Changing the way New Zealanders talk about poverty could reduce bullying and help lift children out of it, expert says

New Zealand needs to rethink the way it talks about poverty if it wants to lift the next generation out of it.

That's the message of researcher and author Jess Berentson-Shaw, who will be the keynote speaker today at the 2018 Child Poverty Action Group Summit in Wellington.

"One of the things about child poverty is there are many things that will work to rebalance New Zealanders doing things tough," she told TVNZ1's Breakfast today. "And sometimes the way that we talk about it doesn't really point people to feeling like we can do something about it."

Last year, Ms Berentson-Shaw wrote Pennies from Heaven, a book focusing on strategies for moving children and their whānau out of poverty.

Currently, New Zealanders tend to fall into "othering" when talking about poverty - thinking about it as if it only exists in other communities or other countries. And we think of it as an individual problem rather than a community problem. We need to "change the story", she said, so that we view ourselves as an interconnected village all in it together, rather than blaming individuals for the situation they're in.

"Language is really, really important. Much more than we think sometimes," she said. "One of the things to come out of my research is that children themselves experience a really negative impact when we talk about poverty negatively.

"There's lots of research on children experiencing bullying, or being singled out by other children when they're identified as being in poverty. So that's a really important issue for us to think about - how we talk about it might actually have an effect on children themselves."

Today's summit is bringing together experts from across the nation to provide their perspectives on the welfare system, and "to fulfil an urgent need to influence the welfare reform agenda, which is a key focus for the current Government," organisers said.

Jess Berentson-Shaw is the keynote speaker today at the Child Poverty Action Group Welfare Summit. Source: Breakfast

Parents should have choice whether to drink at school events, says Cheers! boss

It's important for "parents to have choice" whether to drink alcohol at school events as part of role modelling drinking well, Cheers NZ executive director Matt Claridge says.

Debate has raged about the place of alcohol at school events after strong opposition from health professionals resulted in a small Hawke's Bay school withdrawing its application to the council to sell alcohol at a fundraiser.

"For Parents to have choice, I think that's fairly important, but also the environment they create and the way they role model drinking is the single biggest influencer on kids as they grow up," Mr Claridge told TVNZ1's Breakfast.

"We've got a responsibility to help encourage the right attitude in them and not to bury the issue away and think that it will take care of itself."

Mr Claridge said research had indicated that over half of New Zealand children aged 15 to 17 have had a drink of alcohol in the last year and parents needed to shape the attitudes of their children towards drinking.

"There's good research that kids as young as 12 or 13 are starting to form an attitude or may even have had a taste of alcohol itself."

"What we've got to do is shape their attitude so that by the time they get to age 18 they actually know what responsible drinking is and drinking in moderation looks like."

It’s important for "parents to have choice" to drink alcohol at school events as part of role modelling drinking well to their children, Cheers! NZ executive director says. Source: Breakfast

Sistema workers accuse company of exploitation: 'We are not treated equally'

Not long after her four young children return home from school, Maria Latu gets ready to work the night shift where she makes Sistema plastic containers at the company's warehouse in South Auckland.

When she arrives home the following morning, her children are getting ready to leave for school.

Her employment contract for leading plastics manufacturer Sistema, requires full time production workers like herself to work 60 hours a week at the company's warehouse in Māngere - that doesn't include overtime.

Because of the long hours, she said she barely gets to see her children.

"It's not worth it. It's not fair," said Ms Latu.

"Every day that they come home from school they always ask 'Mummy are you working?' and then when I say yes then you know you get the 'Awww' from them.

"It's heart-breaking but then I have to make them understand that I have to go to work."

Ms Latu is a team leader on the factory floor at Sistema. She gets paid $17 an hour for a role that often sees her in charge of more than 20 staff running eight machines.

Many staff and their union have accused the company of exploiting vulnerable migrant workers and they're speaking out about their desperate need for better pay and working conditions.

While full-time production staff, who make Sistema's plastic containers, are required to work 60 hours a week, according to Ms Latu's contract, part-time workers are required to work 40 hours in a normal working week.

Both Ms Latu and her co-worker Jennifer Talitiga Finau are frustrated over their current working conditions.

Jennifer Talitiga Finau is frustrated over her current working conditions.
Jennifer Talitiga Finau is frustrated over her current working conditions. Source:

Ms Finau has worked full-time for Sistema for almost 14 years - and also receives $17 an hour.

"I think that for most of us it's [the] long hours. I really want to [have] less hours and more pay. Because we need to be with our family," Ms Finau said.

They were joined by about a 100 frustrated workers and supporters who attended a recent meeting about the stalled pay talks with Sistema.

The workers said after nine months of negotiations for better wages and an end to their 12 hour days, the company still haven't budged.

Ms Latu claims the company penalises workers who are part of the union.

"The thing is they pay the non - [union] members different from the union members. So as a team leader, I'm on $17 and the non-union ones are on $18.50," Ms Latu said.

"It's not fair because we do the same amount of work every night. We don't know why they're getting more than we are," she said.

"We deserve to be treated equally. We are not treated equally at Sistema."

Union organiser Sunny Seghal said many workers are afraid to join the union and he believes the company takes advantage of migrant workers who won't push back.

"They're from Pacific Islands, they're from Philippines, Indian workers. They have preyed on these vulnerable migrant workers," he said.

"Some of them they don't even know their rights, you know."

Campaign lead organiser Fala Haulangi echoed the same.

Pay talks with Sistema have stalled and workers are frustrated.
Pay talks with Sistema have stalled and workers are frustrated. Source:

"I think Sistema's doing that because they find it's cheaper to get the migrant workers and because they are too scared to speak up or to say anything or to rock the boat," Ms Haulangi said.

"So they just go with whatever Sistema tells them."

Ms Haulangi said the legal minimum in working conditions provided by Sistema wasn't enough for the work their employees do.

"Can you imagine, those workers are working 12 hours a day, 60 hours a week. They need more than just five sick leave days [a year]," she said.

"No night shift allowance. The meal allowance has been there at $10 for about 20 years now. So we say it needs to change."

Mr Seghal agreed and added that health and safety conditions for the workers continues to be a major concern.

"When you work 60 hours a week, there is a highly likely chance of you getting injured at work as well, or getting some repetitive injuries," Mr Seghal said.

"There are many people who are on ACC or who were on ACC. So ACC is a common problem there."

"We are worried about the health and safety of these workers because of the long hours. They have no other choice because of the minimum wage."

An image of the blistered hands of a Sistema factory worker has been handed out over the last couple of months around many of Sistema's distributing stores.

The sale of its plastic containers in places like supermarkets and department stores all over the country has led to the products becoming a staple household item in many New Zealand homes.

But the leaflet, which the confronting image is plastered on, is calling for customers to boycott the leading manufacturer's products.

Green party Co-leader Marama Davidson has labelled the treatment of Sistema's South Auckland factory workers 'disgusting' and said it needs to change.

"Got my blood boiling and I'm holding a photo of blistered fingers because this is how hard our workers are having to work but not being treated as human," Ms Davidson said.

"It's not good enough."

She's among several politicians and community leaders who signed a petition to support the workers at the union's recent community meeting.

Ms Davidson said Sistema is stealing from their workers by not paying them what they deserve and she supports the union's call for people to boycott their products.

"New Zealanders are fair people, we understand what's right and what's wrong," Ms Davidson said.

"I think that we need to say to Sistema 'We're going to stop buying your products unless you treat your workers with some respect. Pay them what they deserve."

The company has seen remarkable success since its founder Brendan Lindsey began making his first product line from his garage more than 30 years ago. Now, according to its website, Sistema products are exported to 82 countries around the world.

Mr Lindsey sold Sistema to US company Newell Brands for $660 million in 2016 and while Sistema counts its customers in the millions, Ms Finau said its workers are struggling to meet their basic needs.

"Heaps of people I know buy Sistema. Sistema products are very good products," Ms Finau said.

"That's millions and millions of dollars. But what about workers? What about us?"

In a statement to RNZ, Sistema's CEO Drew Muirhead said the interests of their employees has always been the company's highest priority and claims made by the union about migrant workers were inaccurate and false.

Mr Muirhead said the company would continue to negotiate with the union to ensure that their 700 employees remained firmly employed in New Zealand.

By Indira Stewart

Maria Latu (R) works 60 hours a week as a team leader and is paid $17 an hour.
Maria Latu (R) works 60 hours a week as a team leader and is paid $17 an hour. Source:


'Hello, here's another one!' - Marlborough farmer, 85, welcomes first lamb quadruplets in 50 years

It's been described as a one-in-a-million chance, and it was certainly a first for Marlborough's Les Hensen.

"I came out here in the paddock and saw a couple of lambs, and thought, 'Ah, yeah', which twins is quite normal," the 85-year-old sheep farmer told Stuff. "But then I looked closer: 'Hello, here's another one.' Then I looked again and, 'Here's another one!'"

Mr Hansen said he has had plenty of triplets in his five decades of tending sheep herds, but never quads - until Friday.

Federated Farmers Rotorua Taupo president Alan Wills told the Herald in July, after a similar set of quadruplets was born on a Rotorua lifestyle block, that such births were "almost unheard of".

Mr Hensen said his lambs looked "quite big" and healthy. How the mum will manage, however, is still up in the air.

"It's going to be a big handful for the old sheep," he told Stuff. "She could be right...They all seem to get a drink.

"They're better on their mothers than trying to rear them on a bottle, and it's a lot of work. If she keeps looking after them, I'll leave them with her."

Murderer to be compensated for solitary confinement breach

The government has agreed to pay $10,000 to a convicted murderer who was unlawfully held in solitary confinement.

The UN Committee Against Torture has ruled inmate John Vogel had his human rights breached in 2000 after he was confined to a cell for drug offending for 21 days - six days longer than legally allowed.

It said the solitary confinement was disproportionate and urged the Government to give him fair compensation.

In a letter to Vogel's lawyer, Attorney General David Parker said he had agreed to pay $10,000 compensation as well as covering part of his legal costs.

Vogel was sentenced in 1988 to life in prison for murdering Peter Hoey in Auckland.

He was released on parole after a decade, but was recalled to prison in January 2000 after further offending.

Prisoner (file picture)