Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Australia-StandUp : Privatised Welfare.

StandUp is an organisation for unemployed in Sydney. This report shows what can happen when employment services are contracted out to private providers-something the Welfare Working Group wants to happen here.

Xmas. No joy for us

Christmas is supposed to be the festive season when everyone eats, drinks and parties. The problem is that we can’t afford to. It is difficult enough for us to survive on what we get, let alone have a party. Some of us will be doing work for the dole. You don’t work for the dole on public holidays but apart from Christmas , Boxing and New Years Day many work for the dole schemes continue over what’s called the holiday period. You don’t really get a holiday on the dole. It is tough on us. It is tough on children who expect presents and don’t understand why Santa comes to their friends and not to their place. It is hard to survive with the little money we get. It is even harder to have fun! StandUp! believes that everyone deserves a living wage. The government believes in unemployment. They say that even with their “economic responsibility” the rate of unemployment will only drop to 4.5%. Currently it is five percent. That will still mean hundreds of thousands out of work.

Standup believes we will need a wage rise. Thanks to our low pay it is a struggle to pay the bills or the rent. For some it’s a struggle to get enough to eat. Of course, you can’t afford a decent Christmas! At the moment we suffer in silence. The fact is that neither of the major parties believe in giving us an adequate allowance. In no way will there be full employment. StandUp! believes that others will listen when we have a strong fighting organisation. We need to take up issues such as breaching, private job network agencies, “mutual obligation” and work for the dole. We need alies but it is when we stand up for ourselves then others will listen. We ask for your support. The more assistance we get the better we can fight. Tell us of your experiences.

StandUp wishes you all the best for the festive season and the new Year.

Contact Standup! phone 95164486 e-mail standup_@hotmail.com

You are welcome to participate!

Dodgy Job network agency

On Illawarra Rd near the corner of Marrickville Rd Marrickville you will see a door to Workfutures which is full of unopened mail. There is a notice telling you that the entrance is around the corner , in a laneway. Well if you go around the knock vigorously on their highly secure door, usually you won’t get a response.

We thought this was one of the failed job network agencies. Well there are many of these. But , one day, someone told us he had an appointment there. He knocked on the door and got no-one. He went around the side and got no-one also. He was on time for the appointment he was supposed to go to.

Getting no answer, he went to Centre Link as he was concerned about the possibility of being penalised for missing an appointment. They believed him and rang the co-ordinator’s mobile and only got an answering machine.

We do not know how a dodgy operation like this is recognised. It certainly shouldn’t be.

The owner provided little evidence that he is providing service to the unemployed. Meanwhile he is taking tax payers money.

If this institution is ever open, it certainly is not open enough for any unemployed person to utilise its services adequately. We think they should be scrapped as a job network agency.

We should have the right to adequate access to our job network agency. They control when they are open and when we have access. We know of someone else who complains that her agency doesn’t allow her in for long enough for her to adequately look for work. This is wrong!

Many private job network agencies work hard for their clients. We think though many are just ripping off public money. We oppose private job network agencies totally!

The End of the Block

For decades Aboriginal people have enjoyed cheap accommodation in the part of Redfern known as The Block Apart from providing affordable housing. The Block has been a community centre and a symbol of black pride. Unfortunately the block has suffered from poverty, unemployment, violence, drugs and alcohol. The Block is not alone. Many communities Black and white have been ravaged with these problems. The Block has been visible though and this has meant much pressure to “deal with the problems”. For many “dealing with problems’ means eviction

The value of the land is immense. Developers stand to make millions if land is sold on the open market.

StandUp! Is critical of the fact that houses have been run down and become derelict. There has been mass eviction by stealth as houses become unliveable. Now there are only fourteen houses left.

We think that those remaining should have the right to remain there if they want to. We think it is the responsibility of landlord Aboriginal housing company to make these houses habitable.

More criticisms of WWG report

Tapu Misa says the Welfare Working Group Report is a waste of money:

On the one hand, it says things like: "Most people on the unemployment benefit are motivated to find paid work." "Sole parents face extra challenges in undertaking [parenting] roles alone."

On the other hand, it goes on about "benefit dependency " and with nearly 7% unemployment, Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett has the nerve to talk about a "a lifestyle choice".

Mike O' Brian professor of social policy at Massey University says the obvious that:"the critical consideration is the availability of work and the personal and social supports surrounding that, not the alleged behaviour and lack of motivation of beneficiaries." Around 2007, When jobs were available before the latest capitalist crash, numbers on the unemployment benefit had dwindled to tiny amounts. In other words, "benefit dependency" is a myth.

O'Brien notes that not only are some dependents more politically acceptable than others - the more than 257,000 getting tax credits under Working for Families, for example,(which is denied to single parents on benefits even if they are also working) or the superannuitants who make up our largest and most expensive beneficiary group - but that "dependence" has overtaken "poverty" as the greater evil to be avoided.

Tapu Misa: "Well, of course. Dependence is the beneficiary's problem; poverty might imply responsibility on the part of the state."

In some kind of twisted logic, the WWG report seems to think that the poverty of people on a benefit is not caused by lack of money; but by by getting any money at all!

The obvious way to eliminate poverty is to raise all benefits immediately to liveable levels and to create real jobs for all who need them. ( Labour didn't do this when it was in power, and is not even whispering about doing such a thing now.)

But that would not leave starving people competing desperately on an over-crowded labour market labour enabling employers to pay sub poverty wages in appalling work conditions and make super profits.


The Words of the Enemy

Here's the link to the Welfare Working Group's November Options Paper:

Submissions are due by December 24th, right before Christmas, which won't be much fun for most beneficiaries!



Unite Constitutional changes 2009

The original Constitution of Unite was in force for eleven years from 1998 to 2009 with some minor minor modifications. In September 2009 the AGM voted to change and simplify some of the rules. The purpose of Unite to be a community union to recruit and organise both employed, unemployed and beneficiaries remained.

The rules of Unite Incorporated As amended by the 2009 Unite AGM

1. Name:
1.1. The name of the Incorporated Society shall be Unite. For the purposes of these Rules referred to as
"the Union".
2. Purposes
2.1. Unite is a community based union formed:
a) to protect and further the interests of members and working people as a whole by carrying out
any policy decided in accordance with these Rules.
b) to recruit and organise workers, including marginal labour, unemployed and beneficiaries.
c) to secure the best possible working conditions for members of the Union by promoting
members' collective employment interests
d) to secure the best standard of living for members, other workers , their families and
e) to assist any other union, federation, movement or organisation for the betterment of the
working conditions, remuneration and/or welfare of its members or working people as a whole.
f) to affiliate to any other union, federation, movement or organisation for the furtherance of the
objects of the Union.
g) to prudently invest any surplus funds of the Union to increase the resources available for use as
specified in parts (a) to (e) of this Rule.
h) to uphold the principles of the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi including that of tino
rangatiratanga in all its work.

3. Ordinary Membership:
3.1. Ordinary membership of the Union is open to any person who supports the purposes of the union.
For the full constitution see:


Unite Original Constitution 1998

Saturday, January 19, 2008
Unite Union Constitution 1998

1. Name

The name of the Incorporated Society shall be UNITE.
For the purposed of these Rules referred to as "the union".

2. UNITE is a community based union formed to:

(a) to protect and further the interests of members and
working people as a whole by carrying out any policy decided
in accordance of these Rules.

(b) to recruit and organise unorganised workers including
marginal labour, unemployed and beneficiaries.

(c) to secure the best possible working conditions for members
of the Union.

(d) to secure the best standard of living for members
and others unable to be part of the paid work force
due to unemployment, illness, disability, accident,
study or family responsibilities.

(e) to assist any other union, federation, movement or
organisation for the betterment of the working conditions,
remuneration and/or welfare of its members or working
people as a whole.

(f) to affiliate to any other union, federation, movement or
organsiation for the furtherance of the objects of the Union.

(g) to prudently invest any surplus funds of the Union to
increase the resources available for use as specified in
parts (a) to (d) of this Rule.

(h) to uphold the principles of the Maori version of the Treaty
of Waitangi including that of tino rangatiratanga in all its work.

3. Membership:

(a) Membership of the Union is open to any worker whether
employed, self employed or unemployed; casual or part-time;
forced or slave labour (including prisons and workfare),
sufferingfrom illness, accident or disability; caring for
family members; or in unpaid or voluntary work.

(b) Any person described in 3 (a) may become a member on
making an application on the appropriate form to the Secretary or
her/his representative.

See the rest at: http://unzconst.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 26, 2010

Alternative Welfare Working Group Report

The Alternative Welfare Working Group has published its report. You can download the full report from http://welfarejustice.org.nz/


Welfare Working Group Distortions

On the Welfare Working Group’s latest round of welfare bashing

November 26th, 2010

welfareWell, in its Options report this week, at least the Cabinet-appointed Welfare Working Group was clear about whose interests it is there to serve: ‘The evidence on what is effective in helping beneficiaries into paid work is clear – effective interventions need to have a focus on employers and their needs.’ That would be fair enough if the focus on ‘employers and their needs’ actually meant a recognition that you can’t kick people off welfare without there being jobs for them to fill. But no, it doesn’t mean that at all. In fact, the WWG brushes that unfortunate reality aside in this bizarre paragraph :

Many submissions, while acknowledging the importance of paid work, expressed anxiety about the availability of jobs for people looking for paid work. On the other hand, many employers have told us of the difficulties they have had in recruiting people into entry-level jobs. While this problem was less pronounced during the recession, they indicate it is once again emerging.

So…. the overall lack of jobs in the current economy for the 338,000 people of working age on benefits is brushed aside with the non sequitur that some employers have been having problems in the past in finding people to fill some ‘entry-level’ jobs. Not recently mind you – but since the WWG believes that the recession and its impacts on employment are now allegedly over, this ‘problem’ about entry level jobs is now re-emerging. Really? The job market is picking up and people are turning down the jobs readily available to them? That’s a country I’d like to visit. But in the country that most New Zealanders inhabit, the job market hasn’t picked up, the recession’s impact on employment is ongoing, and – to take just a couple of examples during 2010 – public service restructuring in Wellington and local body restructuring in Auckland have been pushing people out of work, and onto an already crowded job market. Not that you’d know it from the WGG report.

The WWG has a core problem in selling the notion of a welfare system in crisis, and a nation lacking the motivation to work. Reality check: when work was available in the 2000s and job searches were being case managed, unemployment sank to record lows with fewer than 20,000 on the dole. Conclusion: when jobs are there, people work: and when they aren’t, they can’t. It’s not as if a motivational crisis has suddenly engulfed the country in the last two years, when none existed before the recession.

Not that the WWG seems interested in an honest evaluation of the statistics on employment anyway, and the academics on this panel should be ashamed at putting their names to the distortions used to support the report’s ideological bias. The panel is happy for instance, to trumpet a headline rate of 338,000 people of working age on benefits. Over at The Standard, there is an excellent unpicking of the ingredients of that figure: 85,000 have severe mental or physical disabilities. 58,000 have been documented by medical professinals as sick, 112,000 are raising children alone, and 65,000 are actively looking for work. As The Standard concludes :

In fact, when there were jobs for nearly everyone there were just 1,700 long-term unemployed who had been on the dole for over 4 years. If there are any bludgers they are a subset of those 1,700. Hardly worth turning the lives of 338,000 people and their families upside down over.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dangers of Paula Rebstock's Options Paper

Protest Henderson WINZ, Friday 3rd December

Stand up for Beneficiaries’ Rights!

Protest on International Disability Day, Friday 3rd December, 1pm, Waitakere WINZ, 36 Sel Peacock Drive, Henderson, Just up from West Wave Pool.

The National Government has been steadily taking people with disabilities off invalids’ benefits, cutting their incomes by $50 per week and forcing them to be available for work. The Welfare Working Group is now suggesting that nearly all beneficiaries, including the sick, disabled and those with children as young as one should be work tested. At the same time the government has just passed the 90 Day Act. Beneficiaries can now be forced to take any job then face a 91 day benefit stand down when they are fired for no reason. The Welfare Working Group would also like benefits to be stopped in one to five years, and to contract out WINZ services to private companies! Workers and Beneficiaries! We must stop this two pronged assault upon our class!

Organised by:

Waitemata Unite with Auckland Action Against Poverty

http://waitemataunite.blogspot.com 021 2166937

keithhenderson66@gmail.com, 8369104 (Waitemata Unite)

cafecalias@xtra.co.nz (Auckland Action Against Poverty)

Issued by Waitemata Unite

Fighting Poverty and Beneficiary Bashing Saturday

Come to the workshop:Fighting Poverty and Beneficiary Bashing at the Conference this Saturday 27th November at the Unite hosted Conference: "Another Aotearoa is Possible" at 15 Canning Cres Mangere, and discuss ways beneficiaries and workers can unite for a living income for all, workshop presented by Waitemata Unite.

WWG and 90 Act Attack Beneficiaries and Workers

The Working Welfare Group issued its Options Paper today with suggestions for horrrific cuts to beneficiaries' welfare and incomes. They want to force all but 20,000 out of 144,000 single parents, sick and disabled to be available for work and do not bulk at sending mothers with babies as young as one year old out to (unavailable of course) work. They threaten to cut benefits altogether in one year with only a hardship allowance, or at the latest, five years! And they propose contracting out what should be the government's welfare work to private contractors! And this is almost the same day as they pushed through their 90 Day Act that means that sick and disabled beneficiaries and those with babies, can be forced into any work at all under threat of losing their benefits- including having to accept 90 Day Fire at Will Contracts where they can be sacked at any time for no reason at the employers' whim (for example for making a complaint about sexual harrassment or joining a union)-and then face another 91 Days Benefit Stand Down with no income at all as a punsihment for being sacked!!
These gross abuses of beneficiaries and workers' human rights have to be stopped!

Radical Changes to Social Welfare System

Excellent article from the world socialist website about what the Government was doing earlier this year:

New Zealand government attacks beneficiaries

By Tom Peters
12 July 2010

New Zealand’s conservative National government is preparing radical changes to the social welfare system, designed to cut costs by restricting access to benefits for tens of thousands of people. The government, like those in Europe and elsewhere, has launched a policy of austerity to reduce its sovereign debt in line with the demands of international investors. This entails imposing the cost of the global economic crisis on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.

Legislation due to be passed later this year will introduce mandatory work-testing for sickness beneficiaries and force single parent beneficiaries to look for work once their youngest child turns six. Social development minister Paula Bennett said the new laws would apply to 43,000 single parents, while 9,000 sickness beneficiaries had already been found fit for work and would be expected “to do what they can to support themselves”. The Social Assistance (Future Focus) Bill will also require people on unemployment benefits to undergo a “comprehensive work test” every 12 months. Those unable to prove they have been looking for work will face sanctions, including having their benefits halved or cut off entirely.

Despite its rhetoric about an “unrelenting focus on work,” the government has no intention of funding new jobs to replace those destroyed by the economic crisis. Instead, its new policy seeks to harass and hound people off welfare and into total destitution or reliance on family networks and private charities.

The new laws will further restrict access to emergency hardship payments for food, power bills and other basic needs. Bennett railed against welfare recipients, telling a press conference that “too many people view welfare not as a last option but as a way of life”. She called for “a shift from a mentality of entitlement to one of self-responsibility”.

In a cabinet paper, Bennett said the government would carry out “a stricter application of the eligibility rules for hardship assistance”. Desperate beneficiaries who receive three or more hardship payments in a 12-month period will be forced to “complete compulsory budgeting activities”. They will be denied further assistance if they cannot “demonstrate that they have done something of their own initiative to improve their situation”. Bennett told the media: “Last year the government paid out over $250 million in hardship payments and that, frankly, is unsustainable”. Provocatively, and without giving any evidence, she accused beneficiaries of attempting to “milk the system”.

In fact, the high number of hardship payments—over one million payments were granted by Work and Income in 2009—is a measure of the devastating impact of job cuts and rising prices since the onset of the recession and demonstrates that benefit levels are grossly inadequate. As of March, 324,814 people—close to one in eight of the working-age population—were reliant on poverty-level welfare payments, which amount to a maximum of just $194 a week for adult unemployment and sickness beneficiaries and $278 for single parents. For 18 to 19-year-olds living at home, the rate is only $129.

While official unemployment fell in the first quarter of 2010, from 7.1 percent to 6 percent, it remains well above the 3.5 percent level in 2007. Food prices have risen by about 8 percent in the past two years. The food parcels and emergency assistance given out by the Auckland City Mission increased by 50 percent last year.

The government is taking steps to shift people from the invalid’s benefit, which pays $242 a week, onto the sickness benefit, which pays $194. From September, Work and Income case managers and designated doctors will “vigorously” assess applicants for the invalid’s benefit—many of them people with mental health problems or serious disabilities—to determine if they are capable of part-time work.

Paul Blair, a beneficiary advocate from the Rotorua People’s Advocacy Centre, told the New Zealand Herald in April that there was already “a nationwide campaign to kick [people] off the invalid’s benefit”. Blair said Work and Income regional health advisers were ringing doctors and “cross-examining” them about whether their patients were really incapable of working 15 hours a week.

More attacks are being prepared. In April, Bennett appointed a Welfare Working Group (WWG) to address “long-term welfare dependence and to look for ways to turn around the growth in beneficiary numbers and expenditure”. Bennett told parliament on June 15 that the Group would look at recent welfare restructures in Ireland, Australia and the UK. She praised the UK government’s new “welfare-to-work” programme, which will strip the unemployed off benefits if they refuse to take a job offer and use “tougher” medical tests to drive the sick and disabled off benefits.

A WWG forum held on June 9-10 also discussed proposals such as time-limited benefits, as in the United States, and a worker-funded unemployment insurance scheme. The WWG will report to the government in December.

The Maori Party and Whanau Ora

Another element of the government’s assault is the Whanau Ora (“family well-being”) policy devised by the Maori Party. Following the 2008 election, the Maori Party entered into a “confidence and supply” agreement to support the National government on key policy issues. In return, National is backing policies designed to benefit the thin layer of Maori elites that the Maori Party represents.

read more at:


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Single Parents and Suicide; Presentation

Many single parents face depression and other mental and physical health issues directly resulting from the stress they are under. Loneliness, social exclusion, poverty, and denigration take their toll. This can even lead to suicide in extreme cases.

Single Parents Trust has organised a presentation in South Auckland, aimed at raising awareness and helping to to prevent suicides in single parent families.

Venue: Papakura Senior Citizens Hall, 8 East Street, Papakura – see MAP HERE

Cost: Gold coin donation for the petrol cost of speakers (only if you can afford it)

We are very grateful to ‘The Geeks’ and our 4 lovely speakers for giving their time and sharing their knowledge. If you could bring a plate to share with the group like a packet of biscuits or a home made cake, crackers, cheese, dip or chips, we’d really appreciate it. I’m sure you are going to gain a lot from this.

For enquiries contact: Email: info@singleparents.org.nz or phone: Julie Whitehouse, on (09) 813 9138

"Safety Net" to be Replaced by Forced Labour, Prostitution?

In the UK the government has announced plans to force beneficiaries to do manual labour in order to get their dole. This is of course supposed to be "good" for them, helping them to develop "work habits" when it is really slave labour. It's another wing in the government's strategy to make make the people pay for the bankers' crisis by instituting extreme cuts in public spending.

In New Zealand, as the PPTA points out, the government spends $1.6 billion to bail out South Canterbury Finance investors, $35 million on private schools, $30 million + on Warner Brothers, $9.8 million+ on Rugby's Party Central, but says it can't afford to pay for public education.

It also says it can't afford to maintain benefits at the current level which have been estimated at somewhere between $2.8 billion per year to a maximum of about $6 billion per year projected into the future.
The Welfare Working Group headed by Paula Rebstock and the Centre for Social Research and Evaluation on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development , are crowing on about costs of $5o billion , or $28billion to $32 billion but they really mean the cost over a ten year period.
(See the Sunday Star Times article by Lois Cairns on 7th November "Benefit no longer a safety net" by Lois Cairns)
Paula Rebstock (in a misleading quote even more misleadingly highlighted by the Sunday Star Times) says:"It is likely people who are on the benefit today will cost the community $50b instead of the $6b we think of."
This is a deliberate attempt to mislead and alarm the public.
The yearly cost would not be $50 billion but $5 billion which is normal.
If we were not subject to the irrational swings of capitalist crises and instead had real jobs for all , the amount needed for "unemployment " would be zero because there would not be any. People who need and are entitled to long- term support should and would get it. This includes single parents , the sick , and those with disabilities.
Paula Rebstock et al have no proposals to end the capitalist system which is now causing long term unemployment for some sections of society. However they believe that welfare should only be a very temporary "safety net" and want us to believe that we have a social problem when mothers and the disabled are on it for a long time, and talk in alarm about the "safety net" being transformed into "long term dependency."
Instead the opposite is happening, and the safety net is being rapidly pulled away. Especially if they have their way.
In France, men are starting to offer trades, tutoring, and other services for sex advertised as "hugs". Job Centres in the UK have included brothels on their books, until protest has made some centres take these ads down.

Is this what is coming to New Zealand? State support for only a few weeks, forced labour work- for- the- dole schemes, and prostitution in order to survive? The end of the safety net indeed.