Guest Post – From Another George

Another George has emailed with his observations of a manipulative and highly misleading NZ Herald.

This story ran on the Herald web site and was credited to Newstalk ZB.

$32 Million to Crack Down on Worker Exploitation

This was a cheap sensational headline and completely misleading.

A task force has been given $32 million of government funding to crack down on underpayment of workers in South Auckland.

This is quite simply untrue.

The Herald reports in a story by Tess Nichol on 20/12/2015 under the headline:

”Retail staff being paid as little as $7 an hour” .

“The Labour Inspectorate was allocated $32 million to strengthen compliance with minimum employment standards in this year’s Budget, of which $1.4 million was used to set up the new team of 10 staff.”

32 million to crack down on exploitation?  

No, it’s $1.4m from the regular and already apportioned budget for a “task force”.

Appalling journalism – embarrassingly so. Factually completely incorrect. Shame on the Herald. But wait – there’s more:

The budget was delivered in May 2015 (not in the past week or two as this story might imply)

It provides for $32 million of new operating expenditure in employment relations services over the next four years to help strengthen compliance with minimum employment standards, including tougher sanctions.

In other words, this happened at budget time – not this past week and $32m was not allocated for a special task force, it was a standard budget allocation to follow up on compliance over the next 4 years which is 8m a year – nobody – including the minister has suggested this was allocated because there was a major problem in South Auckland. It was simply a budgeted increase to run a government department. Why is it even a story dated 21/12/15?

There are concerns that in retail in particular, some young and migrant workers are paid as little as $7 an hour.

What arrant nonsense – “There are concerns”??? Really??? The way this is written would seem to suggest a very serious problem which is rampant in South Auckland.

In fact it is ONE example of ONE company underpaying TWO workers and dates back to a court hearing in July – why raise it now?

Employees should not be abused in this way – I agree with that in principle. But people should not be assholes and some always will be!

But Retail New Zealand spokesman Greg Harford said those are isolated cases.

He acknowledged while it is a competitive industry where small businesses can find it tough to make a buck, their members keep the law.

“They absolutely understand the rules that apply in the employment law space and are keen to make sure their employees are on the minimum wage rate,” Harford said.

“It’s certainly not acceptable to be exploiting staff by paying workers less than $14.75 an hour minimum wage and our understanding is that most retailers and certainly most reputable retailers will be paying people well above that.”

I agree with what he says but he adds little to the story which is in fact a non story anyway – talk about a journalist interviewing their own typewriter!

Chief Labour Inspectorate George Mason said there were a number of risk factors that made South Auckland of considerable interest.

“It’s a young workforce in South Auckland, many migrants in the workforce and many of the sectors we find are problematic for us like hospitality, retail, horticulture and construction work.

“We’ve carried out audits of labour hire companies and we’ve been concerned at the improper treatment of the workers.”

As an inspectorate is a body rather than an individual and therefore can’t talk, I’m assuming the writer means “inspector”. But what exactly is he saying? Is there a major problem or isn’t there? Comments like this need to be quantified otherwise they are just space fillers that mean nothing – which is of course the case here – fills the holes in the paper though!

The workers were categorised as contractors and were denied holiday and leave entitlements, Mason said.

Khoobsurat, an Indian clothing store in Papatoetoe, was ordered to pay $30,000 in penalties and more than $18,500 in arrears for lost wages and holiday pay to two employees after an Employment Court decision in July.

The case has similarities to an earlier employment breach where workers at Auckland’s Masala restaurants were found to be paid as little as $2 an hour. The owners of the company were eventually sentenced to a combined 15 months’ home detention in October on immigration and exploitation charges.

They were also ordered to jointly pay more than $60,000 in arrears and penalties to four members of staff.

The only similarity is that they would both seem to be Indians and both have behaved badly.

The abuse of employees is never acceptable and this lot got their just desserts.

However, the employment case was in May and these guys appeared in the district court in October. Why is this a new story this week?

To publish this story under the above headline and tarnish all South Auckland retailers with such a broad sweeping generalizations is disgracefully bad journalism from what used to once be a professional media organization.

This is not journalism.


George is right, it isn’t journalism, it is poverty pimping and alarmism and re-hashing of old stories to make them current in order to bash the government. It is deliberate and it is highly manipulative.


– NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.