Enews July 2012


This month:

Three questions

All NARGON members should know the answer to these three questions:

  1. United Future leader Hon Peter Dunne is expected to hold the crucial vote on introducing a minimum price for alcohol is he in favour or opposed?
  2. What percentage of people employed on a 90-day trial period are retained by employers?
  3. What was the biggest contributor to higher food prices in June 2012?

Food prices up in June but down for the year

Figures from Statistics New Zealand show food pricesrose1.4 percent in June 2012 with the increasedriven mainly by seasonally higher vegetable prices. The fruit and vegetables subgroup was up9 percent, the meat, poultry and fish subgroup increased 1.3 percent while both the grocery food subgroup and the restaurant meals and ready-to-eat foodsubgroup rose 0.3 percent. The non-alcoholic beverages subgroup (down1.5 percent) was the only one to fall.

Compared to June 2011, food prices overall have dropped 0.2 percent in the last year. Three of the five food subgroups made downward contributions with lower prices recordedfor fruit and vegetables (down 2.6 percent), non-alcoholic beverages (down 2.4 percent) andgrocery food (down 0.6 percent). Higher prices were recorded forrestaurant meals and ready-to-eat food (up1.5 percent) and meat, poultry and fish (up2.2 percent). Significantly, fresh milk prices were down8 percent on June last year. Prices forcheddar cheese (down 16 percent) and butter (down 24 percent) were also considerably lower.

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Political comment: Hon Peter Dunne

In this issue, Hon Peter Dunne, Minister of Revenue and Leader of the United Future party, sets out his thoughts on liquor law reforms:

"Shortly, Parliament will be considering the final stages of the Alcohol Reform Bill. While this Bill's provisions will come as no great surprise they were, after all, foreshadowed by the Law Commission in its report in 2009, and have been the subject of much debate since and while the process under which they have developed and will be considered by Parliament has been much better than in previous reform attempts, doubts still remain about the practicality of some of the measures, and the impact they may have on curbing the binge drinking culture in New Zealand.

Of particular interest will be the new provisions regarding the way in which off-licences operate, and what new arrangements will be put in place regarding the minimum purchase age. One of the proposals the so-called split age between off-and on-licences raises particular enforcement issues. It is very hard to see how this might work in practice, particularly when those aged between 18 and 20 who can legally purchase off-licence today, and find they may not be able to in the future, are considered. The same argument applies if the age is raised to a flat 20 years.

Either way, the burden of compliance will fall heavily on off-licence retailers, which is unreasonable. It could be argued that this is the proper role of the Police, which is true, but the reality is that the Police will have far more important issues to worry about so the retailers will become the focal point. So, if the age is moved from its current flat 18 years, there is every prospect that small, off-licence retailers will face more, rather than less, challenges with regard to the enforcement of the law.

In that context, is not unreasonable to conclude that the safety of those retailers may be more, not less, at risk, because of disgruntled customers. All of which is somewhat pointless.

For those reasons alone, the retention of the age at 18 years is the only logical option to pursue.

Similar issues are likely to arise if, at some point in the future, regulations such as those currently applying in Australia, requiring tobacco products to be sold from locked no-display cabinets behind the counter are adopted here. As with alcohol, no-one credibly doubts the adverse health impacts of tobacco and the need for control policies, but the challenge, once more, is to implement policies that work, and not cause more problems than they resolve.

Most smokers are addicted to cigarettes, and are unlikely to be turned away by sealed cabinets. But they are likely to be angered by inconvenience, and retailers will be often be the ones to bear the brunt of that anger. It is illogical to seek to protect the health of smokers or drinkers by implementing policies that potentially impinge upon the safety of those who retail them.

Yet, sadly, that is precisely the risk we run. Once more, blinkered policy outcomes have the potential to ruin good policy intent.

NARGON notes that Mr Dunne is expected to have the crucial vote on a number of key provisions in the Alcohol Reform Bill.

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As predicted, employment trial periods are working

Now part of the new "Super" Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the old Department of Labour has released a report examining the use of 90-day trial employment periods in small businesses (fewer than 20 employees). The first of three reports has been published on their website -- http://www.dol.govt.nz/publications/research/employers-perspectives-part1-trial-periods/index.asp

Here are the key findings:

  • Overall, 60 percent of employers reported using a trial period since its introduction.
  • 66% of employers said the trial period allowed them to check an employees ability for the job before making a commitment to employ them permanently.
  • Employers use trial periods to address risk when hiring. A key attraction of trial periods was that they reduced the potential costs associated with dismissing an employee.
  • In turn, this gave employers the confidence to take a chance on applicants who may not have fulfilled all the original criteria.
  • 35% reported it allowed them to employ someone with the skills required but they were initially unsure about the potential employees fit with the workplace.
  • Trial periods were considered by employers as one of the key government initiatives which improved their willingness to hire young applicants or those who had been unemployed for a long time.
  • Employers also reported using trial periods to test the viability of a position (rather than person) within the business. 30% of small and medium sized businesses said they would not have filled the most recently-filled position without a trial period.
  • 41% of employers would not have hired the most recent employee without a trial period. In those cases, the trial period actually created real jobs.
  • Four in five employers reported they have retained employees who were on a trial period. Once again, hysterical predictions that employers would simply fire people during their 89th day on the job have been proved to be unfounded and based on a fundamentally flawed understanding of how business works in the real world.

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UK: The Power of Social Media - Sainsbury's is doing it right

British supermarket giant Sainsbury's recently scored another public relations coup with a light-hearted response to a popular blogger's complaint on Twitter. October Jones, a comedian most famous for publishing text messages allegedly from his dog, has over 38,000 followers on Twitter. To put that in context, Labour leader David Shearer has 3,462 and comedian Mike King has 2,274 followers.

Jones tweeted that his chicken sandwich from the grocery chain "tastes like it was beaten to death by Hulk Hogan." The company's official Twitter account
replied instantly saying "Really sorry it wasn't up to scratch. We will replace Mr Hogan with Ultimate Warrior on our production line immediately." Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were hugely popular professional wrestlers in the 1980s and 1990s. Sainsburys also gave Jones a phone number to callsaying they sincerely regretted that he had to wrestle your way through thesandwich."

The exchange has gone viral with thousands of people viewing and commenting on theexchange across social media. Once again, Sainsburys has used technology to change a potential damaging complaint into a public relations triumph. The text exchanges between Jones and his Dog can be viewed here: http://textfromdog.tumblr.com

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UK: Scotland looking to ban free plastic bags

Scotland has become the latest nation looking to phase out free plastic bags at stores. The Scottish Government launched a three-month consultation process on a range of proposals but their election manifesto included a specific commitment to dramatically reduce the number of carrier bags being used. Their favoured option appears to be charging for bags in order to encourage shoppers to reuse them. It is currently proposed that the minimum charge be five pence (around ten cents in New Zealand money).

Similar schemes have been introduced in Wales and the Republic of Ireland. However, major retailers claim that the proposed scheme willadd pressure in already difficult trading conditions. The English Government is coming under increasing pressure to follow suit with the UK Treasury understandably interested in the extra revenue such a scheme could bring in.

Recent statistics show the number of plastic bags being used by supermarket shoppers in Britain has increased by 5.4% in the last year. It is still 32% lower than when records started in 2006. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the recent increase was due to families increasingly doing several smaller grocery shops during the week rather than one big trip, and a switch away from going to the store by car in favour of public transport. The tight economic situation was thought to be creating both dynamics which meant shoppers were less likely to have reusable bags with them

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Reminder about written employment agreements

NARGON reminds all members that full written employment agreements are required for every single employee. This is a strict legal requirement. The member's section of the upgraded NARGON website contains draft agreements and advice on employment agreements www.nargon.co.nz.

On a lighter note Better than swimming with the fishes

This conversation occurred at a grocery store in New York at least according to www.notalwaysright.com:

(Like any grocery store, we have different departments, including seafood. I work in the customer service department. Even though the phone system gives you options of different departments, many customers will just choose our number because it's one of the first suggested

Me:"Thank you for calling [store], this is [name]. How may I help you?"

Customer:"Uh, hello, yes! I would like to speak with the fishes!"

Me:"I'm sorry, the fishes?"

Customer:"Yes! The fishes!"

Me:"You mean the seafood department?"

Customer:"Yes! The fishes!"

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Answers to 3 Questions

  1. His exclusive column for the NARGON News indicates he is opposed.
  2. Just over 80%.
  3. Increased vegetable prices.

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