Morning Briefing May 11: Pay freeze fallout overshadows looming Budget

The Government defends its public sector pay policy, more MIQ spaces are opened to critical workers, and victims of yesterday's "random" supermarket stabbing remain in hospital. 

Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson. Source: Getty

A positive pre-Budget outlook is being overshadowed by ongoing fallout from the Government's pay freeze for the public sector.

Unions claim good staff will look elsewhere if they don't get any pay rises for the next three years, as calls grow for the Government to rethink the policy

When challenged about the move by Breakfast co-host John Campbell yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continued to defend it, saying the Government needed to keep making a difference when it comes to inequalities, with pay rises focused on “very low paid workers within the public sector”.

She says the policy won’t stop people moving up pay scales or affect pay equity negotiations or existing agreements. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson was also defending the public service pay measures yesterday.

He denies the move equates to a “pay freeze”, saying “we’ve still got the ability for people to move up the [pay] bands”.  

But, as RNZ reports, those arguments haven’t been well-received.

Public Service Association (PSA) secretary Erin Polaczuk says pay bands only exist for some professions. She told Breakfast the Government’s move is still “a great big misstep and it’s time to re-think it".

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Stabbing victims still in hospital

Four people remain in hospital, three of them in intensive care, following a multiple stabbing inside a central Dunedin supermarket yesterday. Two of the victims are Countdown staff members.

Police say the incident was a “random” attack, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying there’s nothing to suggest it was domestic terrorism. 

Both the police and Ardern have praised the “heroic” efforts of bystanders who moved to detain the suspect amid “traumatic” scenes.

Witnesses have described those attempts to restrain the man, which included using bottles and chairs. Others spoke of their shock and terror as the attack unfolded. 

Police have yet to confirm what charges the alleged offender will face.

Countdown says their store will remain closed today as they cooperate with the investigation into the incident. 

Govt moves to expand bubble

The desperate calls to allow more skilled and critical workers into the country have finally been answered with 500 managed isolation and quarantine spaces to be allocated to them every fortnight from June.

This includes spaces for around 300 seasonal workers every month and 240 specialised construction workers between June and October.

Spots will also be allocated to 400 international students arriving in June and 100 refugees every six weeks from July.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the move, which has been made possible by the trans-Tasman bubble, is intended to support the country’s economic recovery. 

How to combat prison violence?

New measures are on the cards for prisoners who attack corrections staff.

Tear gas, extended sentences, and instant punishments are all being considered as violence in prisons continues to rise.

Corrections and prison guards met yesterday to forge a safety plan for frontline staff, who are also set to receive state of the art body cameras.

Meanwhile, Corrections has come under fire for its treatment of pregnant prisoners, with calls for a policy permitting the handcuffing of prisoners before and after giving birth to be scrapped.

Two separate reports by the Office of the Children's Commissioner into the Mothers with Babies Unit (MBU) in prisons have found multiple incidents where women were handcuffed before, during and after giving birth.

It is illegal for prisoners who are giving birth to be restrained.

Hugs back on cards

England's road out of lockdown is continuing at full speed with a slew of new freedoms set to come in next week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed pubs and restaurants can serve people indoors from Monday, while people will be able to hug each other for the first time in months.

People will also be able to return to England from New Zealand without having to quarantine from Monday, with Aotearoa now on a “green list” with 12 other countries.

Other news of note this morning:

- The European Union Commission says it’s not renewing its order for AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, as the bloc swaps its support to Pfizer. 

- New research has unpacked how Kiwis coped with last year’s unprecedented Level 4 lockdown.

- Police suspect social media challenges are driving a spate of Mazda thefts in Taranaki.

- Fair Go is investigating a concrete contractor who owes tens of thousands of dollars to customers across the Waikato for jobs he never completed.

- Shares in a2 Milk have plunged after the dairy company announced its revenue and earnings forecasts for the 2021 financial year had once again changed. 

- All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara has resisted the temptation to join the NRL’s Sydney Roosters.

- And Jacinda Ardern has revealed the location for her upcoming wedding.

And finally...

Source: 1 NEWS

Seven Sharp’s Hilary Barry had a reprieve from viewer comments about her outfits last night, with attention instead focused on her co-host Jeremy Wells, who had the audacity to show his ankles on air.

But their viewers’ smutty comments about that brouhaha had nothing on Fair Go, which aired shortly after.

Their yarn about an online shopping purchase gone wrong had to come with a nudity warning. A gnome nudity warning. Yup. You can check that out here (but remember, you have been warned.)