Friday, 27 March 2015

Aged care caregivers, women and the 1972 Equal Pay Act - why the government wants to mess with it.

On Wednesday this last week I attended a Unions Waikato event hosting the Service & Food Workers Union and Kristine Bartlett, an aged care worker who was at the centre of the successful equal pay for women case.  She's told us about how she fell into being at the centre of the legal challenge.  An she literally didn't know what she was getting into until it all ramped up.
Maxine van Oosten, Unions Waikato co-convenor, and Kristene Bartlett.
Here is an extract from a newspaper article Win for equal pay campaign that explains some of the detail of the court process and decisions (Stuff 28/10/14):
Campaigners for pay equity are celebrating a "slam dunk" after the court dismissed an appeal against a case that could raise the wages of thousands of women across the country.
The question about whether women should be paid the same as similarly-skilled men in different industries was heard by the Court of Appeal in February.
It followed an Employment Court decision last year, which ruled in the favour of Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett.
Bartlett, with the support of the Service and Food Workers Union, agreed to front a test case against her employer TerraNova Homes & Care.
The union also lodged a separate claim on behalf of a group of workers, arguing the Employment Court had the power under the Equal Pay Act to determine equal pay.
Bartlett argued her $14.46 hourly wage was less than would be paid to men with the same, or substantially similar, skills, arguing it was a breach of the Act.
Following the Employment Court decision an appeal was lodged and the New Zealand Aged Care Association agreed to help fund the case, arguing that while rest homes would like to pay their staff more they lacked the money to do so and the Government needed to increase is funding of the sector.
Employment law experts have predicted the case could have wide-ranging ramifications for a number of industries such as cleaners and nurses, setting a precedent that could mean higher pay for tens of thousands of female workers.
You can find out more about Kristine and the process here and here, and watch her on Campbell Live here.  You can read about what the Human Rights Commissioner has to say here and the employment court decision of August 2013 here.
In August 2014, Kristine's wage was $14.46 an hour.  It has increased slightly since, but when you consider that 20 years ago she was earning about $9.50 an hour, how valued are caregivers when they barely had a $5 wage increase over five years?  That works out at a 25c increase per year!!  Is that keeping up with inflation?  Sounds like slave labour to me.
Add this to the plight of a caregiver: there is no professional development, if any, and no career pathway for caregivers.  If a caregiver does find and do any professional development (as Kristine has), there is no reflection of this in their pay packet.  Kristine discussed the skills and roles of caregivers as something that not just anyone can walk in from a WINZ office and do.  Zero hour contracts and fluctuating hours are common, meaning that the women can not effectively budget each week and often come up short to pay rent or mortgages and other bills and often bring no lunch to work with them.
Consider this:  about the year 2000, Labour MP and Women's Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney was working for NZNO (nurses union) and negotiating an employment contract with an aged care provider for the nurses and caregivers in the home.  The provider wanted to limit the hours each person worked a week to 30 hours.  When Sue asked why, the provided answered that it was physically demanding work and too much for an individual's body to cope with if they worked 40 hours a week.  Needless to say that clause was not accepted by NZNO, particularly in the light of the hourly wage agreed to and the fact that many caregivers are the breadwinners of their families.
So now we fast forward to 2015 and despite the fact that Kristine won this case in August 2013, and the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court in 2014, because the caregivers don't have a national or even site wide Collective Agreement, these cargivers have not had their pay packets adjusted yet. That's still to come.  They have determined that the caregivers work should be compared to the work of Corrections officers (who earn considerably more than a caregiver).  The next step is how this will work as either a national collective or site collectives.  Naturally, aged care providers are resisting the change and they have some big help as you will see further down the page.
Sue Moroney was also at this meeting.  She explained that in 1990 the then Labour government had put legislation in to help enforce equal pay for equal work. But in 1991 National rescinded that law with their Employment Contracts Act. So this could have been sorted 25 years ago!  When asked why the Labour government of the 2000s had not corrected this, Sue explained that the Labour led government set up a working party to investigate and report back on pay equity and equal work.  This was disbanded when the current National led government took office at the end of 2008 and that work lays abandoned.  You can find out more about some relevant employment law to equal pay here.
Sue also explained that the employment court had ruled that equal pay for equal work was covered under the Equal Pay Act of 1972, and that this Act consequently means more than we had ever thought.  It's not just ensuring a woman and a man are paid the same for the same job.  It's about similar levels of work being paid equally.  It means that the Act passed by the Labour led government in 1990 and rescinded by National the following year was not needed because for nearly 42 years we have had the power to do what this recent court case has proved and not realised it.
Consequently, Labour and other organisations have become concerned with what the current National led government may do as a result of the employment court ruling and because the owners of aged care facilities have the ear of the government.  Sue Moroney has asked oral questions in Parliament about the government's intention towards the 1972 Equal Pay Act.  No straight answers have been given by relevant ministers.

So several weeks ago, she directly asked the CEO of the Ministry of Women in the formal business of the Select Committee meeting if they had been consulted on any changes to this Act.  The CEO said she couldn't answer. Translation: yes, this government wants to change the Act.
So you can see that once again the courts make a decision that is in accordance to the law of the land, John Key's government and his business cronies do not like it, so they are going to change the law, amend the Act to get their own way.  It is just like the court action won by the parents of dependent special needs adult children who look after their own kids instead of putting them into care or employing others to do so.  National changed the law on them too when the courts said that parents should be paid as caregivers to their own adult special needs children.  See the article about the court ruling here and the final budget allowance for it to happen here.
Sue believes that the best hope against blocking any amendments that the current government puts forward lays in the result of the Northland by-election.  If Winston Peters becomes the new Northland MP this weekend, and brings in a new list MP for New Zealand First, that will be a vote lost by National.  Sue believes with the strong support of elderly New Zealanders for New Zealand First that their MPs would not vote for any amendments to the 1972 Equal Pay Act as that would affect the caregivers who mainly work with elderly people.
ACT MP David Seymour will vote with National on any amendments, because, let's face it, they think the market will fix all - but we can see that 30 years of thinking like that has not helped caregivers at all.
Obviously Labour and the Greens would oppose any negative changes to the 1972 Equal Pay Act, which leaves the question of how the Maori Party and United Future would vote.  Sue said that many caregivers are Maori women who are the family breadwinners, so it would be foolish for the Maori Party to vote for amendments that would directly affect this group of workers.  Sue said that Peter Dunne had been supportive of her Bill regarding paid parental leave, so believed he could be convinced of the merits of opposing any amendments (and after all, in my opinion, Peter isn't getting any younger and is closer to needing a rest home than many other MPs, apart from Winston!).
Carol Beaumont, former Labour MP and currently working for NZNO, talked about the joint campaign for caregivers between the SFWU & NZNO on how this court ruling will be implemented.  Carol said this is a public campaign that needs the public behind the caregivers, because the public have friends and family who live or work in rest homes.   People need to talk about this - it is CAREGIVERS WEEK after all!!
She also said that people need to join unions.  If vulnerable workers like caregivers are in a union, their collective voice has power.
Since 2010 until just after New Years this year my Gran was in a rest home.  This decision was not taken lightly by my mother and her brothers and sisters, but when it became apparent that Gran was unable to look after herself independently due to dementia and the consequent ability to drive, cook and clean for herself, it was deemed the best option.  She was followed into care by her younger brother and a dear long time family friend.  Family visited them regularly and also formed bonds with the staff.
We saw great staff and not so great staff.  A factor in what makes a great caregiver is the empathy they demonstrate towards the loved one you have in a home.  They develop relationships with each person and know their likes and dislikes.  This was demonstrated to me one day with something as simple as a cup of tea.  The caregiver did not have to ask my Gran how she liked her tea; she just knew.  So Gran received a cup of black tea with no sugar.
We also knew there was not enough caregivers for the patients and work they had to do, and that they definitely weren't paid enough (staff turnover demonstrated that).  We knew because cardigans bought for Gran disappeared or Gran would be found by my Aunty on the odd morning to have not had her nighty put on the day before or her teeth would be AWOL.  When you are rushed off your feet and not valued by management, stuff like this occurs.
Kristine spoke of the heartbreak she and her colleagues have when they are unable to spend that special time with a frail patient who needs it because of the workload.  She spoke of the simple things like a hug for a dying man that meant so much to him, and to herself in the end.
But when Uncle T, then Mrs S and finally my Gran passed away, the rest home caregivers had looked after them with love, dignity and respect.  They worked with the family to the best of their ability, and mourned with us.  So we know the value of the caregivers who had found their vocation.
In my opinion anyone foolish enough to argue against equal pay for equal work is both mean-spirited and lacking in foresight.  Why would you bite the hand that feeds you (literally), and in your hour of need.
Any amendments  to the 1972 Equal Pay Act in effect puts the advances of women in New Zealand for the last 150 years back into the 1960s at least.  It shows that sexism and chauvinistic behaviours in the National party and big business and society in general are alive and well.
For caregivers not to be paid what they are worth and to not value the contribution they make to our society with how they care for one of our most vulnerable groups of citizens is appalling.  To make any changes to the 1972 Equal Pay Act to counter the win of Kristine Bartlett and the caregivers is to fail the standard as a human and against the vulnerable of New Zealand.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

New Zealand's "Rape Culture" is alive and well

Today the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) released its report into the Roast Busters controversy.  I wrote about this and New Zealand's rape culture last year when the police announced no charges would be laid due to a lack of evidence in the post Musings on New Zealand's Rape Culture, Domestic Violence and Apologies.

It was quite handy when Stuff automatically told my phone about the release of this report by the IPCA with their breaking news feature on their app.  It meant I didn't have to wait until 6 o'clock to be fully enraged with the rest of the country.  It meant I could reflect on rape culture again; a culture which continues to be mocked as non-existent, when if you are female you know it is not.

And there is plenty in this report to be angry about.  While the report said that all the young women/girls making complaints were treated with compassion and courtesy, I was appalled to read through the article to find the following:
  • some of the young men/boys involved were never approached or spoken to by the police.
  • the parents of the young men/boys were not approached and informed of the allegations so they could have "that talk" with their sons.
  • the police failed to follow lines of inquiry in a timely fashion and sometimes not at all.
  • record keeping was poor.
  • each complaint was treated separately and not considered as a pattern of incidents.
Naturally the Police have been very apologetic with public "We are Sorries" from the Police Commissioner and the Waitemata Area Commander.  Anne Tolley, as the former Minister of Police responsible when the story broke and when the decision came through not to press charges, expressed concerns and as the current Minister of Social Development says that Child Youth and Family (CYF) would be next under the microscope.  The current Minister for Police, Michael Woodhouse, has said that it was failures by individual officers.

No police officer has lost their job, but they have been moved on to other roles and sectors in the police.  Greg O'Connor, of the Police Association, would have liked the report to look into what else was happening in the Waitemata area at the time, claiming that there had been a large number of cases that had priority at the time and not enough manpower to do it all justice.  Jacinda Ardern said that a lack of resourcing had affected the case.

You can read these documents from the IPCA: the media statement, the IPCA Public Report, and the speech notes by Judge Sir David Carruthers.  You can read more on Stuff (Roast Busters case subject of another review) and at the New Zealand Herald (Roast Busters case: Apology 'just the beginning').

This stood out from the speech made by Judge Sir David Carruthers at the release of the report today:
The first aspect, which the Authority publicly reported on in May 2014, considered the information provided by Police to the media about the Police investigations.

The second, which is outlined in today’s report, considered the adequacy of the initial Police criminal investigations and the handling of any complaints or reports received by Police from members of the public between 2011 and October 2013. The findings in the report are the result of a very thorough and detailed investigation.

The report is confined to those Police investigations up until these matters came to media attention in October 2013. It does not cover the subsequent Police reinvestigation, dubbed ‘Operation Clover’. The Police have publicly reported on the results of that reinvestigation, which did not result in the prosecution of any of the young men concerned.

So does that mean we now need another report into the subsequent police reinvestigation called Operation Clover?

Ellis is able to capture the essence of an issue with brilliance.

An urgent debate was called in Parliament this afternoon.  A number of Members of Parliament from both sides of the house rose to speak about this report today. 

Jacinda Ardern, Labour's spokesperson for Justice, listed a number of actions that demonstrated poor policing practice.  Jacinda then went on to outline the history of the case prior to today.  Jacinda Ardern specifically highlighted the lack of co-ordination in dealing with this case.  This was highlighted from the first paragraph in the report.  At the start of the IPCA the police told them about four separate incidents and then found out about three further separate incidents with the same group of young men.  But no one would join the dots between each of the seven cases to see there was a systemic problem with the same group of young men over and over again.

 And Jacinda also questioned, as did the IPCA, the practice of the police in investigating this case, and that the IPCA believes that investigation should have continued as per the policies of the police because the victims involved were children.  Jacinda Ardern questioned that while the police did not have the evidence to lay charges, some old fashioned policing should have happened; the police should have knocked on the doors of the families of these young men and had conversations with their parents.  And Jacinda knows this is an appropriate course of action as her father is a policeman.

Then Jacinda Ardern brought up this piece of legislation:

Section 134 of the Act outlines the penalties for those who have sexual conduct with a young person under 16 years as:
"(1) Every one who has sexual connection with a young person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

(2) Every one who attempts to have sexual connection with a young person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

(3) Every one who does an indecent act on a young person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years.

(4) No person can be convicted of a charge under this section if he or she was married to the young person concerned at the time of the sexual connection or indecent act concerned.

(5) The young person in respect of whom an offence against this section was committed cannot be charged as a party to the offence if the person who committed the offence was of or over the age of 16 years when the offence was committed.

(6) In this section,—
(a) young person means a person under the age of 16 years; and

(b) doing an indecent act on a young person includes indecently assaulting the young person.

Why is this piece of legislation so important?  The victims who made complaints to the police were all aged under 16 in six of the seven cases and each young man involved in the assaults that took place knew that they were aged under 16.  The fact that these children were under the age of consent consequently means that the evidence for a violation of the law was there because there is no consent when a person is younger than 16 because sexual connection is unlawful below that age.  Therefore the investigation should still be actively open and work should be continuing to secure the necessary evidence.  See more in this video of Jacinda Ardern during the debate.

Michael Woodhouse, the current Minister of Police spoke next.  He began while saying he agreed with almost everything Jacinda Ardern had said, and also said that there was nothing to candy coat the finding of the IPCA.  He then went on to defend Anne Tolley's role in the controversy, saying that she did not have the information available to her because the police had not collected that information, and that this was clear from the IPCA report.  Mr Woodhouse then went on to glorify what had happened to crime statistics under Mrs Tolley's reign as Minister of Police. 

But he kept referring to statistics on adult sexual assault - which I found concerning as you can not call a girl under 16 an adult when she can not consent to sex legally, and particularly as this issue is all about sexual assault.  Michael Woodhouse also spanked Jacinda Ardern and Greg O'Connor on the hand for their criticism about a lack of resources hampering the investigation.  Quite frankly, a lack of resources for the police stands out like dog balls when you look at this case.  Yes, a lot of money was spent on investigating this case, but I believe that the case was dropped because it would continue to cost more money and was not going to be resolved quickly.  You can hear more from Michael Woodhouse below.

I was appalled to hear Catherine Delahunty of the Greens point out yet another failing in the case, that the officers who took the complaints did not even get the name of the boys involved correct when they took down their initial details.  Catherine called for an independent taskforce into how sexual assault is dealt with.  You can hear more of what Catherine Delahunty has to say in this video below, but she is correct when she states that girls and women of today's modern society will continue to fail to have any faith in the police believing them if the police do not investigate their complaints properly.  And this is after Louise Nicholas has been working with the police to change their culture and response to sexual assault complaints!

Tracey Martin, deputy leader of New Zealand First, acknowledged that while many police officers are fathers and mothers, we have major failings in the New Zealand Police and spoke of another case with a young girl facing a similar situation.  It resulted in a "he said/she said" impasse.  She claimed this was not a one party problem and needed cross party support in parliament to make changes to ensure that women (or men) can go to the police and make a complaint with the confidence that they will be believed and the complaint investigated.  Tracey called for the conversation to happen in parliament, for this report not to be forgotten and gather dust.  You can hear what Tracey Martin has to say in this video below.

Minister of Justice, Amy Adams, talked about making changes, even when it is difficult, and called for the support of the House to make changes.  Amy Adams is in the process of establishing the role of a Chief Victims Advisor to all ministers across portfolios so that there would be independent advice available.  Admirable, but this government has a poor record on utilising true, independent advice.  Amy always criticised the perpetrators for their victimising the girls with social media and promoted the bill that she thinks will prevent this or take action against them for using social media.  We have a domestic violence notification every six minutes and half of homicides are related to domestic abuse, and while the Roast Busters case is not domestic abuse related, it is indicative of some of society's attitudes that must change.

Anne Tolley, who was the Minister of Police at the time of the Roast Busters case becoming known and when the police decided not to lay charges, also spoke.  She trumpeted that she was the first Minister of Police to make a complaint to the IPCA and that this report was a result of her complaint - but I'm pretty sure there were complaints made by opposition parties to the IPCA as well.  She was pleased that the girls (aka victims) now know what actually happened.  She emphasised that it was not a systemic breakdown, but failures by individuals. 

Anne Tolley also said that CYF had to take some responsibility too.  And the report makes mention of the knowledge CYF had and how co-operation and information sharing between CYF and the police needs improvement.  The police clearly did not give the right information to CYF, but neither did CYF clarify with the police it seems.  Hear more from Anne Tolley below.

Sue Moroney from Labour also stood to speak and to point out that the Speaker had allowed this debate because of Ministerial responsibility over the Roast Busters issue, and Sue pointed out that no Ministers were taking responsibility for this issue and the culture that exists to allow this issue to continue.  Sue Moroney stood up and spoke for New Zealand women to say we have had enough.  Sue pointed out that the police do not need a complaint to be laid to investigate an incident of sexual assault.  This is written into New Zealand law and is part of the policy of the police.  Sue pointed out that Michael Woodhouse and Anne Tolley were wrong on this point when they said the police couldn't prosecute because there had been no formal complaint.  See more about what Sue Moroney said below.

Louise Upston, Minister for Women, reiterated that the Roast Busters boys need to take responsibility for their actions and have to shoulder the blame.  Louise also echoed Anne Tolley in saying that it was her who referred the complaint against the police to the IPCA, and Michael Woodhouse in regards to the good statistics from the police over recent years.  She also listed a number of programmes and funding under this government.  (I think that Louise Upston may have neglected to mention the fact that her government denied the Christchurch centre that assisted rape victims funding before the 2014 election and they had to shut up shop as a result).  See more of Louise Upston's speech below.

Poto Williams also stood to speak on this matter, asking what victims of sexual abuse need.  They need timeliness, compassion, to feel they have been heard, not to be re-victimised, and that once they have told their stories to the police that the police will take action on their behalf.  Poto Williams believes that these needs have not been fully fulfilled.  85% of victims of family violence are also sexual violence victims.  Poto Williams stood to defend Jacinda Ardern's assertion that a lack of resources for the police hampered the investigation.  She said "Jacinda was being generous, because if not for a lack of resource, then it is about attitude and culture.  An attitude that sexual predation is ok and an attitude that the police do not care.  And a culture of indifference.  And I for one will not stand for that."  That is a fantastic statement, and you can view more of what Poto Williams has to say below.

I note that only one man stood to speak on this issue, the Minister of Police, Michael Woodhouse.  Are all the other men in parliament too scared that they may be tarred with the "apology" brush like when David Cunliffe stood up and apologised for the fact that men are the assailants in the majority of domestic abuse cases at the Women's Refuge conference last year?

A lot of what has been said on the Roast Busters case boils down to consent.  Sex without consent is rape, no two ways about it.  Sex with a person under 16 does not boil down to whether or not all parties are consenting to it because under our law in New Zealand it is classed as Unlawful Sexual Connection and can therefore be prosecuted against.

So the parents of the Roast Busters boys, in fact the parents of any teenager or young adult, should read this blog Consent: Not actually  that complicated by Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess and share it with their kids and use it as a base for discussion about sex and consent.  This blog uses a cup of tea as an analogy for sex.  I shared this blog on Facebook and one of my friends commented that along with getting consent for a cup of tea/sex, you should also check how the recipient likes their cup of tea/sex.

Sharon Murdoch is also an amazing cartoonist who hits the nail on the head.
The whole process of this Roast Busters case has brought up the issue of teenage sex and alcohol consumption, consent and the rape culture that permeates our society.

It also brings up the concept of  "old fashioned" community policing.  My great uncle was a policeman.  At his funeral, his son, my mum's cousin, told how parents would knock on Uncle Bill's door and asked him to "give their boy a kid up the bum" or "scare some sense into the little bugger".  This little community service stopped a lot of idiocy by the neighbourhood boys getting out of control and ruining their future prospects. 

Where has this gone from policing today?  How many girls would not have fallen victim to these Roast Buster boys if the police officers involved had have visited their family homes and informed the parents of these boys as to what they were doing at these parties so the parents of these boys could knock some sense into them?

Again, as a society, we fail these girls if this report is allowed to languish on a dusty shelf in parliament's library.  As a society we have to demand action from our law makers and law enforcement to ensure that victims are supported and protected and further harm is not inflicted.

To not do so would be to fail the standard, and we can't have the police fail their own standards again and let them get away with it.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Outsourcing hospital & Meals on Wheels meals - why this is a dumb as move.

Thanks 3News for the pic!
If you have had the "pleasurable" experience of a hospital stay you will know all about the food.  It is mass produced and has been known to arrive in a tepid state, but for the majority of hospital stays the food has been cooked within the resident hospital kitchen or in a kitchen within a short drive.
Tony Ryall, the former Minister of Health from December 2008 until he stepped out of politics into a flash as job at the September 2015 election, was on a drive to cut costs in the health sector and "streamline" systems.  He set up a Crown company called Health Benefits Ltd (HBL) with the goal of  making cost savings in the health sector.  One of those cost cutting efficiencies he looked into was catering of patient meals by hospital kitchens. 
In April 2013, the Labour claimed that Mr Ryall was looking at outsourcing patient meals and closing 50 hospital kitchens.  It would come at the cost of 1300 jobs.  (Govt may close all NZ hospital kitchens.  NZ Herald 10/4/13).
Tony Ryall - former Minister of Health
At the time Mr Ryall said that they were merely consulting the unions on streamlining services, but believed efficiencies could save more than $10 million per year and be channelled back into "frontline health services".
What is more "frontline" than feeding your patients?
The Greens also warned against the outsourcing of patient meals (Outsourcing hospital food will cost NZ in the long run., 10/4/13).

But this article in the Otago Daily Times Frozen meals - sent from Auckland (13/4/15) shows that not a lot of thought has been put into the practicalities of it at all. 

Meals on wheels will be made in Auckland and trucked to Dunedin and Invercargill under a proposal to outsource hospital food services, the Compass Group confirmed yesterday.
The Southern District Health Board is yet to decide whether to approve the proposal.
The meals on wheels would be frozen, and reheated in local hospital kitchens.
Patient meals would be prepared on-site, using components driven ''around New Zealand'' in trucks, Compass said.
A stock of pre-prepared meal components would be held at a Dunedin distribution centre.
''The pre-prepared components of the meals will be prepared by specialist suppliers based in a number of different regions of New Zealand [including] Tauranga, Mt Maunganui, Dunedin, Auckland.''
Asked if Compass planned to subcontract meals on wheels to another provider, the food giant said: ''Compass Group is working with an Auckland-based supplier to supply the individual snap frozen meals for the meals on wheels solution''. Asked how often the meals would arrive in trucks, Compass said it was yet to be determined.    
Asked what contingency plans were in place for adverse weather, Compass said it was part of planning work that would happen with the health board.
Since the proposal was announced nearly two years ago, it has been unclear where meals would be produced.
Last week, health board members relented to union demands and deferred the final privatisation decision by a month to the May meeting.
Service and Food Workers Union organiser Anna Huffstutler, of Southland, said producing meals on wheels in Auckland reduced the amount of work available for local staff.
She also questioned the logistics of transporting meals during a civil defence emergency.
''What's the back-up plan?''
Ms Huffstutler is pleased about the deferment of the final decision, saying unions had lacked enough information to form a counterproposal.
The counterproposal would include suggestions on how money could be saved. Securing the extra month had given a sense of hope the board might be willing to listen to a proposal from unions, she said.
The Compass Group says it can save the health board $7 million over the 15-year contract.

Considering how long this proposal has been worked on, you really have to wonder why there are no answers to the questions raised by Anna Huffstutler, the SWFU organiser.  It also does not appear that much consulting has been done with the unions over how this proposal will work considering Mr Ryall said in April 2013 that was on the agenda.  And not even saving half a million dollars a year for the Otago District Health Board?  Have they not considered the wider costs to the patients and the community?  By the way, you really should click on the article to read the comments under the article - they're pure gold!
No one supports this idea because it is a bad idea.  Like I just said above, have they considered the impacts to the wider community of what Tony Ryall has envisioned for the whole country?  I have, and here is why it is flawed:
  • How can a health board justify supplying frozen meals to patients and Meals on Wheels clients instead of freshly made meals on a health basis?
  • The practicalities, cost and environmental impact of trucking these components around the country! And don't we have enough trucks on our roads already?
  • The personal touch to food preparation will be gone and the likelihood of some food allergy not being catered for increases.
  • Who likes mass produced food? Patients and Meals on Wheels clients may as well go get a frozen meal out of the New World (et al) freezer!
  • The jobs lost to the catering staff and the impact on their families.
  • What about the impact on local suppliers and growers when everything in centalised to Auckland?
  • What happens during bad weather or a natural disaster when the "components" can't get through?  (As pointed out by the SFWU organiser).
  • So if we're getting rid of the catering staff for patients and Meals on Wheels clients does that mean cafeterias for staff and visitors will also be replaced with a vending machine selling frozen meals and a pay by the second microwave?
  • Compass, the company charged with making it happen, has a "colourful" history (horse meat in your hospital meal sir?).
  • Considering the cost saving is merely $7 million over 15 years for the Otago DHB (that's less than half a million per year!), how does that compare to the costs of the unemployment benefits that will need to be paid to the redundant catering staff nationwide? And did they consider the impact on the tax take of more workers being unemployed and paying less tax as a result?

As with many ideas from Tony Ryall, this one is a dog with fleas and now he's gone and isn't there to bully push them through the truth is slowly coming out.  In fact his flag ship HBL is now under investigation by the Auditor General (Scheme can't pay back loans, Stuff, 19/4/15):

The Government's flagship health cost-cutting scheme has taken out millions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded loans, despite concerns it could not pay a cent back, new documents reveal.
Once dubbed a government "ponzi scheme" by district health boards (DHBs), Health Benefits Limited (HBL) has been granted more than $10 million in loans by the Government. HBL was also given three separate extensions to the deadline to pay the money back, amid concerns the original deadline would leave the crown entity insolvent.
The final deadline for HBL to pay at least $10.2 million back is now March 31. If the money isn't paid back, it is likely to be recovered from the already cash-strapped budgets of DHBs.
The organisation is now the subject of an investigation by the auditor-general.
HBL was set up by former health minister Tony Ryall in 2010 to save DHBs $750 million over six years by establishing shared contracts for key hospital services.
But documents show the group took out an initial $8m "short-term credit facility", or a low-interest loan, from the Government in July 2013 so it could develop three detailed business cases for its food services and linen and laundry services and its National Infrastructure Platform programmes.
In a June 2013 letter HBL chairman Ted van Arkel told the Government the loan would be an "interim step" while the group worked with both the Ministry of Health and Treasury to establish a "long-term capital structure".
Van Arkel said it was expected the three projects would deliver $189.7m in savings across the health sector, once the contracts had been filled. It was proposed the money loaned would be paid back through the successful contract providers, but, failing that, DHBs were liable.
Ryall and Finance Minister Bill English approved the loan, with a deadline for repayment set at April 30, 2014.
But subsequent documents show the HBL board had to ask the Government for an extension, after project delays meant it could not afford to repay its loans.
In an email to English's economic adviser Simon Carey, Ministry of Health chief financial officer Mike McCarthy warned that if the loan was outstanding at June 30, "we would have a possible legal issue".
"I have now spoken to the [chief financial officer] and interim [chief executive] of HBL, they advise if the loan is not extended they will not be able to make payment as they have insufficient cash reserves and will be insolvent," he wrote.
On June 24 last year Ryall wrote to van Arkel approving an extension to March 31 this year.
In August, HBL requested the Government lend it more money so it could meet its forecast costs; hoping to increase its $8m debt to $15.1m. Ryall only approved handing the group an extra $2.2m, taking the total loan value to $10.2m.
But a ministerial report shows DHBs were not forewarned of the amount, despite their liability for the loans.
Ryall retired from politics at the election.
HBL is being wound down by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman in June, with its programmes transferred to Auckland regional DHB-led services provider HealthAlliance.
Neither the Government nor HBL has been able to provide any information over whether the loan has been, or is being, paid back.
Labour health spokeswoman Annette King said she had been concerned about HBL for more than two years.
"And I'm delighted the the auditor-general has agreed to my request for an inquiry."
In June 2014, a memo between some DHB chief financial officers branded the organisation a ponzi scheme, calling it the biggest threat to the public health system in a generation.
Coleman has said that HBL had delivered $300m in savings. His office has not yet answered questions and a spokesman for van Arkel refused requests for comment.
 - The Dominion Post

This not only raises questions about the management of Tony Ryall and why he conveniently left parliament at the last election for a job in the private sector with Simpson Grierson, but it raises questions about our Minister of Finance, Bill English, and his ability to actually understand numbers and how money works.

There'll be some horror stories to come yet in the health system from the decisions Tony Ryall made.  I predict there will be some particularly nasty stories in regards to the waiting lists.

This is yet another example of how the National led government is really not qualified to led this country based on its own trumpet blowing of being the best managers of the economy.  This is yet another example of how the National led government has failed to meet the standard yet again.

The dignity of life and death - an uncomfortable conversation

On Monday I found out my companion of nearly thirteen years had chronic renal failure.  Murray had been acting strangely for a while and his breath had been foul.  But when he refused to eat at the weekend and hid away I knew it was time to seek professional help.  And it wasn't good news.  Murray's numbers were at a level that the professional who saw him said there was very little they could do.

Why couldn't they do anything?

Because we don't offer kidney dialysis or transplants to cats in New Zealand.

Murray McFlurray
As Murray's "mummy" I had to make that decision we all dread making.  Whether or not to do the kind thing and put him down, or to let him suffer because you can't imagine life without him.

Like I said, Murray had gone off his food at the weekend and had hid himself away.  When he doesn't jump on the bench and raid the scrap bin for chicken bones or seek out the butter that has been accidentally left on the bench, then I know he, a chronic bench walker, is not at all well.

So I made the decision to put my loyal, loving friend down.  And even though Murray is a cat, my heart is full of sorrow.

I know what it is like to lose a human loved one too.  I've lost grandparents and much loved aunties and uncles.  I've lost a most beloved cousin who died far too young and in a way I wouldn't wish anyone to suffer from.  I've lost friends and students.  I've seen people die of old age, which isn't always a kind way to die.  I've seen people die from agonising cancers.  I've seen people die from accidents that have shattered the lives of the people left behind.  Grief is a soul destroying demon that carves an ugly path in our lives at various points.

But as hard as it was to make the decision to put Murray down, to let him die with dignity and not suffer, I don't envy watching any human go through the agony of a long, drawn out death because we do not have the ability to be as kind to ourselves as humans as we are to animals in regards to dying with dignity.

I didn't want to see my cat Murray suffer, but all to often we see or hear about those who are suffering from agonising deaths.  I don't remember my father's father dying, and I have only small memories of his brother dying, but cancer wasn't a kind death.  My mother nursed her father in law while she was a new mum, and my aunty cared for my uncle.  These deaths took months, their bodies eaten away by the cruelty of cancer.

Just two years ago I watched my "aunty" (my mother's best friend) die of a cancer she only found out about just weeks before her passing.  The doctors had thought that pain that had crippled her for months was due to osteoporosis in her hips and back.  While it was only a matter of a few short weeks from diagnosis to passing, she had been suffering for months with a cancer that is usually only detected during surgery (as it was this time) or after death.

Recently my last grandparent passed away.  At 91 Gran had lived a long and good life, but the last few years with dementia were difficult for her and the wider family.  I had come to terms in November that she would soon pass, but she held out till Christmas.  On Christmas Eve she went down hill and family sat with her for the next eleven days until her body finally gave out.  Her children and the rest home staff endeavoured to give her as much comfort as possible and dignity - but how much dignity is there when you are in pain and unable to control your bodily functions?

But to me the worst dimension to this discussion would be if you were diagnosed with a condition that you knew had no known cure and would result in your own death in a premature and painful way, or worse, incapacitate and trap you in your body, but in the meantime your dignity and independence would be eroded step by step, leaving you reliant on someone else for all the cares you would need daily.

While euthanasia is illegal in New Zealand, as patients we are able to make decisions to decline treatment to shorten our own lives and have written advance directives, such as Do Not Resuscitate, for medical personnel.  These are pathways that a patient must choose, before one gets to that point.  This link to the Hospice NZ statement on hospice care and assisted dying is able to clarify the current views in New Zealand.  But what happens to those incapable of making that decision due to stroke or an accident that incapacitates ones ability to communicate?

The Te Ara site has this to say about euthanasia in New Zealand:

Arguments for euthanasia

Those in favour of voluntary euthanasia argue for the right of individuals to die with dignity and argue that the person concerned is best able to assess their quality of life and make decisions about whether they want to go on living.

Arguments against euthanasia

Objections to euthanasia are that it devalues life and undermines human dignity. Some believe that it also breaks religious laws. The New Zealand Medical Association considers that voluntary euthanasia is illegal and unethical, but supports patients' right to pain relief. It argues that the proper provision of such relief, even when it may hasten the death of the patient, is not unethical.

(from Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand page:  Euthanasia - Death and dying, 18/4/15)

We have two high profile cases in New Zealand of assisted euthanasia which have resulted in court cases:

Lesley Martin

Lesley Martin received nationwide media coverage over the trial of the attempted murder of her mother. In her 2002 book To Die Like A Dog she revealed that she killed her mother due to the pain that she was suffering and was arrested shortly after its release. Martin was given a 15-month sentence of which she served seven and a half months. Ms Martin has since retired from euthanasia reform activism and dissolved Dignity New Zealand.

Sean Davison

In a similar case professor Sean Davison wrote his memoirs in the book Before We Say Goodbye published in 2009, documenting final days of his mothers life in 2006.  A leaked copy of an early manuscript of the book revealed that he offered his mother a dose of morphine to help end her life. He was initially charged with attempted murder in 2011, but later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of inciting and procuring suicide. He was sentenced to five months home detention.

(from Wikipedia page: Euthanasia in New Zealand, 18/4/15).

The closest an assisted death piece of legislation has come to being passed in New Zealand was a bill called Death with Dignity in 2003 introduced by then New Zealand First deputy leader Peter Brown.  It was defeated by three votes, with one other abstaining and two not voting.  (How MPs voted on the Death with Dignity Bill, NZ Herald 31/7/03). 

It is interesting to note that in 2003 John Key voted for the Bill, but today will not entertain even a conversation about this topic.

And the conversation has gone dead.  Maryan Street from Labour had a bill put forward in 2012 called End of Life Choice Bill.  In this article from Stuff published 12/8/12, Euthanasia bill close to MP's heart, Ms Street discussed the impact of seeing her mother and sister dying from a terminal illness and pain and suffering.  But in September 2013, Ms Street withdrew the Bill from the Members Ballot as there were only two more days of debating members bills before parliament closed for 2013 and she was concerned it would become an election football in 2014 and not get the proper attention (Voluntary euthanasia bill withdrawn, Stuff 26/9/13).

With Maryan Street failing to win an electorate seat or get in on the list in the 2014, the chalice was passed to Iain Lees-Galloway to champion this thorny topic.  Andrew Little said, upon his election as Labour party leader, that this bill was not a priority for Labour at this time, and Mr Lees-Galloway has been asked to put the topic at the very back of the stove.

And so no conversation will happen.

Personally I am conflicted on this.  I do not like to see people suffer and linger unnecessarily, so if it is enacted there will have to be tight controls and parameters.  I can also see the opportunity for the abuse of such a law and the ethical dilemmas that will erupt and divide society and increased issues with elder abuse in particular.

And while I don't know which way to leap on this, I believe this is a discussion we need to have as a country.  We need to have it because other countries have had to have this conversation already and have taken action.  We have to have this conversation because we have people dying a death no one would wish on their worse enemy let alone a loved one.

So which politician, which political party, will have the guts to bring this conversation to life again?

To not have a full and frank discussion on this topic is to fail the standard for those who suffer.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

EDUCANZ and the dismantling of democracy.

A storm is brewing in education and I am pondering: which is the best route to travel?

Several weeks ago, on the opening day of parliament, the third reading of the Education Act amendments were passed in parliament. 
The breakdown was all the National MPs currently in parliament (remembering that Mike Sabin’s resignation had already taken affect at the end of the previous week), ACT’s David Seymour and United Future’s Peter Dunne all voted in favour of the amendments.  Unfortunately this out voted Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and the Maori Party who all were opposed to the amendments.

What did these amendments cover?

The Teachers Council v EDUCANZ: 

Firstly, it amounts to dissolving the Teachers Council and establishing a body called EDUCANZ.  This affects every teacher in the Early Childhood, Primary/Intermediate and Secondary school sectors.  It affects all teachers at state, integrated and private schools and the true bona fide registered teachers that a charter school may have employed over an untrained and unregistered teacher.
The current Teachers Council consists of some appointed members by the Minister of Education, as well as elected members for the ECE, primary and secondary sectors.  NZEI and PPTA also directly appoint a member.

EDUCANZ will have ALL members appointed by the Minister of Education.  There will be no elections for teachers to vote in representatives for their sectors.  All members will be nominated and the Minister makes the final decision of who takes the roles.  And that may mean that there would be no one directly representing teachers themselves, and that some sectors may not be represented at all.
Hekia Parata has stated that this model will be more autonomous from the government than the current Teachers Council. 

But I fail to see how with all the members appointed BY the minister, that would make it a more autonomous body from the government.  To me the only people EDUCANZ would be autonomous from are teachers themselves.  To me, it opens EDUCANZ up to being dominated by mates of the government of the day.

University and wananga councils:

Secondly, it made some drastic changes to the councils that govern universities and wananga.  It reduces the number of members of the governing councils and removes the compulsion/need for student and staff representatives.  The councils will be more business-like in their governance role.
At first glance this may make sense, as these institutions have multi-million dollar budgets.  But is the core business of a university or wananga to make money and a profit?  Or is its core business to educate?

When you remove the people at the centre of the core purpose of these institutions, the staff and students, you remove the purpose itself.

What came before the amendments were passed:

Now you may be thinking why didn’t the teachers and people associated with universities and wananga stand up and make a fuss?
Well we did.  We held meetings, sent in submissions, some made personal appearances at the Science and Education Select Committee hearings on the amendments, there were press releases, newspaper articles, blogs, appearances on tv and radio…. And despite 99% of submissions opposing these amendments, despite opposition from the members of the select committee not in the National Party, the amendments went through to the parliamentary vote with mere cosmetic changes.

In fact, if it were not for the opposition MPs on the Science and Education Select Committee, those in person submissions would have fallen on deaf ears and the process would have been even more farcical than it has been.  While opposition MPs like Chris Hipkins (Labour), Catherine Delahunty (Greens) and Tracey Martin (New Zealand First) asked questions and clarified details, the National Party MPs ate their yoghurt and basically warmed their chairs.
The day the amendments passed:
A tweet or Facebook post alerted me to the fact that the third reading was taking place.  I watched carefully.  Chris Hipkins, Catherine Delahunty, Tracey Martin, Kelvin Davis, Gareth Hughes and several others on the opposition benches spoke with authority and a good understanding of the issues and the impacts.
David Seymour (ACT) spoke with no real understanding of the implications and totally from an ideological point of view.  Paul Foster-Bell clearly had no idea what he was talking about, almost as though he had not read through the notes/speech Hekia's office had given to him after his dinner break.  And as for Melissa Lee, good grief!  She warbled on about Lydia Ko and how these amendments would make it easier for our future Lydia Ko's - oblivious to the fact that the current system caters for those families like Lydia's.
The government MPs failed to put up any concrete arguments to that mostly empty debating chamber to counter the opposition MP's fact based speeches in opposition to the amendments.

What does a former member of the Teachers Council think about it all:

Through the Stand Up for Kids - Protect Our Schools Facebook page I have been communicating with Ken Wilson, a former member of the Teachers Council.  And this is what he has to say about the disbanding of the Teachers Council to establish EDUCANZ:

As a past elected member of the New Zealand Teachers Council I find myself profoundly offended by the Ministry of Education's advertisement for EDUCANZ in today's DomPost headed up "We're making changes to education so all Kiwi kids can fly. Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand."

Why is it in today’s political climate, that any new initiative has to be accompanied by denigration of the previous, as if the previous policy was so flawed and so led by misguided and insincere people that it had no value at all?

The Teachers Council was a replacement body for the Teacher Registration Board which had been an effective organisation but one with limited powers. The Board, Director and staff of the Teacher Registration Board were wholly in favour of the new Teachers Council with its broader powers and focus on promoting the professional status of teachers.

Yes, the NZ Teachers Council had a rocky start. The first Chair was driven from her post by unfounded and politically biased accusations – she was later cleared but it was too late by then. This led to the appointment of a director who, while a good person in many ways, was not really up to the task.

This all changed with the appointment of a number of truly effective chairs and of Peter Lind as Director. Over time this hard work gained acceptance of the Council across the profession – even (remarkably) in the university teacher education faculties. What a fantastic effort to make something as bureaucratic as registration accepted by teachers! Now for pathetic political reasons, all that hard, dedicated work by Peter, all of his staff and a whole swag of Council members and chairs has been discarded, marginalised and treated as worthless.

The Ministry of Education has a website page listing the differences between the Council and EDUCANZ. Their view is that key to this is that the status of EDUCANZ as an independent statutory body rather than an Autonomous Crown Entity. Apparently this means that the Minister can select members to create a skills-balanced organisation rather than relying on the vagaries of the electoral process – so much for democracy. (The Ministry makes some interesting points about the low levels of participation in the elections in the last instance.) And of course the Minister appoints all members of the Council – that makes for real independence.

The goals of the new organisation are listed. It's worth looking back at the goals of the Teachers Council and trying to spot the difference. This is a sham, a total sham. I am really pissed off!!
So let's do as Ken suggests and look at the goals of the two organisations:
For further information on the differences between the Teachers Council and EDUCANZ click here.  And for the FAQ according to EDUCANZ, click here.

What does a current member of the Teachers Council think:

Claire Amos is a secondary school teacher and Deputy Principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School in Auckland, and was last year elected to the Teachers Council by the secondary teachers who voted.

In a blog post dated 2 March called Educanz - between a rock and a hard place, Claire opens with this:

I feel the need to begin this post with a few disclaimers:
  • I am a passionate and committed PPTA member. 
  • I am current a member of a NZ Teachers Council. 
  • I am feeling genuinely stuck...between a rock and hard place. 

Claire then writes:

There is the issue that the process for forming the council is clearly undemocratic, with nominations being open to all, but final selection being made by the Minister of Education. This is of course even harder to accept when you consider that the council is actually funded by the teachers themselves.  
There is also the issue of changing the code of ethics (which are viewed as aspirational) to a code of conduct (which suggest a baseline for behaviour) which to be fair IS insulting, particularly in light of the claim that one of the aims of the new council forming is to elevate the status of teachers??

Add to this the concerns around the stated aim to "to ensure that appraisals made by professional leaders for the issue and renewal of practising certificates achieve a reasonable and consistent standard, by auditing and moderating the appraisals made for at least 10% of the practising certificates issued or renewed in each year " Source: Section 382 Education Amendment Act 2015 which I actually wouldn't have a huge issue with if it weren't for the implications this will have for council employee workloads and the potential practicing certificate fee increase this will undoubtedly lead to. 
And then...

And then there is the million dollar question - will snubbing the nomination process and the council even make a difference? Will a vote of no confidence be enough to result in a change of legislation? Could we instead be presented with a situation where no left-leaning, future thinking folks stand and give Minister Parata absolutely no choice but to appoint conservative, status-quo protecting council members. Of course, she may well do this anyway, but there a part of me saying if I don't put my hat (or the hat of like-minded folk) in the ring there really is NO chance of having a voice for a good chunk of our sector. 

Yes, we could all disengage and stand shoulder to shoulder, resolute that nominating someone or nominating yourself is by it's very virtue acceptance of fundamentally flawed legislation - but I genuinely don't think it is as straight forward as that. 

And it is good to know I am not the only one conflicted with the quandary of which strategy is the best way forward.

Nominations open...

On Thursday 26 February, Hekia Parata announced that nomination for EDUCANZ were now open.  Hekia's press statement said,
“Nominations are encouraged from anyone with a strong interest in the development and strengthening of the education profession. All appointments will be on the basis of skills, experience and knowledge.
“Members will act in the interests of the education profession as a whole, rather than any one sector group.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved in education. Student achievement continues to rise and the Investing in Educational Success initiative signals a new era of collaboration in raising the quality of teaching and leadership from early childhood to senior secondary.
“I am confident the nominations process for EDUCANZ will attract huge interest and a high calibre of nominees.” 
This is part of the advertisement (click here to see full advert and access extra information) in the Gazette.
Above is part of the advertisement in the Government Gazette, but I would love to see a copy of the advertisement Ken Wilson refers to from the Dominion Post. Reaction was fairly swift from the unions and teachers themselves on social media.
What will happen next?
Now NZEI, PPTA, NZPF and any other groups have had to signal their responses and next steps.
NZEI have decided to run their own process of collecting nominations through their membership to put forward to Hekia Parata (Minister of Education) to choose from.
PPTA and NZPF have decided to boycott the process completely, with the PPTA stating they will be balloting their members to check this is still their wish going forward.  The NZPF President, Denise Torrey, has written the following wise words in relation to how their organisation views EDUCANZ:
"Through the Minister appointing all members of the EDUCANZ Board it will be possible for the government to exert considerable political control over the council and set the agenda for it. In our view such control runs counter to the notion of self-regulation which the council is supposed to provide. 
Of further concern is what other roles the EDUCANZ might take on. NZPF maintains that EDUCANZ should be primarily about teacher registration, ensuring the quality of initial teacher education, issuing practising certificates, discipline and ethics. Already we know that the auditing of principal appraisals and other roles are likely to fall under the jurisdiction of EDUCANZ and to conduct these roles will require teachers to pay more fees to the council. With no democratically elected representatives on the council, the profession will have no say in any of these changes."
SPANZ and NZSTA has yet to formally declare where they stand, and searching their websites I found nothing mentioning EDUCANZ; but considering they were totally behind IES, I imagine they have fallen into line with Hekia over EDUCANZ.
So what are the pitfalls of these choices?
At first glance to me, NZEI’s stance seemed weak and had a whiff of capitulation about it.  I was concerned that as an organisation I am a member of, that we would lose the opportunity to make a stand about the lack of direct representation.  However Louise Green, NZEI President, said it would be a bad look not to nominate appropriate people for the roles.
Then I thought about it a little more.
If NZEI runs a process that puts several strong, quality nominations up one of two things may happen:
  • Hekia chooses one (or two preferably) nominations to represent teachers and appreciates the fact that we as a group of ECE and primary/intermediate teachers have quality people who can lead the profession.
  • Hekia completely ignores the capable people we nominate and instead appoints a patsy who is not representative of the ECE and primary/intermediate professions, exposing her bias.
With the stance taken by PPTA and NZPF of a boycott of the nomination process, I thought, at first glance, that it was bold and sends a message about how important representation for each sector is to these stakeholders.
And then I thought about it some more.
Maybe such a stance could be taken as follows:
  • The PPTA and NZPF are cutting of their noses despite themselves.
  • Hekia may consider that those sectors need no representation and will appoint someone abhorrent to their groups.  The last thing we need on EDUCANZ are people who do not understand the profession and how each sector is unique in all areas.
Where do I stand on EDUCANZ:

So like Claire Amos, I too am caught between a rock and a hard place.

Firstly I fundamentally disagree with the disbanding of the Teachers Council and establishment of EDUCANZ on the grounds of financial management and loss of intellect.  It will cost a fairly decent fortune to do this on so many levels (stationery and new signs and website for starters) and even though the staff will transfer to EDUCANZ from the Teachers Council, there will be severe lost of intellect if any staff decide it's not the move for them, and it will be a severe loss of intellect that our elected leaders to the Teachers Council have collected over the years that will be lost, as it is likely those people may not be selected for EDUCANZ.

I personally believe that Hekia has thrown the baby out with the bathwater on this one.  Yes, the Teachers Council had some areas that were not effective.  So adjust the legislation and require it to tighten up some areas and change some things (particularly in regards to serious discipline matters) that are not up to scratch.  It would have been so much cheaper and faster and less disruptive.  However, we really know that this is all about trying to control and muzzle teachers.

I fundamentally disagree with the legislation that has formed EDUCANZ in regards to the lack of democracy for teachers meaning that they do not elect members of EDUCANZ, and the fact that this could open up the Minister of Education to appoint cronies and people with a conflict of interest. 

I fundamentally disagree with disbanding the Code of Ethics (which I clearly remember being consulted on and discussing the options) with a Code of Conduct.  The Code of Ethics may be aspirational, but its flexibility reflects the evolving nature of teaching and the different contexts of schools and centres in which teachers are teaching.  A Code of Conduct represents a more condemning context.

While I see the positives of participating in nominations to EDUCANZ, I can't help but think we need to send an extremely strong message - again - to the Minister and the rest of the government. 

To not pay any fees to EDUCANZ would be a start - but my protest would be impotent considering my current practising certificate is valid through to 2017 and therefore my small protest would make no difference.  If all teachers did it, then it would be huge, but now many teachers' practising certificates need renewing each year?  Are our teachers bold and brave enough to make such a grand statement?  And would that make the necessary impact?

Once upon a time there may have been strikes over this (particularly from secondary teachers) but with all the changes to employment law over the last 25 years we are unable to take strike action over an issue like this.  It is not linked directly to our collective agreements.

However there must be other ways we can limit our interactions and co-operation with EDUCANZ to send a message, such as not participating in the audits of appraisals and development of their procedures and Code of Conduct.  Please feel free to add more in the comments.

This week I had the pleasure of hearing Andrew Little speak twice, once to Labour party members in Hamilton and once to the Affco Horotiu workers at the Meat Workers Union meeting in Ngaruawahia.  Andrew believes in constructive negotiation.  He likes to see win:win situations.

But one piece of advice that he gave the Affco workers was this:  Half the battle is in your head.  If you think that you have lost before you even begin, then you have.  You have to keep the faith and keep the goal foremost in your mind and keep working towards it.  You have to keep your collective group working towards the same goal  together.

So let's not think that the fight for a democratic EDUCANZ is over.  Let's not think that a Code of Conduct is already done and dusted.  We have the power together to speed things up, slow things down and complicate it for the EDUCANZ body.  We just need to share a joint vision, work together, keep the goal in mind and be positive.

It's up to NZEI, PPTA and NZPF to get together and sort that joint vision and goal out so we can get in behind it and work to achieve it.

To not do this is to fail the standard.  And lets's face it, this legislation has already failed a big standard.