Print Media and the unemployed in New Zealand
In the area of the print media and the unemployed, the Centre has only been successful on one occasion in obtaining coverage of the question of the rights of the unemployed in respect of being forced to work against their will.
The Centre first began work in this area in December 1996 as the result of a party plank of the New Zealand First political party. Subsequent to a general election, that party, with 13% of the vote, had entered into a coalition with the right wing National Party and had obtained an agreement during coalition negotiations to introduce a compulsory work scheme for the unemployed. It was announced in May of 1998 that the scheme was to be extended to include those on single parent, widows, sickness and invalid benefits.
In a 1993 publication of the New Zealand Government's Department of Labour, a claim was made that the Committee of Experts of the International Labour Organisation had held that requiring the unemployed to work in order to qualify for an unemployment benefit was not forced labour.
The Centre sought verification from the ILO of this claim and was faxed copies of Direct Requests by the Committee of Experts to the Chilean Government. In these requests the Committee found that forcing the unemployed to work against their will in order to qualify for unemployment benefits was forced labour. This was because the Chilean scheme breached Article Two of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930.
On the 13 May 1997 the Centre issued a general Press Release to all the leading media organs in the country.
As far as is known the only coverage of any kind the story received was in the local daily newspaper and even then was on the basis of it being local organisation that was doing the work.
When the Government made a public announcment on the shape of the scheme in April 1998, the Centre again sent out a nation wide press release. There was no print coverage of any kind of which the Centre is aware. On this occasion however the Director was asked to do a ten minute interview on Radio Pacific, one of the two nation-wide radio talkback programmes.
The purpose of this was to balance the view the view of the Minister of Employment who was to be interviewed subsequent to the Director.
As far as is known the Centre is the only organisation in the country working on the human rights aspect of the matter. There appears to be widespread public support for the scheme.
In accordance with the procedures of the New Zealand Press Council, the Centre laid a complaint with first the Editor of the local newspaper, the Otago Daily Times and subsequently with the New Zealand Press Council itself.
Complaint to the Editor of the Otago Daily Times and the reply here
Complaint to the New Zealand Press Council here
The case of the Otago Daily Times to the New Zealand Press Council here
The Centre's final submission here
The adjudication of the New Zealand Press Council. here
The Centre's analysis of the complaint here