Thursday, June 23, 2011

Doing the business class proud?

There was an eruption of outrage today, and justifiably so: Alasdair Thompson, the CEO of the Employers & Manufacturers' Association (EMA), a business lobby group, said among the most boneheaded things that I’ve ever heard a political person in New Zealand say (transcript from Kiwipolitico):
Alasdair Thompson: “Let me get down to tin tacks here. It is unfortunate, if you like, that men and women are different –”

Helen Kelly [Council of Trade Unions President]: [incredulous laughter]

AT: “– they are. The fact is, women have babies, they take time out of their careers to have babies. Women have — look, I don’t like saying this, this is how contentious this is, but here’s a fact of life. If you really want to keep some statistics, look at who takes the most sick leave. Why do they take the most sick leave? Women do in general. Why? Because, ah, you know, once a month they have sick problems. Not all women, but some do. They have children that they have to take time off to go home and take leave of. Therefore their productivity — not their fault, it’s … it may be because they haven’t got it sorted out with their partners, where the partners take more responsibility for what happens outside work. There are all of these issues, and none of this is covered in these statistics that this bill wants to sort out. Now, I’m sorry, I don’t like saying these things because it sounds like I’m sexist, but it’s a fact of life.”

HK: “Sure does, Alasdair, I’m glad you said them, it’s fantastic. I let you go on that one.”
I was gobsmacked when I read that—I’ve seldom read anything so stupid anywhere, certainly not in New Zealand (and be sure to read the post at Kiwipolitico, because I couldn’t possible agree with Lew more; it also has a link to an audio file if you want to hear it for yourself). Interviewed on Prime News, Thompson said that “socialists” and “PC” people don’t like to admit that men and women are different (yes, seriously!), and he gave a non-apology apology if anyone was offended, but not for what he said.

On TV One’s news, Thompson again asserted that he was correct and figures backed him up. But TV One checked out his claim with all the folks who would have such statistics: Statistics New Zealand, The Department of Labour, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and none of them could support Thompson’s wild ravings. In fact, it was revealed that at TVNZ, men actually took slightly more sick leave than women did.

This guy can be a troglodyte if he wants to be, and as head of the EMA he’s paid to promote a rightwing agenda. However, while Thompson and the EMA are entitled to their own opinions, they’re not entitled to their own facts. Trotting out known falsehoods, smears and defamation, or flat out making shit up, just to score political points is not acceptable from someone trying to influence legislation.

If Alasdair Thompson doesn’t resign, then we must conclude that the member businesses of the EMA wholeheartedly agree with him. It’s not enough to denounce Thompson’s rabidly sexist remarks (defended by him at every opportunity since): Either Thompson should go or the businesses that disagree with him should quit the EMA.

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