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Government could remedy community “sleep-over” loss (and Union own goal)

  • February 27th, 2014

School boarding house matrons and wardens and other sleepers on call for care have just won the right to be paid the minimum wage for sleeping.
It was absolutely predictable, from the earlier decision to similar effect for sleeping IHC caregivers.

So now some boarding houses will close. In others, employees will be replaced by electronic surveillance of dormitories and remote call services, or by self-employed contractors. Adults, fully competent to know their own best interests who value their allowance for sleeping on premises, with a low risk of being disturbed, are now told by the law that they must be protected from their free choice. It is illegal, and many of their jobs will disappear, having been priced out of the means of those who must pay.

For the union it is a 'victory', because they answer to ideology, not to the isolated farm parents who will have to bring the kids home for correspondence, not to the children who have to 'private board' losing the companionship of the hostel, not to the workers whose jobs are replaced by technology (including many not in the union).

It will not stop there. Outdoor education establishments, where the instructors take 24 hour responsibility for the kids, will be next. It won't kill them all off. Rich kids and rich schools will absorb the extra costs. But it will help price those experiences out of reach of poor kids and poor schools.

The wonderful people who took us rafting early this month are almost certainly in the line of fire. The kind of guiding we received is already expensive, without paying guides for every moment. But the Courts will not be able to protect them. They have to apply badly written law.

Most ashamed should be the National government. It has known for years that this was coming. Three years ago we urged Minister Wilkinson to do what the UK government did when it realised what could happen, and clarify the law to make it clear that sleeping is not working. For a client we drafted simple changes to apply the UK precedent. As far as we could tell, Wilkinson did nothing. So the first targets of the union action (in IHC homes) cost the country's health budget over $200m without improving the health of a single person. She did not even have the courtesy to respond substantively to our offers of expert help in drafting and developing policy explanations for the obvious remedy.

John Key replaced her in Cabinet. Simon Bridges now has a chance to fix this for the future. Judging from our experience on the sleep-over issue she was no loss. But New Zealand has suffered a serious loss on her watch.

Similar losses are suffered from lack of leadership capacity in many Ministerial portfolios. The preference of the National Party for mediocre "representatives' of identity groups (youth, women, ethnics) ahead of demonstrated competence is not unique to them. If the parties we support are reflecting voter demand, unlike Singapore we New Zealanders want to be ruled by shop-window display groups. They pretend that no group goes "unrepresented" especially the vast groups of the nice ninnies, the "mean-wells" as well as the lazy, the ignorant, and the bludgers.

Today, the price is being paid by the kids who need to live at school, and their parents and paid caregivers.


  • Brendan
  • February 27th, 2014
  • 11:49 am

All this stems from the notion that there is no sphere of human activity, including sleeping, that falls outside of the legislative domain of the all powerful, all knowing, all compassionate State.

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