Workfare broker picketed by beneficiaries
Poor People’s Embassy
Friday, 9 July 1999
Ngai Tahu corporate headquarters in Christchurch was picketed today because of its involvement in the work-for-welfare scheme commonly known as Workfare.
Ngai Tahu is the dominant iwi in Christchurch and claims 80% of the South Island. Its business side is the largest broker in the South Island for the Community Wage scheme. It gets paid by the government to persuade community groups to take on beneficiaries as cheap labour.
The picket was organised by the Beneficiary Action Collective who handed out leaflets explaining their reasons for the protest.
"Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu is the largest Community Brokering Organisation in the South Island. This means it is contracted to the government to place unemployed people in Community Wage jobs. It is profiting from forced labour.
"The Community Wage scheme, known overseas as workfare, is part of a continuing government attack on beneficiaries. It does nothing to address the causes of unemployment, nor does it create any real jobs. Its sole aim is to punish beneficiaries.
"The Maori Employment and Training Commission recently called the Community Wage scheme a "cop out" and a "failure". We demanded that Ngai Tahu end their involvement with this scheme."
A spokesperson for the Collective said he was initially concerned that they would be "accused of playing the race card" but this didn't happen. He explained "It's got nothing to do with the targeting of Maori, five turned up at the protest." The picket was not against Maori, he added. It was against organisations making money out of beneficiaries.
Indeed, he exchanging hongi with a number of Maori visiting the Ngai Tahu offices. He explained that they were members of his whanau. He had been a voluntary worker in the Inner City East area which is home for many unemployed Maori and Pakeha. Many passing young Maori agreed with the picket and some joined for a while.
BAC's loudhailer was out of
action so the group's spokesperson had to shout out his
message to passersby. He said that the brokers are the worst
of thos involved in Workfare because they are getting paid
to enslave beneficiaries. These people are the sellers of
slaves," he said.
"Community Wage people are asked to work for $20 a week. They have no entitlements and are being told where to go. Beneficiaries should stop being punished for the woes of the country," he said.
Ngai Tahu's corporate headquarters is located in the old Reserve Bank building in Hereford Street - the finacial centre of Christchurch.
Inside the building's main entrance way two police officers stood guard. One wandered down to check if this reporter had a sense of humour. He asked if the group were paying royalties for using Ngai Tahu name on their placards and who to send the bill for police time. He also wondered if (unemployed workers rights activist) Sue Bradford was coming down from Auckland.
At other times a police car containing two bored-looking cops cruised by. Indeed they looked peeved off that there was no action.
During the picket a sign reading "GET JOBS YOU BUMS" appeared in a second floor window of the (bishop) Alan Pyatt House building across the road. It is the home of Anglican Care which looks after the unemployed and other at-risk people.
On investigation this Embassy reporter found out the sign was done by someone who claimed he was the boss of "Saker Electricity". He was in the process of refurbishing the floor and was employing three students to lay cable. He said if the protesters were complaining they should get jobs. He claimed there were many electrical firms screaming for labourers. But apart from Jensens he couldn't think of any. He was from Auckland.
The picket's spokesperson said that on one side of the road was Ngai Tahu. On the other side was Anglican Care who use Workfare. "I thought they were there to care for people, not to punish them," he told passersby.
Earlier this year, the
Beneficiary Action Collection had picketed Anglican Care for
being involved in Workfare.
Poor Peoples Embassy
Christchurch, New Zealand
"Giving Voice to the Poor"