Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Dear Member

We are hoping that you are as busy as you hope to be over the holiday period, and we also hope that you get some time to spend with your family and friends.

The new website will go live around mid January, we are just about there. Once this goes live, you will all get an email asking you to set a password for your login. You will then be able to login and download all the employment contracts and HR forms that we have available as required.

Christmas Hours

NARGON will be closed from Friday the 20th of December through to Monday the 6th of January but as always, if you have anything urgent you wish to discuss, you can call me on 021 730185. I will just not have access to the employment contracts.

I wish you all a prosperous Christmas and New Year

Trina Snow
Executive Director

Food prices fall in October but trend up for the year, retail sales dip

According to figures from Statistics New Zealand, food prices fell 1.0 percent in October 2013 but were up 0.8 percent on a year earlier. The main driver behind the fall was lower prices for seasonal fruit and vegetable which saw prices fall 8.8 percent. Grocery food prices also dropped 0.3 percent while non-alcoholic beverage prices were down 0.2 percent. On the other side of the ledger, meat, poultry, and fish prices rose 2.0 percent while restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices were up 0.2 percent.

For the year to October 2013, the food price index (FPI) increased 0.8 percent overall. Prices increased for grocery food (up 1.2 percent), restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food (up 1.9 percent), meat, poultry, and fish (up 2.3 percent), and non-alcoholic beverages (up 1.2 percent). There were big annual price increases for pork (up 6.7 percent), lamb (up 4.5 percent), yoghurt (up 8.1 percent) and fresh milk (up 7.0 percent). Fresh milk prices are now at their highest level since April 2012. In contrast, fruit and vegetable prices decreased 3.7 percent in the year to October 2013.

Statistics New Zealand figures also show that food prices have gone up 33% in the last ten years. The biggest jump was during the three years between 2006 and 2008 (up a total of 17.5%) while in the last three years (2011-2013) the combined increase was 2.2%.

For the September 2013 quarter, compared with the June 2013 quarter, the total seasonally adjusted value of retail sales rose 0.6 percent. While seven of the 15 retail industries had higher sales volumes, supermarket and grocery stores actually showed a decline, albeit the smallest fall of the eight sectors which dropped. The drop for supermarket and grocery stores was marginal around $2 million across the entire industry.

Political Commentary: Stores under attack from critics across the board

Doug Sellman

Outspoken academic Professor Doug Sellman continued his crusade against alcohol sales by accusing a supermarket owner of becoming the biggest drug dealer in the local neighbourhood simply by applying for a new liquor licence. Not content with calling New World store owner Philip Blackman a drug dealer, Mr Sellman went on to attack all New World stores.

He said although disguised as a large family-friendly grocery store, supermarkets are in fact primarily mega-liquor stores which also sell grocery items. New World supermarkets are probably the single biggest drug dealers in New Zealand. Although targeted in this instance at New World, Sellman has accused all supermarkets of being huge liquor stores (or in his words drug dealers) who sell groceries to cover their real purpose. Effectively, he alleges every liquor licence holder in New Zealand is a drug dealer.

It is worth noting that Mr Sellman is paid by the taxpayer to be an academic at the University of Otago and is paid by the taxpayer to head the National Addiction Centre which lobbies the Government on alcohol issues.

A petition signed by just 21 people prompted a debate in a Parliamentary select committee about plastic shopping bags and water bottles. A petition, signed by Kate Hoyle and 20 others, asked that the House inquire into the feasibility of a New Zealand-wide ban on single use plastic bags and the sale of drinking water in single-serving PET bottles of less than one litre. Labour List MP Jacinda Ardern chose to present the petition to the Education and Science Committee which discussed the issue.

Green List MPs used the debate to suggest the Government should regulate plastic bag use. There was no discussion about why only water bottles were being targeted given plastic cola or orange juice bottles presumably present the same environmental hazards. NARGON continues to support stores making their own tailored efforts to reduce plastic bag use. To date, this approach has resulted in a huge shift of consumer behaviour without resorting to Government bans and/or levies.

Parliament has debated a piece of legislation which would have allowed employers to hire temporary workers during a strike. It was a members bill from new National MP Jami-Lee Ross which aimed to repeal a section of the Employment Relations Act that has been in force since 2000. It was narrowly defeated on its first reading. However, Labour List MP Andrew Little raised eyebrows for calling the National Party fascist for supporting the bill. A number of commentators have suggested that using fascist in the context of a debate around industrial relation denigrates those killed by fascist regimes in the last century.

Supermarkets not dropping multi-buys despite criticism of food waste


New Zealand's large supermarket owners say they will not be dropping multi-buy deals, despite moves by several UK chains to do so because of fears of food waste. Tesco says it will drop its buy-one-get-one-free deals and other promotions on its salads in a bid to stop customers buying produce they are unlikely to use before it goes off at home. Tesco said it was the first British retailer to reveal data on its food waste.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation said last month that a third of all food produced worldwide, some 1.3 billion tonnes worth $750 billion (NZ$887 billion), is thrown out each year. The estimated cost of wasted food in New Zealand is $750 million per year, or $458 per household.

Otago University Professor Hugh Campbell told One News that "most of the food wastage takes place at home or at the point of harvest. Some food lines, like bagged salad, do get graded out at the supermarket level, but mostly supermarkets and other retailers contribute only a minority of the overall wastage." Professor Campbell also noted that buy-one-get-one-free deals are more common in the UK than in New Zealand which may explain why more food is wasted there. New Zealanders waste around 60kg of food year each but our waste figure of $458 per household is far less than the estimate of $1,336 in Britain.

Would a New Zealand-only aisle work here?

Buy NZ Made

Kathy Dudley, a cattle farmer and spring water producer from Tasmania, has suggested that Aussie supermarkets should have a designated Australian-only aisle, or aisles. She argued this would generate an ''absolutely huge'' boost in sales of locally grown or made goods, protect local jobs and stimulate the economy. Ms Dudley also said country of origin labelling was misleading and that many people buy supermarket goods thinking they are Australian, when, in fact, the Australian input is minimal.

Her suggestions have received some high level support with Senator Nick Xenophon saying Ms Dudley's call showed the level of frustration in the community about food labelling laws. Prominent businessman Dick Smith also welcomed Ms Dudley's idea, but suggested there would be opposition from supermarkets and multinational food companies, as well as a lack of political will.

A spokeswoman for the Coles chain did not dismiss Ms Dudley's idea saying the company was ''open to new ideas''. A Woolworths spokeswoman said research showed ''customers like to shop by food or product category in the supermarket''. NARGON has no position on the issue but it certainly is something for individual stores to consider.

Australia introduces supermarket code of conduct

Across the ditch, the big news for the supermarket sector is the signing of a voluntary code of conduct between Coles, Woolworths, and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) designed to protect suppliers, particularly the smaller suppliers. Under the code, Coles and Woolworths have undertaken not to change the terms of supply contracts retrospectively, charge suppliers for goods broken or stolen at stores, or seek payments from suppliers to secure better shelf positioning. Critics have consistently alleged that the major supermarkets have used their market power to squeeze suppliers.

While some in the industry are already querying whether a voluntary code will be able to have any real impact, the Australian Government has warned the supermarket chains that it will intervene if they fail to abide by it. As reported in The Guardian, the Small Business Minister, Bruce Billson, said the "historic" agreement would be subject to a regulatory impact statement, to ensure the code had "tools and teeth" to manage how supermarkets treat their suppliers. He said it would be "pretty vivid and clear" if the retailers were not abiding by their own rules.

Minister Billson said "we will ensure that there are proper working and commercial relationships that are fair and mutually respectful" and that non-compliance would result in government intervention to develop an "effective" (read: compulsory) code. He will be closely watched by his Coalition Government colleague Andrew Broad. While Hon Billson is a member of the larger Liberal party, Mr Broad is a Nationals MP and former head of the Victorian Farmers Federation.

Mr Broad was quoted in the Guardian saying he was sceptical about Liberals level of support for the voluntary code, saying "it's probably been brought there kicking and screaming". He added "at the end of the day, Australians deserve good healthy food, they deserve to be able to go to the supermarket and buy food that they can afford, but they don't have a God-given right to cheap food at the expense of the Australian producers." The Australian Labor opposition have been even more critical of supermarkets and have advocated significantly stronger measures

Union launches Respect for Shopworkers campaign

The shopworkers trade union Usdaw ran its Respect for Shopworkers campaign in mid-November. The campaign is aimed at reminding customers that retail staff are real people who do not deserve to be abused, threatened or assaulted.

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said the week was an opportunity for our members to talk to the public about abuse at work and they are asking customers to keep their cool and show respect for shopworkers. Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to enforce the law, whether that is preventing under-age purchases or detaining shoplifters until the police arrive. They can be put in real danger. So it is always a real concern to our members when shoplifting is on the increase, because too often that can result in the shopworker being assaulted by the thief, he said.

Usdaw is also campaigning for a change in the law to provide more severe punishments for those who assault workers serving the public. The union said it was concerned by some of the lenient sentences given to criminals guilty of some pretty awful attacks. Usdaw expressed disappointment that this proposal was rejected by the government in the House of Commons, but was hopeful that it will be backed by the House of Lords and the Government will be forced to think again.