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Compare and contrast

Written By: - Date published: 7:40 am, February 19th, 2011 - 54 comments
Categories: class war, law, national, wages - Tags: ,

Reprinted from No Right Turn:

Back in September last year, South Canterbury Finance went under due to mismanagement. Its investors were bailed out, no questions asked, despite the fact that it was in violation of its government guarantee or that some of those investors had got in solely in the expectation of such a bailout. Total cost: $1.6 billion.

This week, some of New Zealand’s lowest-paid workers won a case in the Court of Appeal upholding their right to be paid the minimum wage (rather than a paltry “allowance”) when working overnight shifts. This looks set to cost the government a lot of money, as those workers indirectly work for them. If they want such overnight care services, they are going to have to pay more for them in future. And if they want those services to be available, they are going to have to stump up the cash for backpay for those affected (otherwise the providers will go out of business, and they won’t have anyone to subcontract to). The total cost looks set to be $560 million. The government’s response? Threaten a law change to rob these people of their wages and allow them to continue to be underpaid.

You couldn’t get a starker reminder of this government’s priorities – or of who it cares about. When the rich get into trouble through their own greed and stupidity, National shovels money at them. When the poor succeed in proving that they are entitled to a decent wage, the government refuses to pay and conspires to take it off them.

[Hat-tip: Kaupapa]

54 comments on “Compare and contrast”

  1. neoleftie 1

    interestingly i was present once to hear the howls of protest from a labour front bencher in the clark govt, due to a union offical stating emotionally that her sector, care givers, were underpaid below the minimium rate, much to the MP’s horror as he already had the express direction and agreement from DHB’s to raise the pay rates over a year previously. Seems like nothing has changes really for the lowly paid without much of a representative voice. I also hear that what the courts give, legislation can take away again. True democracy is somewhat lacking in our country.
    This flip flop centre left / centre right Govt swop need to end so we can provide meaningful dialogue about our economic system.

    • Chris73 1.1

      Well thats inconvenient isn’t it

    • Colonial Viper 1.2

      Right wing anti-worker MPs – no matter what party flag they carry – should be thrown out of Parliament.

    • just saying 1.3

      Seems like nothing has changes really for the lowly paid without much of a representative voice.

      Which is why there has to be one, no matter who wins this year’s election. As long as the poorest are unrepresented nothing significant will change. Both the main parties will continue to have workers subsidising the (largely privatised) disability sector and such services will continue to be underfunded. Both the disabled and the care workers will continue to suffer the consequences.

      I don’t know what form it will take, or exactly when it will gain traction (probably after the election), but I do believe the poorest will begin to unite out of sheer necessity as “austerity” comes to make their lives completely unmanageable. I don’t think the likes of Chris Trotter are in touch with how tough things have been for some time, and how much harder the poor will be expected to do it, come a National or a Labour-led govt this year

      • neoleftie 1.3.1

        This year will be very tough for us all. Whitcouls have the receivers in to sort out the mess, retail figures down more than 1%, at least people who can save anything are hanging onto it i guess.
        But yes roll on the revolution, i’ll see you at the barricades

  2. johnm 2

    I worked in this area for awhile but stopped as the pay is totally pathetic, you’d only do it if you were desperate for cash.

  3. neoleftie 3

    yes if you look on job boards at winz this type of work is what is available – unskilled and lowly paid who are caring for those in need. So two groups in society who need our upmost support really.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Can’t Bill English create the kind of unskilled work they have in Australia, paying $24/hr waiting tables for instance?

      • Jim Nald 3.1.1

        Can Bill English create the kind of unskilled work, which he has demonstrated here, in Australia, and still get paid by taxpayers, for instance?
        That would help Key claim closing the gap with Oz.

  4. I was so pleased to hear of the outcome of this court case – those caregivers work hard, and for very little pay. They look after some of society’s most vulnerable people, and should be properly rewarded for doing so. (Words are cheap. Let’s show our appreciation properly, by paying them a decent wage.)

    So it’s utterly disgusting that there is talk of changing the laws in order to avoid paying these caregivers a fair wage for sleepovers. I think Tony Ryall should be ashamed of himself for even suggesting such a thing – especially as, like you say, they happily dipped into the coffers to pay out their friends who gambled on SCF. But I guess our MPs are more likely to encounter SCF investors at their dinner parties, than they ever will the average IHC caregiver, huh?

    I’d also agree with Neoleftie’s statement – it makes an absolute mockery of our legal system, if the government changes laws to suit themselves when the courts give a ruling that they don’t like.

    • seeker 4.1

      @ Blondie 9.40.am
      “I think Tony Ryall should be ashamed of himself for even suggesting such a thing”

      I don’t think Tony Ryall, or anyone else in his government, know what shame is. They are not only failing as a government, they are failing as human beings. What an indictment.

  5. rellupsinep 5

    Don’t these workers know what they were in for when they started doing sleep overs? So it is bad luck if they do not get this extra money.

    • Marty G 5.1

      the high court and the court of appeal disagree.

      if, for example, someone was to sign a contract that had a hourly pay rate of $10 an hour when the minimum wage is $12.75 would that be just the worker’s bad luck? Or would the term of the contract be illegal and the employer obligated to pay minimum wage?

      clearly the latter or the minimum wage means nothing.

    • rellupsinep, I think you typed your pseudonym in backwards. An easy mistake to make.

  6. Tony P 6

    Ryall’s statement also that if they have to pay these caregivers for overnight stays may mean teachers will have to be paid extra for going on school camps is both rubbish and a scare mongering red herring. Teachers are on a salary and get a camp allowance per our agreement if they are overnighting. The comparison bears no relationship. Clutching at straws.

    • These are the same Nats who a few years ago were slaging the firemen for being paid for”sleeping on the job” remember? Conservative just want as many low paid workers as possible . They want a big gap between rich and poor .Its in their DNA, History tells us this but still the workers go out and vote for the bastards .WHY?.

      • neoleftie 6.1.1

        Cause they either get confused by the left’s message or lack the understanding of what Tories basically stand for. Another factor is the break down of societal anchors and the rise in the individual and their base desire for material goods or wealth.
        Another aspect is that the public were feed the message from MSM that lab has repositioned itself and was captured by interest groups that the said public couldnt identify with.

  7. millsy 7

    It is clear that the government, right down to the ‘providers’ – that word is so orwellian – that there is no desire to pay care workers a decent wage for what is a very tough job. Imagine having to look after what are essentially (naughty) children in adult bodies.

  8. millsy 8

    ..and another thing, the DHB’s need to cut IDEA/IHC out and run these places themselves, and pay the workers a decent wage, and run a higher standard of service.

    The cancer of outsourcing needs to cut out of the health system, for the good of workers, patients and the general public

    • Chris73 8.1

      I agree with this, we need to bring back homes for these people and get them out of residential care (it’ll save money which can be used to renumerate carers properly)

      • Rob 8.1.1

        Unfortunately Chris, you may not be correct. The move to deinstitutionalise in the 1980’s, while done for social reasons, also had (I believe) an economic benefit. The investment in, and maintenance of, institutions such as Kingseat did have a hefty price tag.

        • neoleftie

          ALL member of society are just that members and we surely as a inclusive society dont isolate or hide away some members of that said community.

  9. bobo 9

    I might be wrong but hasn’t this dispute gone on for many years and why didn’t labour resolve it when they should have.

    • Rob 9.1

      Because it was under the radar until 2008, when it hit the legal system. The first ruling (from the Employment Relations Authority) came out a couple of months before the last election.

      There may be a case to say Labour could have been more pro-active when in Govt to do something about this. Honestly, I’m not interested in trying to apportion blame between the different Governments over the last 10 years – I’d rather see the parties involved constructively work towards a solution – possibly a forlorn hope.

      • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1

        I’m pretty sure that Labour were active in getting carers and cleaners better pay but I don’t think that they addressed this specific issue.

        • neoleftie

          yes draco labour health minister forced the DHB to increase the pay rates but took a year and a few reneged promises from the DHB’s before the matter was settles.
          That is the problem with Govt departments takes decades to tame them and position the key people who will actually promote left leaning policies. Its a power struggle really.

  10. Lanthanide 10

    I’ve been thinking about this, and I think really the best outcome is a compromise. I’d generally expect that the people doing the work don’t want to see the houses closed or radically restructured, and I’m sure they’d like to keep their jobs as well.

    I’m not sure that even the Labour government would have simply gone and paid a $500m backpay as a result of a court ruling – look what they did with the foreshore and seabed.

    IMO the best outcome would be something like this:
    1. Law ruling that the backpay portion will be calculated through averaging the wage with top-ups required so that it meets minimum wage laws, with a minimum $400 per year tax-free payment to all workers who qualify (eg minimum component comes to a max of $2k for someone that worked 5 years). This is likely to be less than they would get if they were just paid minimum wage for their overnight shifts, but it is still a sizeable increase in pay.
    2. Going forwards, use the current legislation and pay minimum wage for overnight shifts, with an additional proviso that there would be no funding increase earmarked for wage increases for staff over the next 2 years – the minimum wage bump for overnight work counts as the ‘pay rise’ for this time period. Also note that future minimum wage rises will benefit these people also, so they are already covered to some extent.

    The whole situation exemplifies why we shouldn’t have private organisations providing welfare where the government is giving them the overwhelming bulk of the funding. These services should be provided directly by the government, and therefore the government has a direct liability towards the employees, rather than this at-arms-distance case we have at the moment.

    So when this National government make noises about trying to sell state houses to private community groups, this is really the sort of situation we could be stuck with in the future – the government is responsible for the funding but not legally obliged to step up when required to.

    • neoleftie 10.1

      But surely to any sane person with any ounce of intelligence increasing the pay to a sector that is legal due to those workers, benefits everyone in NZ to some degree.
      How: increases spending which we really really need at this time or increases saving which we desperately need to increase.
      So be it if the Tories have to borrow more from oversea, Cullen paid down our State debt level in the good time of the 90’s.

  11. RedLogix 11

    “It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.” – John Steinbeck

    • Locus 11.1

      Thanks M for the link…. and for this, Steinbeck was ridiculed as a communist and anti-capitalist by the large California land barons and suffered non-stop harassment by J. Edgar Hoover and the IRS for most of his life.

  12. Treetop 12

    A better health system, a better justice system and better intervention in the work place to reduce accidents would result in less people requiring IHC and ACC care. This is a good solution long term.

    Even little things like a good diet in pregnancy and taking folic acid prior to becoming pregnant and for the first trimester will prevent some spinal disabilities. Staying off alcohol or drugs prior to and during pregnancy in particular is wise as well.

    The compare and contrast to me is the needs between a health issue not covered by ACC and a health issue covered by ACC.

    • neoleftie 12.1

      Over its last few term Labour increased the health bill by 80%.
      Talking to numerous patients where i live they cant speak more highly of the nurses and level of care etc

    • RedLogix 12.2

      I’m inclined to agree. There is much about our current health system that is inefficient. The reason why I’ve not been much seen here on The Standard this year is that I’ve spent a fair portion of it in an out of Auckland Hospital looking after my father. And frustrating business that turned out to be.

      It is very hard to be critical of any one individual; every one we met was finely capable, competent, hard-working and caring….up to a point. What was keenly missing was any real sense of continuity of management; every few days the people involved would change for some reason and we would be back more or less to square one trying to communicate what had happened and why. Everyone was focussed on just their delineated aspect of his care… while no-one was looking at the overall picture and circumstance that were having a major bearing on what was happening.

      As a result what should have been a single 7-10 day admission, ballooned out into no less than 5 separate admissions spread over a total of 7 weeks…totalling about 35 nights. Very costly for the system and not at all good for my father.

      I wish I knew what the answer was. Indeed I guess there is no simple one, but surely just throwing more money at it is not going to change much.

      • neoleftie 12.2.1

        actually that what Labour did in the 90’s – throw a shoot load of money and still didn’t change many of the outcome statistics. ( paraphrased from a chat with a health minister )

        • Rosy

          I think that is a bit of a sweeping statement. A lot of money was spent to reorganise and refocus health spending to primary health care and the determinants of health (e.g. lifestyle issues and socio-econimic factors that cause chronic ill health that can be modified). That is a bit more of a long-term commitment so expecting health indicators to change over the short-term is a bit irrelevant. However, from what I understand there were improvements in health status for Maori and lower socio-economic groups between 2000-2008. Partly because of improving access at the primary care level – cheaper GP visits, care plus initiatives for people with multiple conditions etc.
          ‘decades of disparity’ (3 parts) and the NZ health strategy documents give a bit of context to this (available from MOH website

        • Gina

          NZ’s increase in population has eaten up a lot of the extra funding of our heath and other services. We used to be a population of 3.5 million now we are 4.5 million. Those extra people all use the health services hence no obvious improvement in services.

      • just saying 12.2.2

        I know what you are talking about. I spent two months caring for my disabled sister in 2009, one month of it with her in Middlemore Hospital. She needed someone to be with her every day, there is no way it would have been safe to have her in hospital without someone to advocate for her – right down to moving the food tray across the room, so she could have something to eat. Honestly, I could write a book about the experience, but settled for a long letter to the coroner.
        There are some horror stories out there!

      • Lanthanide 12.2.3

        I think the aspect of care that you’re missing is the type that is very hard to quantify what benefits it brings. When they look around at what areas to cut to save money, that sort of generalised management is harder to justify.

        • Draco T Bastard

          And yet that generalised management is the most important. Cut that out and watch as costs rise.

          • lprent

            That is just about the first thing you learn in management. You have to have general management to cut through the crazy inter departmental silo issues that don’t focus on end results. Of course general management carries some of its own problems.

            • Colonial Viper

              Silo issues are particularly important to cut across in a medical arena where the socialisation is by specialty and caring for the patient is sometimes not the first instinct – caring for the symptom or the condition is.

              Of course there have also been continuity of care issues at even the GP level. Particularly at those big private GP clinics where seeing the same doctor twice in a row is impossible. Its impossible for any doctor in that circumstance no matter how well meaning to understand what is going on with that patient over time and how that patient’s condition is changing, because all they see is one 10 minute snapshot and that’s it.

              • Rosy

                “Particularly at those big private GP clinics where seeing the same doctor twice in a row is impossible”
                Over the last couple of years I’ve started to think familiarity might be more of a problem. A little girl in our family had a particularly nasty cancer – back and forth to the GP. I got the impression that the GP was suggesting her mum was one or the ‘worried well’ about her child. It wasn’t diagnosed until the GP had run out of options and she was sent to hospital. If another GP had seen her maybe it would have been picked up.

                I’m also doing a bit of research and finding that sometimes GPs similarly take what they know about their patients into account instead of looking at the symptoms being presented. A change in GP tends to pick up the condition I’m looking at. So many of the people I’ve spoken to were diagnosed by a locum, after their GP had dismissed the symptoms. Admittedly both these conditions are relatively rare, but sometimes fresh eyes might be best.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Yes, I suppose it works both ways. Perhaps the ideal scenario is where 90% of the time you see the same GP, and that is where you get the continuity of care, but for any issue which seems to be persistent or chronic, a second or third opinion can be sought.

      • Treetop 12.2.4

        I have a lot of empathy for you and your dad. My father was ill for six months before he had a cardiac arrest. Had he been given a diagnosis prior to the cardiac arrest the kindest thing would have been to have let him slip away. Dad spent two weeks on a respirator in ICU only to be told that he has motor neuron disease. He was given the choice of being condemed to death (removing the respirator) or being tortured, (staying on the respirator).

        Dad lasted 45 minutes off the respirator. In his case it was critical that he was diagnosed.

        Beacause I did not have the power of attorney, ACC were not involved.

        • RedLogix

          Oh that’s a far more harrowing story than anything we had to deal with. Sounds like a very bad few months to go through.

          Fortunately I can report a far better outcome in our case; Dad’s back home and recovering well, ie showing increasing signs of his usual grumpiness. And what he says about John Key would never get past the moderators here :-).

          As for Enduring Power of Attorney…. absolutely essential. GET THEM SORTED OUT. Note that in 2008 the relevant Act changed and the new ones are a lot more watertight and far less easily abused. Public Trust are by far the most reliable and lowest cost option; $150 per document and $30 for a callout fee. 20% off if you have a Gold Card.

          • lprent

            Good point. I need to set one up for myself

          • Treetop

            The most harrowing thing was being fully conscious the entire time while on the respirator and dad making the decision for the respirator to be removed knowing a few previous attempts had failed in the last two weeks.

            I will up date my will to include medical decisions.

  13. neoleftie 13

    well all i can say Go Grant Robertson and pickup the torch from good old pete and impove health if/ when the Labs get back in

  14. Treetop 14

    Seriously the high cost of nutritional food is going to have an impact on hospital admissions. I hope it does not get to the point where a presciption for milk has to be written by a GP for children, expectant mothers or the elderly with brittle bones.

    The government have pulled their finger out this week to help those affected by the Canterbury earthquake by giving reasonable housing assistance because when the cooler weather arrives there will be a spike in hospital admissions if people are forced to stay in a drafty home. As well the wet weather may cause a dwelling to collapse more easily.

    Being healthly is dependent on the right diagnosis being made and then being treated for the condition.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      yep and not just the cost of nutritious food, but as you say wait until winter rolls around and people start skimping on power for heating.

      Being healthly is dependent on the right diagnosis being made and then being treated for the condition.

      Although its best if individuals can look after themselves and stay healthy and there is no need to go in to get a diagnosis.

  15. Marjorie Dawe 15

    Yep. Our most vulnerable are cared for by lowly paid workers who deserve a lot more for the fantastic job they do. It took 4 court wins for it to get this far and our government still doesn’t seem to want to increase funding or support those who may not be economically viable and who need to be supported in their daily lives. They would rather bail out those who have money and economic clout. I am still wondering why they put SCF into management so quickly and then paid out with such obscene haste. It would be interesting to see who is on the list of big investors and when they actually put the money in. It kind of makes you wonder what rich mates gained from the whole deal doesnt it.

  16. Jenny 16

    A fabulously rich multi-millionaire put $75million into South Canturbury Finance, when it was known that it was in trouble, but was in line for a big government bailout.

    A year later the government reimbursed him his money and generously gave him another $25 million on top. And all, from out of our pockets.

    1# Mr Kerr received an estimated $100M from taxpayers. (the final total amount was not disclosed)

    2# No questions were asked,

    3# No conditions were put on what he could do with our money, he could reinvest it here, (unlikely), or whisk it all overseas.

    4# Mr Kerr did not do a lick of work to get this windfall.

    Despite all this:

    There has been no follow up on what Kerr has done with our money.

    There never was any question of an investigation or legal challenge by the government, of this extraordinary pay out.

    Instead a shroud of silence descended on this rip off of the tax payers in the Main Stream Media and in parliament.

    How different the treatment of the care workers…

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