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Musings from the shed.

Rob Elshire

Fields of courgettes go to waste because grower can't get workers - NZ Herald

We've seen a series of news articles filled with woe-is-me "employers" in the primary industries (fishing, strawberries, asparagus, etc.) of late. The story is always the same. They cannot get their harvests in because the evil government is keeping them from importing workers and they cannot get the skilled and cheap labor they need locally because kiwis are lazy and unqualified.

With their focus on the short work period, the RSE staff worked the two-to-three month picking season with seven-day working weeks and working days that begin at dawn and finish on dark.

Hiring local staff meant juggling domestic and lifestyle responsibilities, and often social issues stemming from areas where regular work hadn't existed for decades. The working days were shorter which meant fewer courgettes got picked.

Heap said the productivity differences between RSE workers and local workers was enormous. He needed at least two New Zealanders to do the work of one RSE worker, and the churn of local workers was huge.

"My labour costs are through the roof. I believe if I'm in business I have the right to do the best that I can. I'm not allowed to do that at the moment."

Turns out that you can't make as much money when you are not allowed to exploit your workers. Clearly, this is not unique to Aotearoa New Zealand. We see this in these kinds of industries all over the world. As the saying goes, just because it is common does not make it right. Having the arrogance to dog whistle about social issues is downright disgusting.

Somehow, he seems to think that we should trust a cheapskate to properly quarantine his employees. Yeah, nah.

In the article linked below, Mr. Heap claims that:

The thing that's hard to handle for me is the dishonesty from Government and the lack of effort.

In actual fact, the government was very clear with Mr. Heap back in May. Just how much effort did Mr. Heap put in to finding an alternate solution during a time of pandemic? We're all making sacrifices. Is there some reason that he's special? Maybe he is. He was one who made good use of the RSE scheme in the early days -- transforming the industry from using illegal workers to legal workers. Unfortunately, the article does not describe how he improved working conditions for those workers.

Maybe Mr. Heap (and others like him) will do us all a favour and go out of business. That would open up opportunities for other people that could perhaps employ their neighbors and help uplift the communty they live in.

See further this and this.

Oh, and this just in.

Just a coincidental resemblance.


Rob Elshire

Covid-19 has made our cold, damp housing problem even more serious | The Spinoff

The poor housing stock in Aotearoa is an ongoing issue for many, many people. Part of the issue are incorrect ingrained beliefs about what to do about the problems.

From the article, James Powers of building science company Oculus responds.

While opening windows and using dehumidifiers is the conventional approach, there is typically little evidence to support their effectiveness. Opening windows can sometimes make indoor humidity worse. According to Oculus, the best thing people can do is leave the heat on, leave any extractor fans in the kitchens and bathrooms on so that old air is pulled out, circulate air around the room with a fan, and seal all windows to prevent drafts.

Rob Elshire

VAUGHN DAVIS: Bearing Barnett’s burden: why businesses have plenty to be proud about | BusinessDesk

We are small business owners too. The pandemic caused a massive slowdown in work this year. The people who are whining about the effects on business (as if it were monolithic), are dismissive of those businesses who are nimble and pivot, and those who plan for contingencies with sufficient rainy day funds.

Clearly, there will be businesses that fail. Some of them rely on paying and treating their workers poorly (i.e. exploitation). I have no sympathy for those businesses or their owners. Others will  succumb to changes in the market, which will inevitably happen. Others still, will adjust and come out okay. New business will also emerge.

This article speaks about those who are making it work. Great to see this for a change.

Rob Elshire

Let the market decide who gets coronavirus

So business leaders and the universities have been calling to let in wealthy non-citizens to 'save the economy'  This Stuff article is as good as any take on the issue. Yeah, just what we need a combination of Sir John Key and good old University know how.

Rob Elshire

PhD candidate says some post-grad students should be let in as essential workers | RNZ News

Back in 2016 there was talk of international education as NZ's 5th biggest export industry. Growth was forcast to be $5 Billion per annum by 2025. This year we are reading about losses in that industry. More about University Funding.

So here, in 2020, we find ourselves in a neoliberal dystopia where everything is a business, using just-in-time methods, commoditizing everything, and just making a general mess of things. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the lack of resilience in this very, very brittle system. Nearly no one is winning here. Possibly some highly paid management types (using titles borrowed from the church centuries ago). Maybe they are still making bank and have secure positions.

So, maybe, just maybe some post-grad students should be let back in as essential workers. Well, we have been told they are students, not workers. Surely, if they were workers, they would be paid at least minimum wage like our other essential workers (e.g. supermarket checkout staff). Oh, but that would muck up the finances of the universities (not to mention the CRIs). So, we can not call them workers.

With everyone talking about the tertiary education export industry, might we suggest a rebrand to a very popular industry segment? Tertiary education is clearly a primary industry which milks and fleeces the students while externalizing the expenses to those early in their careers. What a beautiful example of neoliberal economics in action. Well done Tertiary Education Industry!

Rob Elshire

Spinoff & Science Communication for WHO

This is really, really cool. I've included some of the work that Toby and Siouxsie have done in communicating the science around the pandemic. That this has been picked up on by the WHO and resulted in a commercial contract for The Spinoff speaks volumes.

Rob Elshire

More students say university not value for money - BBC News

Same thing in the US and Aotearoa as well. What does Higher Education Inc actually have to offer? Or as the business people like to put it, "What is the value proposition?"

Rob Elshire

Know your business model?

2 min read

In an effort to replace 110v electronics, I am looking for a set of desktop computer speakers. Rather than buying something new, we try to purchase used items which reduces our footprint and helps keep e-waste out of landfills and such. I have had a TradeMe search for local used desktop speakers for a few weeks and nothing suitable is turning up.

Today, I decided to try We Reuse I.T. Ltd. ( on Cuba street here in Palmy. The person there was very accommodating. He said there may be some speakers out back and if I would come back in 30 minutes he would go take a look. When I came back, it turns out there were not any. No worries, no big deal.

What happened next just baffles me. He suggested that I try the Warehouse. I explained that I was only interested in buying used. He said they were cheap at the Warehouse. I explained that it was not about price, but rather not buying new. He seemed confused that I would rather keep looking for a used item when new was cheap. I pointed out that I was actively trying to support their business model! I am not sure that it registered with him.



Ended up finding a used set of powered speakers for a gold coin donation the next day.

Rob Elshire

These are the 10 most innovative countries, Bloomberg says - Business Insider

So there are reasons that some countries are more innovative than others. I suspect that government use of the word innovation ad nauseum is not one of them. Let's do some evidence based policy work here in Aotearoa so we get some bloody progress rather than business-as-usual described as not-business-as-usual. Really.

Rob Elshire