.

              There are good reasons why there are strict rules for Government Procurement with Taxpayers’ money and surely you don’t want the Minister-of-the-day to change these on a whim?

              In any case, I think comparing the tender process with the political process is comparing apples with oranges, i.e. a false equivalence and thus a non-argument.

              If you like to argue that the tender process is intrinsically bad for working people, e.g. because it is directed at the market, sends out a clear signal to the market, and “promote[s] open, fair competition for New Zealand Government contract opportunities”, and why it should be changed on the fly then please make that argument.

              Edit: I should clarify my assertion that the tender process “cannot be changed on a whim”. It can be changed, which will take a huge effort because of those pesky little things called Laws, Acts and the likes, and will have major consequences, some of which may be as intended (“benefit working people”?) and some of which may be unforeseen and unintended. You mentioned “constructive change” …

              • adam

                No one is saying don’t be careful with our money.

                That said, it’s our money, we want socialist solutions on this issue. You know, fair wages, and conditions. So be socialist in how you spend our money – not this hard right economic “There is no alternative” argument you keep pushing.

                There are laws, so change them. Just because national wreaked the civil service for cheap ideological point scoring, there is no need for a government who said it would improve the life of working people to do the same thing. Nor for them to follow the same broken economic ideology of the last 40 odd years, which produces situations just like this.

                I like how conservative and anti socialist you keep painting yourself Incognito, are you doing it on purpose, or is it an unintended consequence of defending shitty hard right economics?

  5. David Mac 5

    I can imagine fluctuating staffing needs depending on where we are in the financial year cycle. For a few months, 1000’s of “Where’s my refund cheque?” calls coming in.

    Whilst an agency might make sense, said agency treating their people like things is well wrong.

    If the IRD person on the other end of the phone has an indepth knowledge of the NZ taxation system, our obligations, their IT systems etc I think it is right that they have a more substantial remuneration arrangement than people brought in to punch in an IRD number and say “Your cheque is (or isn’t) in the mail Mr Jones”.

    • dukeofurl 5.1

      No one ‘gets refund cheques’ anymore .

      You have to supply a bank account number for payments.
      Anyway they dont release the payments for some months after the refund amount is accepted. I suppose they go through some sort of checking against similar groups to pick out those that are outside the norms.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      I can imagine fluctuating staffing needs depending on where we are in the financial year cycle. For a few months, 1000’s of “Where’s my refund cheque?” calls coming in.

      All of which would be known and thus could easily be planned for. It may even use agencies for short term stuff the same way that Stats contracted Telnet for the weeks of the census.

      But their core call-centre, which will have very limited and well understood fluctuations, should be in-house.

      • David Mac 5.2.1

        I think the regular incoming calls, the stuff they get all year, are best directed by a recorded message system.

        As a client, rather than a receptionist, I’d rather hear “Are you self employed and would you like to talk to someone about your return this year? Press 3” and be connected with someone that has an indepth working knowledge of the subject I wish to discuss.

        If the recorded message asks if I want to know about my tax refund for this year, I’d expect to be connected to one of the temps in question.

        • Draco T Bastard 5.2.1.1

          I think the regular incoming calls, the stuff they get all year, are best directed by a recorded message system.

          All call centres have the auto-direct thing.

          If the recorded message asks if I want to know about my tax refund for this year, I’d expect to be connected to one of the temps in question.

          If it’s that simple then perhaps it should tell you how much you’re getting rather than passing it on to a person. It’s a good question as to how much can be done without involving a person at all.

          And then, of course, there’s the internet where you can pretty much do everything. Hopefully the new computer system will allow you to do everything online up to and including full business accounting.

  6. Philg 6

    Not surprising, especially from Nash. He could easily be accommodated on the opposition benches as a righty.

    • David Mac 6.1

      WOLST – Wary of lefties Slater tolerates.

      • dukeofurl 6.1.1

        Not Slater. he knows Lusk who masqueraded, like quite a few others, as ‘Whaleoil’

    • dukeofurl 6.2

      Employment agreements and contractors are the sole responsibility of the Commissioner of Inland Revenue.
      Its not how NZs public service works, the Minister isnt involved in deciding which contractor to use or to chose full time employees instead.
      Thats why theres ‘no comment’.

      The Core Public Service living wage hasnt happened yet, but was decided at the State Services level.

      • adam 6.2.1

        Sometime all politics is, is pointing out how shit process is. And process in this instance, is just another weapon in the beige revolution against working people.

        Or just more hard right economics stuffing with people trying to get by.

        • dukeofurl 6.2.1.1

          One step at a time.
          First get the living wage in
          Then certainly tackle the ‘contractors’ question and there terrible conditions, for everyone.
          Its endemic ,the sham contracting, the power exercised by the recruitment contractors ( which often is used to hold wages down) and it seems they are expanding to foreign worker recruitment with dubious circumstances

        • Draco T Bastard 6.2.1.2

          Sometime all politics is, is pointing out how shit process is. And process in this instance, is just another weapon in the beige revolution against working people.

          QFT

          At present the entire system is based upon the flawed ideology of neo-liberalism and the delusional idea that the private sector does everything better.

  7. AsleepWhileWalking 7

    God help us if the contractors for the Vodafone call center take over the IRD’s. (Sorry, a bit of a random Sunday thought.)

    Madison Recruitment sounds dodgy as.

  8. David Mac 8

    I think the spotlight falls on Madison.

    They have the power to determine if they are slave traders or have first rate candidates climbing over each other to work for them.

    Their legal obligations should be just the beginning and no matter If I’m a Madison employee working for the IRD or Coca Cola it is down to Madison to create a great place for me to work.

  9. David Mac 9

    Madison of course had to carve the guts out of their tender to win the contract. Like Serco and jails. The cut to the bone tenders win and we live in hope of eye fillet steak.

  10. One Two 10

    Madison is a child company…

    The exist under an umbrella with a number of other ‘brands’ operating the same space…

    • David Mac 10.1

      An entity that the pin can be pulled on at any time. I don’t want our government to maintain relationships with companies of this ilk. Please stop buying your TVs from some bloke at the pub Jacinda.

  11. David Mac 11

    A potential solution is government depts insisting that those companies tendering for govt contracts pay a minimum living wage to their people. Easy done, it just becomes a clause in the tender requirements.

    I suspect all tenders would be lifted by a degree, a hit for the taxpayer’s chin. Our government should lead. Set the pace, swamp and oblige the private sector to follow suit and match base incomes.

  12. David Mac 12

    I think there is much to be said for Penny Bright’s crusade.

    “So how much of our money is going to fat cat seat polishers and how much of it is going to men with diggers, spades and gravel?”

    When we’re paying the bill, it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable question.

    • Sacha 12.1

      In the economy of last century, sure. Can’t get enough of those blokes with shovels. We’ll all be rich, I tells you!

  13. David Mac 13

    Lets pay IRD employees on a 100% commission remuneration basis. A percentage of what comes in the door and court derived make-goods.

    Sparky doing a cashie….BEWARE

  14. David Mac 14

    I’m getting a bit open mike here, sorry. I’ll try to focus.

  15. Darien Fenton 15

    It’s the Triangular Employment Bill. It was a members’ bill written by me way back in 2008 which became a government bill, but not passed before the Natz were elected in 2008. It was picked up by new Labour MP Keiran and drawn from the ballot. The purpose of the bill is to require labour hire agency workers to be able to join a collective where there is one in place for directly hired workers. It also enables temporary workers to take a personal grievance against the controlling employer. If it passes, (and theres a big IF about NZ First) it will deal with an issue that has been hanging around for years and years. Re the Living Wage ; have a look at Labour’s policy ; the intention is to require a Living Wage for contractors too ; it will take time, but I know work is being done on it.

    • Bill 15.1

      Did I say “triangulation”? Yup. I said “triangulation”. I have no idea why I might have mistakenly used that term (cough) 🙂

      I understood the grievance component of the bill and had been anticipating a move along those lines for a while, but from a hurried look, the wording around the right to join a collective agreement came across as confusing. Thanks for the clarification.

  16. DH 16

    If I was still naive enough to have a wish list for a government near top of the list would be a return to inhouse recruitment and training by all Govt departments. There’s few real justifications for using recruitment agencies, it’s mostly just management laziness IMO.

    What the Govt could do here is find out how much commission this Madison Recruitment are pocketing on the deal. Whatever they’re paying their casuals you can bet they’ll be charging IRD more than a living wage for them.

    I sometimes signed up for casual labour whilst inbetween jobs. On one job I found out the slave traders were making nearly as much as I was from my labour – paid me $10hr and were charging me out at $18.

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