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2014 Roger Award Finalists Named

2014 Roger Award Finalists Named

The six finalists for the 2014 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand are:

ANZ

British American Tobacco NZ

Coca Cola Amatil

IAG/State Insurance

PGG Wrightson

Rio Tinto

The criteria for judging are by assessing the transnational (a corporation with 25% or more foreign ownership) that has the most negative impact in each or all of the following categories: economic dominance - monopoly, profiteering, tax dodging, cultural imperialism; people - unemployment, impact on tangata whenua, impact on women, impact on children, abuse of workers/conditions, health and safety of workers and the public; environment - environmental damage, abuse of animals; and political interference - interference in democratic processes, running an ideological crusade.

There is also an Accomplice Award for an organisation (not an individual) which was the worst Accomplice during the year in aiding and abetting transnational corporations in New Zealand to behave as described in the criteria. The Accomplice’s award is in addition to the Worst Transnational Corporation award and will not necessarily be awarded every year. For the first time ever there is a genuine contest for the Accomplice Award, with four finalists. As always, there is the Government, specifically for its commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). But there are also, in alphabetical order: Callaghan Innovation, the Food and Grocery Council, and Te Runanga A Iwi O Ngapuhi. The nomination for British American Tobacco NZ also nominated the Food and Grocery Council for the Accomplice Award, specifically in connection with BAT.

ANZ has been a regular finalist, most recently in 2013, and it won the 2009 Roger Award. In 2014 it has been selected as a finalist for two major reasons: exploitation of workers, and profiteering. The nominator said: “I take particular exception to this statement by ANZ CEO David Hisco: ‘I don’t think employees should see the business they work in as a partnership where profits are shared. Banks don’t ask workers to chip in out of their own bank accounts when they are short of capital’ (Press, 12/11/14; ‘ANZ Bank boss gets bumper pay rise’)”.

British American Tobacco NZ has been a regular finalist and it won the 2008 Roger Award. The nominator said: ”This company, in the certain knowledge that their product kills and disables thousands of people, persists in promoting it. Robbing people of life is infinitely worse than robbing them of material possessions, sovereignty, etc. In my view, no other transnational company can match the depravity of this company’s wanton murder. Reference: chapter 7 of ‘Dirty Politics’. Also NZ Food & Grocery Council as accomplice”. See elsewhere in this issue for Jeremy Agar’s review of Nicky Hager’s “Dirty Politics”. Ed.

Coca Cola Amatil makes its first appearance in the Roger Award finalists. The nomination is titled: ”Hiding Harm With Clever Marketing”. An extract: “Effectively this nomination is not about anything unusual this year but an affirmation of growing public awareness of the danger of rising sugar consumption and a highly effective company that mitigates the unhealthy nature of its core products through advertising and support for community-focused activities that further promote its brands. By persistently peddling high sugar drinks that can be addictive, Coca Cola Amatil is undermining the health of many New Zealanders and contributing to increased costs to the health budget”..

IAG/State Insurance is a finalist for the third consecutive year, which will be no surprise to anyone who has lived in Christchurch since 2010. This time the nomination was for: economic dominance (specifically insurance market dominance and profiteering), and impact on people. “Four years after the Christchurch earthquakes started the insurance transnationals (of which IAG/ State is by far the biggest) are still making life hell for many thousands of Christchurch people. For example, see the evidence about State's treatment of one of its 92 year old customers. That is not an isolated instance, either. There is another example about another 90 year old. Nor is it only residential customers who are getting the runaround from IAG/State. There are examples of building and business owners stuck in limbo. We pay insurance for peace of mind. For huge numbers of Christchurch people they have had, and continue to have, anything but that. This sets a precedent for what the rest of the country can expect from IAG/State and the other insurance TNCs in the event of a major disaster”.

PGG Wrightson also makes its first appearance as a Roger Award finalist. “The grounds are harm to the environment and to animals. They have also placed people in danger… The reason is their development and continued sale of HT (high tolerance) swedes and other herbicide- tolerant brassicas. The seeds were developed by PGG Wrightson and they are sold together with Telar (a herbicide manufactured by Du Pont, but it is PGGW that does the retailing in this case). The herbicide is sprayed after the seeds are planted using the Cleancrop system that was developed by PGGW in partnership with Du Pont. A problem with this is that last year (2013) a significant number of cows fed on HT Swedes grown using this system died. The symptoms sound like some sort of poisoning. It could be either the herbicide or the swedes themselves that are causing the problem, but PGGW sold both the swedes and the herbicide and are continuing to do so”.

Rio Tinto won the 2013 and 2011 Roger Awards and was runner up in 2012, 2009 and 08. One of the reasons that it won in 2013 was it was the recipient of the most outrageous example of corporate welfare that year, namely $30 million of taxpayers’ money to bribe it to keep its Bluff smelter open for a few more years. In 2014 Rio Tinto announced a $3.7 billion profit, but said that it will keep the $30m handout. In 2014 it was nominated for economic dominance and political interference: “Southland workers and the economy of Southland are being held to ransom”; and for its impact on the environment: “It belches steam and smoke 24/7”. Another nominator said: “Of all the candidates for the Roger Award, Rio Tinto is the arch-villain, and should receive it every year, not just sometimes. A squeaky door, nagging approach is necessary for Rio Tinto”.

The judges are: David Small, a lawyer and Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Canterbury; Dean Parker, Auckland writer and former Writers’ Guild delegate to the Council of Trade Unions; Dennis Maga, union activist from the May First Movement Philippines, organiser of FIRST Union and founder of Migrante and UNEMIG; Paul Maunder, cultural worker, curator of Blackball Museum of Working Class History and coordinator of Unions West Coast; and Sue Bradford, community activist and former Green MP. The winner(s) will be announced at a Christchurch event on the night of May 1st. Full details, including previous winners and annual Judges’ Reports, can be read online at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/roger.html. Bad luck to all the finalists and may the worst man win!

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