National Government must be held accountable for $500 million rail debacle

The Alliance Party says KiwiRail CEO Jim Quinn and the silent Minister of Transport Steven Joyce may not think New Zealand can handle such a large engineering contract as the building of Auckland’s new electric trains – but New Zealand workers are absolutely certain that they can do the job.

Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray says a rally of rail engineering workers in Dunedin this week showed that the skills, motivation and community support were there.

All that is lacking is corporate leadership and political leadership from a National Government.

National has failed the tens of thousands of workers who have lost jobs since John Key came to office, and are now effectively forcing hundreds of millions of dollars of rail engineering contracts out of the country.

The Alliance is urging New Zealanders to support the Rail and Maritime Transport Union campaign to build rolling stock in New Zealand which has attracted widespread support in the community (

“It is not acceptable to send $500 million of taxpayers money out of the country when jobs are needed and communities are struggling. It is not acceptable to deny New Zealanders work and all the flow on effects keeping Kiwis in work would bring.”

Over 1700 workers recently applied for 170 jobs at a new Bunnings store in Dunedin, indicating the seriousness of the unemployment crisis affecting many regions of New Zealand – a crisis that the Government will not even acknowledge.

Ms Murray says the $500 million contract has turned into a debacle with local workers denied the opportunity to use their skills.

Phase Two “Expressions of Interest” closes at the end of this week, but KiwiRail’s own workshops Hillside and Hutt Valley are forbidden to participate.

The people of New Zealand own KiwiRail and we must insist that our public rail system must not give public money to overseas corporations when we can do the job ourselves.

The Alliance says the chickens are coming home to roost as successive Government’s have gambled and lost on free trade dogma that has undermined our industry.

Rail decision an indictment on Government

The Alliance Party has denounced the decision of Kiwirail management not to bid for the contract to build Auckland’s new electric trains.

Alliance Party transport spokesperson Trevor Hanson says New Zealanders must resist a National Government that is “pulling New Zealand down.”

Mr Hanson says the work should be done in New Zealand.

He says at a time when New Zealanders are suffering from the highest unemployment in many years, the responsibility was on Transport Minister Steven Joyce and the National Government to take action.

“National is stealing jobs from New Zealanders as they have the ability to turn this incredibly bad decision around – if they wanted to.”

“The current National Government and Kiwirail senior management have let New Zealand down badly.”

Mr Hanson says unless the decision is reversed, it will result in higher unemployment, worsen New Zealand’s balance of payments, and reduce our ability to manufacture advanced industrial products.

He says high quality studies have shown the potential benefits of building the new electric trains locally.

Nats attack on jobless Kiwi's blows up in their faces

The Alliance Party says the credibility of the National Government is in tatters after their ham fisted smear campaign on the unemployed and solo parents comes unglued in spectacular fashion.

Many New Zealanders have condemned yesterday’s attacks on beneficiaries, including the Salvation Army, which described the plan as unworkable and a recipe for more troubled and neglected children.

Now the debacle has widened as National’s own Attorney General has admitted the plan to punish jobless New Zealanders breaches the Bill of Rights.

Alliance Economic Development Spokesperson Quentin Findlay says their attempt to use the unemployed and solo parents as economic ‘cannon fodder’ has failed miserably.

He says many New Zealanders have reacted with concern as the Government resorts to the “blame game” of the 1990s where the previous National Government attempted to cover for appalling levels of unemployment by attacking the victims of unemployment.

Mr Findlay says news the reforms breach the Bill of Rights Act on three grounds by discriminating on the basis of sex and family and marital status had blown Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s credibility out of the water.

“The fact John Key has had to prop up the plan with a rare appearance shows things have suddenly turned bad for National as most fair minded New Zealanders recall the same nasty tactics in the 1990s, which resulted in National being turfed out of office for a decade.”

“The famous Key smile is going, going . . . gone.”

Mr Findlay says this presents a problem for National, as Minister of Covering for Floundering Colleague’s Steven Joyce has already been handed so many portfolios recently he probably wasn’t available to take over from Paula.

Mr Findlay said that sanctimonious homilies from John Key and Paula Bennett about the need to find work were a transparent ruse to distract from mass unemployment.

“This Government is aware from Treasury Reports that unemployment could continue to rise and further that the Government was actually in the process of actively firing people from areas in the public service.”

“The Tories are actively pursuing an active policy of unemployment. Their reforms in the public sector are costing jobs and conditions. Every day they appear to announce a new policy that costs New Zealanders jobs.”

Instead of facing up to their lack of developed policy in these areas the Tories have returned to form by blaming the victims of Government policies for the Government’s own short comings.

“If the Government really want people off the unemployment benefit then maybe it should consider actively pursuing policies that promote full employment.”

Mr Findlay said that an active employment policy would require a u-turn on 25 years of failed monetary and fiscal policies. It would mean a complete redraft of the Reserve Bank Act, a halting of free trade negotiations and active Government investment in infrastructure.

“The Tories are pursuing the same failed market led policies that previous Governments have. The result has been the increased impoverishment of many New Zealanders.”

Mr Findlay said that the most vulnerable New Zealanders were paying the price for the poor decisions of others while the “real leeches on the economy” were given a free ride.

Major rise in minimum wage required

The Alliance Party says the National Government’s 25 cents per hour rise in the minimum wage does nothing to help low income New Zealanders who are living in a state of financial crisis.

Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray says the Alliance has argued for many years that a substantial rise in the minimum wage would have positive economic and social outcomes.

“Wage increases stimulate the economy and create new jobs.”

“A higher minimum wage would mean more income for the Government through an increased tax take and it would mean less money spent on subsidies for low income earners such as the working for families package and rent subsidies.”

She says the Government is currently making up the difference between what minimum wage workers get paid and the amount workers need to live on.

Ms Murray says the minimum wage must realistically reflect the cost of living in New Zealand and should pay for the basics, which it does not do today.

Many larger employers making substantial profits are doing so by underpaying their often young and vulnerable workers who have little bargaining power, she says.

The share of wealth going to workers has decreased for many years, and low income workers are the most disadvantaged of all, battling with rising food, accommodation and transport costs.

The Alliance supports the Unite Union campaign for a minimum wage of $15 an hour and for annual increases until the minimum wage is brought up to 66% of the average total hourly earnings.

The Alliance Party policy is for a $17 per hour minimum wage.

National's holiday theft punishes children of the poor

Alliance Party industrial spokesperson Trevor Hanson says the National Government’s attacks on four weeks annual leave will rip away precious family time for New Zealanders – and with a stunning lack of empathy “the grinch party” have announced their policy at Christmas time.

He says the new policy that will allow the fourth week of holidays to be “sold” was a travesty.

“The ‘Minister of Grinchiness’ Kate Wilkinson must be very proud of an unfair policy that punishes the children of the poor.”

Mr Hanson says that allowing the fourth week of annual leave to be “cashed up” will mean hard pressed low and middle income families will be forced to give up family time while the well off will be able to afford to keep their extra holidays. Continue reading

Cadbury's job losses indicate a failing system

Alliance Party Dunedin North candidate and trade spokeperson Victor Billot says the loss of around 145 jobs at Cadbury’s in Dunedin was an indicator of the serious problems faced by working people in New Zealand.

“We are seeing a slow motion disaster for working people as secure jobs evaporate in Dunedin and throughout the nation as major players like Fisher and Paykel and Cadbury shut down plant and lay off the workforce.”

He says Dunedin can’t take continual hits like this, and workers needed support, but were unlikely to get it from the current Government or a National Party whose answer to unemployment was to attack the unemployed. Continue reading

Alliance says free trade will harm working families, a balanced economy and political independence

Alliance Party trade spokesperson Victor Billot says free trade with China will cause major problems in the years ahead.

He says early analysis indicates the Government has fudged labour rights issues in the free trade agreement despite commitments made to Unions.

“This free trade deal will see growing inequality between New Zealanders as the benefits of free trade will be confined to sections of big business, while workers in many sectors will see pressure on wages and conditions.”

“There is nothing free about free trade, which is a PR term for corporate and state control in the interests of a global big business elite that will make us a lot less free as citizens.” Continue reading

Alliance Party demands apology and compensation for ripped off Chinese air crew

The Alliance Party says the revelation that Air New Zealand is paying its overseas cabin crew below the minimum wage is a “red alert” to workers about what free trade deals will mean for New Zealand.

Alliance Party co-leader Victor Billot says the scandal is not an isolated incident at a notorious anti-worker company, but a timely warning of what the future holds.

“This situation is exactly what we will see more of under the free trade scam being pushed through behind closed doors – the use of cross-border labour with inferior conditions, contracting out, aggressive corporates, and a hands-off approach by Government – to push down wages and conditions for workers.”

Mr Billot says what is horrific about the situation is that what is effectively a publicly-owned enterprise has turned out to be the first in the queue to pay less than the minimum New Zealand wage. Continue reading