Local Authorities and the unemployed in New Zealand.
The Local Authorities in New Zealand are directly elected bodies with a Mayor as the senior elected representative of the people.
The Chief Executive is normally a career local body manager with the responsibility for the day to day running of the organisation.
Unfortunately, there appears to be a tendency emerging in New Zealand for local bodies to adopt the right wing views of central government. While the Centre is not in a position to claim that all local authorities in New Zealand are moving to the right in this way, it appears to be the case that the local authority in whose area the Centre is located - the Dunedin City Council - has certain sympathies in that area.
For over a year now the Centre has been attempting to draw the Council into debate over its activities in respect of the use of the unemployed to carry out part of its work.
In order to contribute to low rates, (local property tax), it would appear that the City has adopted a policy of employing a minimal staff of qualified people, which it calls its "core" staff and to use the unemployed on low, part taxpayer funded salaries to complete and update outstanding work such as street clearing and record keeping.
Unfortunately the Chief Executive, Mr Murray Douglas, did not reply to a letter on the subjects of the apparent abuse of international law and the immorality of an elected organisation exploiting one section of the citizens in order to contribute to the standard of living of the remainder. Correspondence has since then been with Her Worship the Mayor, Mrs Sukhi Turner, who seems to have adopted a policy of ignoring the moral arguments and demanding proof of legal wrong doing.
In view of the attitude of both the Chief Executive and the Mayor, the Centre referred both its legal and moral case to the local body watchdog, the Office of the Controller and Auditor General.
As you will see from the documentation, the Assistant Controller and Auditor General, Mr Kevin Brady, appeared to be evasive in his reply. He referred to only "existing workers" when the declaration requires that both existing and future employment must be protected. It is also difficult to understand that keeping record systems up to date is not part of the normal work of a City Council. He also appears to completely avoid the question of any untruthfulness on the part of a manager who was required by law to carry out certain work, yet apparently signed a declaration that that statutory work would not be done unless he could obtain part taxpayer funded unemployed persons. It is also curious to note that the expression "on balance" is used to qualify the decision that there apperars to be no illegality. It is noted that no decision was made as to whether the practices of the Dunedin City Council were questionable or not.
Forcing the unemployed to work against their will on pain of any menace is a breach of Article Two of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930.
New Zealand ratified that Convention on 29 March 1938.
The Taskforce Green scheme, which is the scheme under which the persons were employed, is compulsory and those who do not take part in it may lose their entitlement to an unemployment benefit.
Unanswered letter to the Chief Executive of the Dunedin City Council here
Correspondence with the Mayor of Dunedin - One here
Correspondence with the Mayor of Dunedin - Two here
Correspondence with the Mayor of Dunedin - Three here
Copy of pre-complaint letter to Mayor of Dunedin here
Copy of complaint to Controller and Auditor General here
Copy of reply from Controller and Auditor General  here