The finalists for the annual Roger Award for the Worst multinational operating in New Zealand in 2007 were recently announced.

Telecom have, once again, been nominated. Indeed Telecom has been a finalist every year since the Roger Award stared a decade a year - however they have only been winners once.

This year Telecom is a strong contender for first place with its impressive display of incompetence when it transferred its Xtra-mail customers to Yahoo. The victims of Telecom's incompetence found they couldn't access they're e-mail accounts and, in some cases, they're e-mail accounts vanished into cyberspace, never to be seen again.

Another frequent nominee is British American Tobacco - but they have yet to win the gold medal. This year BAT is bidding for first place with a two-pronged approach. First up, the judges have taken notice of how BAT are coming up with new and creative ways to sell its products to New Zealanders - which kill 5,000 of us a year. Secondly, BAT'S underhand role in the collapse and takeover of Feltex Carpets was also noteworthy. Indeed it has already picked one award for this - the Shareholders' Association's annual Golden Glob Award. Well done BAT!

Spotless, the Australian cleaning contractors, got a nomination for locking out hundreds of low paid hospital workers for nine days.

Also nominated is Pike River Coal. It has opened a major new coal mine near Greymouth at the same time when the country and the world are having to grapple with the impact of global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels. An outstanding example of shortsightedness and greed!

Independent Liquor and APN news have been nominated for anti-worker activities.

Workers at Independent Liquor typically receive $200 to $300 less per week than workers at other liquor and brewery companies and the company has repeatedly frustrated attempts to negotiate a collective employment agreement with better pay and redundancy.

The company was sold to Lion Breweries but workers were left high and dry with poor redundancy arrangements and uncertain employment prospects.

APN News were nominated for contracting out much of its newspaper and magazine sub-editing work to an Australian firm, Pagemasters, making its own workers redundant in the process.

Finally, and possibly this year's favourite for the grand prize, is GlaxoSmithKline, the British drug and healthcare multinational. It got fined $200,000 after two high school girls proved that, for decades, the multinational has been lying about the Vitamin C content in Ribena.

The Roger Award is organised by the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa and GATT Watchdog. The winner will be announced in March.


The New Zealand media are presently going through their traditional orgy of 'looking back' on 2007 - but this 'reflection' has not extended as far as the media scrutinising itself.

A new and worrying development has emerged within the New Zealand media this year and that has been the purchase of an increasing number of media companies by private equity firms. These companies have no interest in the media in itself - all they want is the best return possible on their money, more bangs for their buck. They could of equally have invested in a company making baked beans.

What we are witnessing is the further commercialisation of an already chronically commercialised New Zealand media which is owned by a group of owners who could comfortably fit inside a small closet - with room to spare.

The most prominent case this year has been the purchase of Canwest's seventy percent stake in Mediaworks (which owns TV3 and TV4 and a radio network) by the Australian-based private equity investor Ironbridge Capital. It paid $386 million for Canwest's share. In October Ironbridge went on to secure 100 percent ownership through its shelf company HT Media.

Ironbridge also owns one of New Zealand's biggest retirement home chains, Qualcare Group Holdings, which runs sixteen retirement centres throughout the country. It also bought the waste disposal company, Envirowaste in December 2006.

Typically equity investment firms like Ironbridge invest in a company for no more than five years.

The problem for media companies is that corporate raiders like Ironbridge want to quickly secure short term profits so that the value of the company, in the financial books at least, is significantly increased. They then can sell the company for a big profit.

To make such quick profits means cutting back on operations that are deemed to be 'unnecessary' and 'expensive'.

In the case of Canwest we could well see the trimming back of its already minimal news services - and these news services could well become increasingly more tabloid, geared to meet the demands of ratings and advertisers

We are perhaps seeing the first signs of this with TV3's new venture into breakfast television, Sunrise.This programme has eschewed serious news analysis for easy interviews, profiles of celebrities, movie and book reviews - and, of course, a whole lot of sport.

The move of private equity companies into the New Zealand media parallels developments in the United States where an increasing number of media and communications companies are being purchased by private equity firms.

This has prompted two Democrat senators, John Dingella and Ed Markey, to ask the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the implications of the increasing private equity involvement in the United States media.

Dingell and Markey questioned whether new private equity owners might focus on "cutting costs, increasing revenues, and the ultimate resale" of the media or communications company and that this had implications for the role of the media in United States society.

Here in New Zealand its beginning to happen without questions being asked - significantly the corporate-owned media itself remains silent on the issue.


Working at The Warehouse, New Zealand's version of Wal-Mart (which was founder Stephen Tindall's 'inspiration') is not exactly an enriching experience.

At the place 'where everyone gets a bargain' the wages are low and the work is monotonous.

The Warehouse posted a $115.5 million profit this year.

But employees who don't buy the management propaganda about The Warehouse being a great place to work with plenty of 'career opportunities' get short shrift from the company that claims on its website that it supports its 'terrific team of people'.

Deena Pawson from Whangarei got the sack from The Warehouse after posting some uncomplimentary comments about her employer on her Bedo page.

She said that 'work sux' and working to midnight was 'gay like the management'.

'Gay' is popular slang for something that is rubbish or hopeless.

What Deena didn't know was that her boss was reading her Bedo page and promptly sacked her for 'serious misconduct'. We'd like to know why her boss was reading her page in the first place.

We say, well done Deena for speaking out against your crap job!


Jim: Breaking news, Carly. It's nearly Christmas. Well, that's what the autocue says anyway..

Carly: That's right- it is Christmas. And, just to be even more banal than usual, we're going to bore our four viewers with cheesy Christmas features.

Jim: That's right, Carly. And today I'm talking about the real meaning of Christmas - buying lots of stuff.

Carly: That's right. Buying stuff - stuff advertised on this channel even.

Jim: But Carly, what about Jesus?

Carly: I think he'd like an ipod for Christmas -I know I would!

Jim: I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and peace and goodwill to all.

Carly: Even the Muliaga family, Jim? You know, the mother - Folole Muliaga - who had her power cut off and died because she couldn't use her oxygen machine?

Jim: Well, it was tragic..

Carly: Didn't you say it was her own fault?

Jim: I don't think so, Carly..

Carly: Yes you did - you suggested she couldn't pay her power bill because she was spending her money on cigarettes. You said it on Radio Live..

Jim: Let's talk about something else..is it time for a commercial break yet? Maybe I could review a record...

Carly: She didn't smoke, Jim..

Jim: Shut up, Carly.

More drivel until commercial break...


Well, Sideshow Bob Parker has finally revealed who financially backed his mayoral campaign.

Not surprisingly, Parker's support has come from within the ranks of the Christchurch conservative establishment - who Parker describes as 'good people'.

Property developer Michael Ogilvie-Lee stumped up $10,000 while John Fairhall, the managing director of car dealership Archibalds, and Nuk Korako, a director of Young and Lee Tours both donated $5000.

Software man Sir Gil Simpson and Lady Simpson together donated $2000, and Parker's parents, Bob and Audrey Parker, also donated $2000.

Sharon Lingham, the managing director of Crown Limousines, donated $1000, and Warwick Beatson, the managing director of Warwick Beatson Travel, each donated $1500.

C. Wilson gave $2000 and P. Wright $1000. Three anonymous donors gave $5000 each, and one anonymous donor gave $2000.

A further $7500 was given in donations under $1000 and these donors are not required under electoral law to be named.

Shirley Fairhall, John Fairhall's wife, stood as an 'Independent Citizen' in the 2001 Christchurch council elections while Sharon Lingham stood as an 'independent' in 2004.


Flip performing 'Long Awaited Sigh' on New Zealand television. The song was used in the season finale of the American television drama series 'Brothers and Sisters'.
clipped from www.youtube.com
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“From farther up the east coast toward Christchurch comes Flip Grater. The female singer-songwriter has a Hope Sandoval feel to her acousto-folk, but when she shades to something more angsty indie, she's got a little Cat Power in her.” - The Austin Chronicle, Austin, Texas

Christchurch singer/songwriter Flip Grater has been busy of late. In 2006 she released her debut album Cage for a Song, had a hand in producing the videos for it, started her own label Maiden Records and then did a solo tour of New Zealand - finding time to compile a cookbook tour journal. Now she's back in the studio recording a new album. To top all that off, a song from the Cage album was featured on the season finale of the US television drama series Brothers and Sisters.
Flip found some time to answer a few questions..

A desert island. You can take ten albums, five books and five albums.
Albums: Chinatown - Be Good Tanyas, Uh Huh Her - PJ Harvey, Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison, Slut Rock - Nou, Give Up - Postal Service, The Reminder - Fiest, I Had To Live and Learn - Ella Fitzgerald, The Stand Sure Oak - Shaun Anderson, Pink Moon - Nick Drake, White People - Boy Modelling People. Books: Gourmet Island Cooking for One, Edmonds Cookbook, Transform Your Life -Gelshe Kelsang Gyatso, My Year of Meat, Hannah's Daughters. Movies: You, Me and Everyone We Know, Garden State, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, Cube.

What's a heartbreak song?
Colin Hay - I Just Don't Think I'll Get Over You

Buried or cremated? And an epitaph.
Buried under a tree in a biodegradable bag. 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.' - Karl Marx.

What music do you most want played at your funeral?
'Let The Cold Wind Blow' by Kate Rusby.

Pick five words to describe yourself.
At. Least. I. Am. Trying.

Babies. Do you want them?
Yes. Sometime.

Have you ever had a moment of extraordinary clarity, an epiphany?
I've had some amazing moments. the clearest and the most prolonged ones were all while straight. I once had a fantastic understanding about the nature of mind and lack of inherent existence in all things. It was very comforting.

When was the last time you cried?
'I'm not crying -I've been cutting the onions. I'm making lasagne for one' - Flight of the Conchords.

Who is the person from your past you wish you could go back and talk to?
Camila. My Swedish boyfriend left me for her. I'd like to apologise for hating her for years after.

If you could have any job you wanted what would it be?
A superhero.

What's your greatest ambition?
To have given more than I've taken when I die.

What's your greatest weakness?
Stress, salt, alcohol and attachment to people.

Your favourite smell?
First thing - coffee brewing. Midday -the sea. Last thing - Laphroaig. Neat.

Favourite food?

What's the most important thing in your life?

Do you believe in the afterlife?
I believe in reincarnation.

What's your poison?
Wine, whiskey, coffee, msg.

Favourite magazine?
Who has time to read magazines?

What's the best piece of advice you've received?
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

What's your most treasured possession?
My sanity.

What's your greatest talent?
I make really good dumplings.

If you could build a house anywhere, where would you live?
The reason I live in Christchurch currently is due to the fact that I chose it over anywhere else in the world. But I would like to own a house somewhere hotter than I can live in during June and July. Perhaps southern Sweden or Denmark.

Technology or art?

You are invisible for a day. What are you going to do?
An attention seeker like me would hate being invisible.

What is Heaven?
A hot day on the beach with a few good friends, perfect surf, a giant book of soduku, bean salad and gin and tonics with fresh lime.

What is Hell?

What turns you on?

Happiness is?
If you're referring to the lasting kind, it comes from within.

Britney. She needs a cuddle or a shrink?

Where are you off to now?
The Sitting Room. I'm recording demos for my next album.


As from April next year, New Zealanders will find their enquiries to Yellow Pages being answered by a call centre in Manila in the Philippines. The company that owns the call centre has a dubious track record, including running a Manila sweatshop.

In late November it was announced that 110 Palmerston North workers would be losing their jobs after the call centre Sitel lost the Yellow Pages contract to Teletech, an American-based outsource company.

Teletech is transferring the Yellow Pages call centre work to Manila in the Philippines where wages are much lower.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturers Union hierarchy, a docile and complaint lot, has done little other than issue a few press statements and speculate about sacked workers being accommodated in other jobs elsewhere.

Of the parliamentary parties it was only the Maori Party that had anything substantial to say on the matter.

"Teletech's decision to outsource its call-centre to the Philippines is another disaster for the state of this country's economy, as well as for this country's first language," said Hone Harawira, the Maori Party Spokesperson for Communications.

He went on to say:

"One month out from Christmas, and a hundred Teletech workers in Palmerston North have just been told their jobs will be gone come April next year.Some Christmas for those poor buggers - it's no wonder people are heading over the ditch.

This government's ability to lose jobs to overseas markets seems to be matched only by their ability to lose workers to overseas countries.'

Harawira also was concerned about call centre workers in Manila not adequately understanding New Zealand culture and, in particular, Maori place names.

'I'm on the road a lot and I use 018 to help find people, and I've always been really impressed, and quietly proud too as a matter of fact, about just how quickly Kiwi operators respond to queries about Maori names and Maori places,"Teletech reckons that their Filipino operators speak 'good American-English', but that won't mean a thing in a country where people speak Kiwi-English and there are literally thousands of Maori names in everyday use.'

The destruction of the New Zealand jobs followed the sacking of 224 Telstra workers in Australia in October.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Stephen Jones said Telstra managers had been secretly in the Philippines assisting Teletech to set up the new operation.

"(The sacked workers) are the people who work in customer service support dealing with your bill problems, dealing with services, dealing with problems with contractors and sales support,' Jones said.

"We have concerns with the quality of the service (overseas workers) will provide and issues with information sent offshore that certainly will not be under the jurisdiction of Australian law."

Teletech first expanded into the Philippines in 2001 attracted by the low wage levels or what its chairman Kenneth Tuchman has described as a 'environment that is highly conducive to growth.'

It is now the biggest business process outsourcing (BPO) company operating in the Philippines with the number of employees expected to reach 30,000 by next year.

Although Teletech's glossy advertising would like you to believe otherwise, it is widely regarded as a bad employer. Indeed there are a number of Internet sites in which present and former employees of Teletech outline the problems they are having with a company that had a turnover of $US1 billion in 2004.

Stories of unjustified dismissals, anti-union strategies, attempts to cut wages, etc abound. Teletech is rarely out of court, with ex-employees suing the company for among other things, the non payment of wages and harassment.

In his book The Culture of New Capitalism, Richard Sennet writes

At call center companies such as AmTech and TeleTech, call centre companies to whom many corporations outsource their “customer relations management,” agents must follow a script displayed on their computer screens, spelling out the exact conversation, word for word, they must follow in their dealings with customers. Monitoring devices track every fact of their work: minutes spent per call, minutes spent going to the bathroom. At the same time managers can speed up or reconfigure this digital assembly line simply by throwing a switch and reprogramming the software-specifying less time per call and between calls-much as Henry Ford controlled the line at his Detroit plants in the 1920s.

Is it little wonder that Teletech has such a high turnover of staff that it is constantly seeking new workers? In fact its own internal documents assume that most Teletech workers will not stay in the job for more than two years.

And Teletech's dubious practices extend beyond call centres.

In August the US current affairs show Dan Rather Reports revealed that America's computer voting machines are being assembled in a Manila sweatshop. Workers earn between $2.15 and $2.50 a day in a factory where the temperature sometimes soars above 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).

It turns out that Election Systems & Software, one of the top voting machine companies in the United States contracts Teletech to assemble the voting machines in its Manila sweatshop.

This sweatshop also has connections with a company called Pivot International. Pivot is a contract engineering firm based in Kansas that is controlled by the Ching family, a Filipino family with "strong connections in top political circles" and that has been investigated for suspect business practices and possible tax evasion.

Teletech has a number of contracts with New Zealand firms including Telecom and Meridian Energy.


I watched some of TV3's breakfast 'news' show Sunrise again today - it was something to do while I ironed my trousers.

There are some big issues to cover. Iraq, of course. But what about Venezuela and its audacious stand against the forces of global capitalism? Or perhaps, locally, it might have a rigorous examination of the Green Party and why it has turned into a meek lapdog for the Labour Government?

No, hosts Jim and Carly had bigger and more important things to talk about. They interviewed two other colleagues from C4 about TV3's upcoming Christmas In The Park!

You know you're watching bad television when so-called 'interviews' are nothing more than long commercials for upcoming shows.

I switched over to see the very-right-wing Paul Henry waving his arms about and his sidekick, Pippa Witzell, pretending to find him funny.

I switched off.

New Zealand television journalism is, at best, mediocre but at breakfast time its abysmal.


Sideshow Bob Parker, Christchurch's new mayor, has still to file his final election return with the registrar - and so revealing who financially backed his $60,000 campaign.

We've already discovered that one local property developer gave $10,000 to Sideshow's campaign but who are the other mystery backers that Sideshow Bob is reluctant to reveal?

Sideshow has to lodge his return by December 17. As I've earlier predicted, Sideshow will leave it until as late as possible to file the details, hoping it will get lost in the Christmas rush.


I visited my local shopping mall yesterday and was horrified to discover that Christmas songs are now being played continuously. During my mercifully brief visit I heard, among other dire Christmas songs, a dance version of a 'A Little Drummer Boy'. Well, at least I didn't hear the atrocious 'Snoopy's Xmas' - every year I make a determined effort to avoid this song.

The mall put up their Christmas decorations about two weeks ago, but with the introduction of the cheesy Christmas pop songs, the manufacturers, the corporations and the retailers, are cranking up the pressure again - whipping up consumers into a buying frenzy and putting more pressure on the environment as more useless goods are produced which will ultimately end up in landfills.

Coming soon, within the next few days, will be the mall's 'Santa Claus' - some retired guy getting barely more than the minimum hourly rate.

Columnist Christopher Hitchens got it right when he wrote:

.'.what I have always hated about the month of December: the atmosphere of a one-party state. On all media and in all newspapers, endless invocations of the same repetitive theme. In all public places, from train stations to department stores, an insistent din of identical propaganda and identical music. The collectivization of gaiety and the compulsory infliction of joy.'

The message is if that we don't get into the 'Christmas spirit' (ie buying stuff) then we can't experience real joy. We can't be happy. We can't be fulfilled.

But the promises of consumerism are empty. In fact we're less happy, less fulfilled.

According to the World Health Organisation by the year 2020, if current trends continue, only heart disease will effect more people than depression. In the economically prosperous west, depression will by that time be the biggest health problem.

In New Zealand, the rate of depression continues to rise. Its estimated that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men suffer from depression. Also significant is that people are now experiencing serious depression at an earlier age.

Depression is linked with over half the suicide attempts in New Zealand.

And the rate of depression increases markedly during the lead-up to Christmas, during this period of so called of 'peace and goodwill'. Welfare agencies report more people seeking help. Women refuges are bracing themselves for the Christmas influx of women who have been assaulted by violent partners.

But the corporations and the retailers want your money and they'll use every weapon in their arsenal of Christmas bullshit to get you to buy stuff they you can either not afford or don't need - or both.

Here's an alarming fact: More than three-quarters of the world's forests have already been cleared to feed our consumerist culture , and still there is no halt. Every year a further area, the size of Austria, is cleared of virgin forests from the Amazon to Indonesia, so that we can keep consuming.

How many people will think of such matters or will the message be drowned out by the insane babble of capitalism in Christmas overdrive?


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