Right Wing Ethics Displayed On Eye to
New Zealand Business Roundtable executive director Roger Kerr had this to say on Willie Jackson’s Eye to Eye (TV1, Saturday 16/09/2006) about Progressive Enterprises' locked-out distribution workers:
“At the moment a lot of these workers that you are talking about, Willie, are Maori and Pacific Islander workers. The Maori unemployment rate is still 8%; the youth Maori unemployment rate is 18%; there is no basis for employers paying more when there is a plentiful supply of workers, right?... Employers want to get the workers that they want for the least… [interruption]” – Roger Kerr (16/09/2006)
Is Roger Kerr saying that since Maori and Pacific Island New Zealanders are more likely than Pakeha to be unemployed, when one of them does get a job you don’t have to pay them as much as you would a white person? I hope not.
Some might consider this statement, by the nation’s premier employers’ advocate, an admission of employers’ breach of the Human Rights Act 1993.
Mr. Kerr needs to clarify his position on the matter.
On the same edition of Eye to Eye (TV1, Saturday 16/09/2006), Laila Harre of the National Distribution Union explained some of the specifics of the current Progressive Enterprises / NDU dispute:
“These workers were promised a national agreement as part of terms of settlement of their negotiations last year, after Woolworths Australia took over late last year they pulled the rug on the agreement they had made." [...]
“… I want to come back to the issue that Deborah [Hill-Cone] raised earlier about what is behind this idea of pay parity between Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch.
What’s behind it is that until a few years ago there was a national agreement covering the [Progressive Enterprises] distribution centres.
In 2003 the Auckland and Christchurch distribution centres were closed down, the workers were employed without any choice at all on lower rates of pay in new distribution centres. The Palmerston North centre couldn’t be closed down because an alternative facility could not be found, which meant in fact that Palmerston North workers currently have the highest rates of pay of these three distribution centres.” - Laila Harre (16/09/2006)
Nothing new there. Anyone with a vague interest in the situation, and a spare half hour, would already have a general understanding of the factual background to the case.
Fellow panelist & business journalist Deborah Hill-Cone, an 11-year veteran of the National Business Review, offered her razor-sharp insight:
“I’d like to know how Laila [Harre, NDU] explains how people with different circumstances in different places - for example like, in Auckland it’s far more expensive to live in Auckland. I mean why shouldn’t an employer have flexibility to reflect that in the way that… [?] [interruption]” – Deborah Hill-Cone (16/09/2006)
Matt McCarten summed up succinctly:
“[to Deborah Hill-Cone:] You don’t know what the hell you are talking about!” – Matt McCarten (16/09/2006)
Further comments of similar quality, by the 5-time Qantas Media Award winner Hill-Cone elicited this from Matt McCarten:
“[to Deborah Hill-Cone:] When people like you prattle on as if you think it’s entertainment, you’re disgusting and what you are saying is disgusting.” – Matt McCarten (16/09/2006)
In the past Hill-Cone has
previously complained of the oppression of workers in a
duopolistic industry, but that was about journalists, not
supermarket workers, so perhaps it's about self-interest,
rather than justice.
Seemingly bereft of intelligible argument, Hill-Cone rambled on:
“You’re loving this, aren’t you? I just get the feeling that you guys are just loving this kind of conflict to get into, I mean it’s 500 workers [sic] …Oh, no, it’s great, because it’s like the unions are back on the front page.” – Deborah Hill-Cone (16/09/2006)
Laila Harre's response:
“Your callousness is beyond belief, Deborah.” - Laila Harre (16/09/2006)
Host Willie Jackson, in typical
good form, wrapped up the show thus:
“As far as I am concerned the workers at Progressive Enterprises have been treated despicably. Workers have a legal right to strike and should not be locked out because they have chosen this action. To the distribution workers of Progressive Enterprises, I salute you. Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui, and to the employers: shame on you!” – Willie Jackson (16/09/2006)
I’m not really surprised by the level of discourse offered by New Zealand’s right wing elite, but I do think that the ethical and factual bases of their position needs to be challenged a bit more often.