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Union Delighted At Maharey Move To Axe Ideologues

MEDIA STATEMENT

For immediate release 2 February 2000

UNEMPLOYED UNION DELIGHTED AT MAHAREY MOVE TO AXE RANKIN'S IDEOLOGUES

Today's move by Social Services Minister Hon Steve Maharey to axe the external WINZ Advisory Board has been welcomed by UNITE!, the community based union representing unemployed, casual and low paid workers.

"This is a good first step in turning WINZ into a department that works for rather than against beneficiaries," said UNITE! President Robert Reid.

"Although the move could be accused of being symbolic, it is a symbolism that we need more of," he said.

"We are pleased that this step has been taken so soon after the meeting of beneficiary advocacy groups and Steve Maharey. At that meeting, which UNITE! attended, changing the culture of WINZ was high on the groups' shopping list.

"It is quite possible that many who did not know of the Board would be shocked not only at its existence but also at its terms of reference and the identity of those who made it up and the fees that they were paid.

"The terms of reference of the Advisory Board do not even mention beneficiaries (or clients and customers) as WINZ liked to refer to them. The membership of the Board reads like a whose who of advocates of the former Government's failed economic policies. The meeting fees of $500 to $750 per day are twenty-five times what a young unemployed person would receive from WINZ in a week, even if working for the dole.

"While the beginning of the WINZ culture change is welcome, we must also remember that people can't eat culture. Today's report on the poverty levels of New Zealanders are a direct result of the cutting of benefits by the National Party Government in 1990," said Robert Reid. "Although we recognise that it will be expensive to substantially increase benefits to realistic levels, the point is can this country afford not to. UNITE! supports the Alliance proposal to increase benefits by $20 as a good first step to providing an adequate benefit for New Zealanders.

Almost 18 months ago when WINZ was formed, UNITE! launched the slogan "They WINZ, we lose". We are hopeful that this step will be the first of many that will turn WINZ around from a department that attacked beneficiaries to one that serves their interests," Robert Reid concluded.


For further information please contact Robert Reid at:
(04) 237 5062 (w); (04) 389 5399 (h); (025) 276 9225 (m)

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