Archive for September 10th, 2008

When “no” means “no credibility”

September 10, 2008

Sad. Winston Peters continues to maintain his innocence to the last. He has told Parliament’s Privileges Committee that at all times during the Glenn donation saga, “when I said no it was no.”

He denies asking Glenn for a donation in the telephone call in December 14 2005 of which has produced the telephone record, and today had his personal assistant recount her recollection. there had been a phone conversation, but he says he can’t recall talking about money.

Instead, he claims that Glenn wanted a roving trade ambassador’s role similar to Mike Moore’s. That may be true, although I suspect it would have been a part-time role similar to Angelina Jolie’s UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador work. It’s not as though Glenn needs the money that desperately. Hell, he’s been doing his best to give it away!

Oh, and Peters says he wants to be judged “by decent New Zealanders who understand justice”.

Prime Minister Clark has said Mr Glenn’s evidence was “deeply disturbing”. She is carefully considering Peters’ responses tonight and is expected to announce tomorrow whether she is sacking Peters from his ministerial positions. She had already pointedly refused to rule out making such a decision before the Privileges Committee rules. Given Peters’ hollow response to the hard evidence put up by Glenn, she doesn’t really have much choice.

The truth about NZ business regulation

September 10, 2008

I have a mate who theorises that one reason NZ businesses do so poorly in Oz is that they don’t know how to handle regulation when they have to work in a properly regulated business environment. He lives across the ditch and studies these sorts of things, so what would he know?

Clearly not as much as the National and ACT parties, who are always banging on about how NZ business is over-regulated and over-burdened with compliance costs. It would be funny if the business press didn’t reinforce this dopey nonsense at every opportunity.

But wait. Once again, NZ has been ranked second in the world for ease of doing business by the World Bank/International Finance Corporation survey of 181 economies. (Full report — pdf: 7.2 MB — here.) It’s rated 1st or 2nd in each of the six years the surveys been done. (more…)

Shawn shown the door

September 10, 2008

ACT candidate Shawn Tan has been sacked by his employer, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union. (Previous posts here, here, here, here, and here.)

The EPMU says Tan had not sought permission to stand as required by the collective employment agreement under which he was employed, and that he used a work computer to send Act emails during work time.

Tan says he may take legal action. He can take a personal grievance on various grounds including discrimination on the basis of political opinion, or take his case to the Human rights Commission, but not both. My pick is that he will take a PG, in which case it is unlikely to be heard before the election, and even less likely to be determined by then.

Tan says:

“I would be prepared to go back if the conditions were right, for example if the EPMU could guarantee my safety, that I wouldn’t go back and face barrage or ridicule or the disparity of treatment. They couldn’t guarantee that and said I was asking too much. I was pretty disgusted by that actually.”

The EPMU, on the other hand, says that:

“The decision is about his employment obligations, it’s not about his political affiliations … he has employment obligations to the union and he has chosen not to abide by those. Added to that he has chosen to attack the union publicly.”

I have to say that Tan’s argument strikes me as quite novel and opens up a whole new dimension to the dispute. Is he arguing that he was constructively dismissed because his employer couldn’t guarantee his safety? There are plenty of cases where constructive dismissal cases have been won on such grounds. My favourite concerned a meter reader being repeatedly sent back into an area where a pack of wild dogs roamed free biting meter readers. providing a safe workplace is a duty implied in the personal employment contract by common law.

But the EPMU is only too well aware of this. If they sacked Tan for his contractual breach before he resigned, then I’m not sure that his arguments would get him very far in court. I’d be inclined to think that would mostly be about Tan’s breach of the employment agreement and whether he was discriminated against and whether his breach was sufficient cause for dismissal. (I could be wrong here, of course.)

The court of public opinion might be another matter.

Update : The Standard posts on the EPMU’s story, outlined in a public statement, timeline, documentation (pdf 2.6MB) and letter of dismissal. (Hat-tip: Julie.)

Boofhead of the week

September 10, 2008

Despite all of the political circuses, the boofhead of week has to be… a school soccer coach.

In an epic case of denial and schoolboy level pettiness, Mt Albert Grammar School coach Kevin Fallon says that Auckland Grammar School’s refusal to play in today’s Knockout Cup final is because they don’t want to lose.

Nothing to do with this incident when the two teams met in Napier last week, of course:

The Herald understands police interviewed Fallon about alleged “manhandling” of an Auckland Grammar player and that officers have DVD footage from the game.

Auckland Grammar headmaster John Morris, a former New Zealand goalkeeper and ex-chairman of NZ Soccer, reportedly said a brawl between players began following a tackle on a Grammar player.

He claimed Fallon became involved, manhandling one of the Grammar players, and said he thought Fallon himself ended up on the ground following pushing and shoving.

Good on Grammar for taking a stand against this sort of behaviour. I’ve never suffered from a surfeit of pride in my old school — ambivalence would be a fair description — but I feel proud about this.

Memo to Herald: Industrial Relations 101

September 10, 2008

This morning the Herald reports:

“District health boards have announced a settlement to the long-running and bitter employment dispute with junior doctors, but the doctors’ union says they are only considering an offer.
… Deborah Powell, for the doctors, said the boards had simply made an offer which had been taken back to union members.”

Powell is right. It’s the law:

Section 51 Ratification of collective agreement

(1) A union must not sign a collective agreement or a variation of it unless the agreement or variation has been ratified in accordance with the ratification procedure notified under subsection (2).

(2) At the beginning of bargaining for a collective agreement or a variation of it, a union must notify the other intended party or parties to the collective agreement of the procedure for ratification by the employees to be bound by it that must be complied with before the union may sign the collective agreement or variation of it.

It is not uncommon for the members to reject a crappy pay deal, even with the unions’ endorsement (and from memory the Herald has reported such a case in the health sector in living memory), or for unions to take back to their members settlements where they are uncertain of their members’ response (say, because the management representatives are adamant that the workers will accept).

It is not clear here whether the RDA is recommending acceptance, or whether it will simply say “this is the best offer to date, if you want more than this you’ll have to take strike action again.” From what Powell says, it sounds like the latter. In which case the DHB’s representative is being previous, and possibly mischievous.

The point that the Herald seems to be missing is that the union is, at the end of the day, governed by its members. Despite what some people think, union members are not puppets dangling on the ends of union officials’ strings. That charicature may arguably have had a modicum of truth thirty years ago, but it is time to lay it at rest.