In US Dispute, A Few Turks Destroy iPhones in Online Posts

A small number of Turks are responding to their president’s call to boycott American electronic goods by posting videos in which they smash iPhones with bats, hammers and other blunt instruments.

In one video , a man collects iPhones from several youths squatting in front of a Turkish flag, lays the devices on the ground and pounds them with a sledgehammer. “For the motherland!” he says at one point.

 

In another video, a boy pours a plastic bottle of Coca Cola into a toilet in a show of repugnance for U.S. goods.

 

American products remain widely used in Turkey, which is locked in a dispute with Washington over an American pastor being tried in a Turkish court and other issues. The two countries have also imposed tariffs on each other’s goods.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

White House: US ‘Crushing It’ on Economic Growth

The United States economy, the world’s largest, is “crushing it,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow declared Thursday.

“This is the hottest business economic environment in the world today,” Kudlow told reporters at the White House.

“President [Donald] Trump completely changed the business environment here for the better,” Kudlow said. “And that’s why we’re crushing it on the economy. My message today is very simple, the biggest political event this year is an economic boom that virtually no one expected could happen. We’re growing. Three percent in the first half, 4 percent in the second quarter.”

Trump has made a tax cut and sharply curtailed government regulation a cornerstone of his 17-month presidency.

Kudlow predicted that “the boom is sustainable. The workforce is growing,” and “business and consumer confidence is high and rising.”

He defended Trump’s imposition of tariffs on an array of imports from across the world.

“People like to go at him” on tariffs, Kudlow said. “That’s silly. Don’t blame Trump. Blame the breakdown of the world trading system. That’s a point I love to make. I make it all the time. China being the biggest culprit, but not the only culprit.”

Kudlow said the World Trade Organization “is broken. People have been raising tariffs and non-tariff barriers, violating rules we thought had been in place for over 20 years. The president believes that it’s in the American interest, both workers, farmers, the whole economy — we have got to clear away all the existing protectionism that he inherited and start over and turn a new leaf.”

Trade with Turkey

He said that in the newest tariff dispute with Turkey, Trump imposed higher levies on Turkish steel and aluminum exports irrespective of Washington’s ongoing dispute with Ankara over its detention of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, who is awaiting trial on espionage and terrorism-related charges. Trump has unsuccessfully demanded Brunson’s release.

“I think that basically the president is dissatisfied with Turkey on trade,” Kudlow said. But he said trade and the Brunson case were not linked.

“I can just tell you policy-wise, they are not connected,” he said. “Personally, I think they ought to release the pastor, but that is not part of the discussion.”


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

US Treasury Secretary Hints at More Sanctions for Turkey

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the United States is ready to impose more sanctions on Turkey if detained American pastor Andrew Brunson is not released from house arrest.

Mnuchin made the statement Thursday during a Cabinet meeting with the president attended by journalists. “We have put sanctions on several of their Cabinet members,” Mnuchin said. “We have more that we are planning to do if they don’t release him quickly.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Turkey’s ministers of Justice and Interior in response to Brunson’s detention. The pastor has lived in Turkey for 20 years and heads an evangelical congregation of about two dozen people in the port city of Izmir.

Turkey accuses Brunson of espionage and is holding him under house arrest pending his trial.

On Wednesday, Turkey announced tariff hikes on a range of U.S. goods, including imports of vehicles, alcohol, coal, rice and cosmetics.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter the increases were being done “within the framework of the principle of reciprocity in retaliation for the conscious economic attacks by the United States.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the United States of waging a targeted economic war on his country, and on Tuesday he proposed a boycott of U.S. electronic goods.

Asked how U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration would react to any such Turkish boycott, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders replied Tuesday, “I certainly don’t have a policy announcement on that at this point.”

The charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Turkey, Jeffrey Hovenier, visited Brunson on Tuesday and called for his case, and those of others detained in Turkey, to be resolved “without delay” and in a “fair and transparent manner.”

National Security Adviser John Bolton met at the White House on Monday with Turkish ambassador Serdar Kilic, but the discussion reportedly did not result in any substantive progress.

Trump has called Brunson’s detention a “total disgrace.”

Last Friday, the U.S. doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum exports in order to increase pressure on Erdogan.

The escalating dispute between the two countries has exacerbated Turkey’s economic crisis, pushing the lira to record lows. The Turkish currency has lost about 40 percent of its value this year against the U.S. dollar.

Erdogan has called on Turks to exchange their dollars for lira in order to shore up the domestic currency.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Mexico Unsure If It Will Finish NAFTA Talks with US in Aug.

Mexico’s economy minister on Wednesday said that Mexico and the United States may not meet an August goal to finish bilateral talks to revamp the NAFTA trade deal, which is beset by disagreements over automobile trade rules and other issues.

Top Mexican officials started their fourth week of talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington over a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

Asked if the August goal was still viable, Guajardo said, “That is why we are here. We are fully engaged. We don’t know if there will be a successful conclusion.”

The U.S.-Mexico talks resumed in July, without Canada, after negotiations involving all three members of the $1.2 trillion trade bloc stalled in June.

Guajardo said on Wednesday that he had spoken with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on the telephone and was “hopeful” Canada could soon hold trilateral NAFTA talks with the United States and Mexico.

Guajardo was joined by Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s chief NAFTA negotiator Kenneth Smith, and Jesus Seade, the designated chief trade negotiator of incoming Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Smith said Mexico and the United States were “working well” on the most difficult issues.

Mexico and Washington have been discussing rules for the automotive sector, which has been a major point of contention between the two countries.

The United States has sought tougher rules on what percentage of a vehicle’s components need to be built in the NAFTA region to avoid tariffs, as well as demanding that a certain number of cars and trucks be made in factories paying at least $16 an hour.

New sticking points emerged last week over President Donald Trump’s threat to impose steep automotive tariffs.

Guajardo said the teams had not yet touched the issue of a U.S. proposed sunset clause that would kill NAFTA after five years if it is not renegotiated again. Both Mexico and Canada have said they reject the measure.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Five ‘Crazy Rich Asian’ Ways to Splash Your Cash in Singapore

Singapore is the setting for new Hollywood movie ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ – an adaptation of a best-selling novel that explores the insatiable consumerism of new money and old-world opulence in a continent producing more billionaires than anywhere else.

While the low-tax financial hub is often called a playground for the rich, Singapore’s wealthy tend to live a more conservative, low-key life than Hong Kong’s showy socialites or Macau’s high-rollers.

In step with the film’s release in the United States on Wednesday and ahead of its release in the city-state next week, here are five ways to spend your cash in Singapore.

  1. Orchid-shaped supercars

Cars in Singapore are some of the most expensive in the world, owing to huge government taxes aimed at limiting their number in the tiny island-state.

That doesn’t stop the super-rich – Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini are commonly sighted. When a Singaporean character in Kevin Kwan’s book, Goh Peik Lin, moves to America to study she immediately buys a Porsche saying they are “such a bargain.”

For the super-rich patriot, Singapore-based firm Vanda Electrics has designed an electric supercar – Dendrobium. Its roof and doors open in sync to resemble the orchid that is native to Singapore and after which the vehicle is named.

A show car, built by the technology arm of the Williams Formula One team, was unveiled last year. It was originally estimated to cost around 3 million euros ($3.44 million) before tax, although Vanda Electrics advised the final price will likely be lower.

  1. Yachts with submarines

Yachts are an affordable alternative to such supercars.

“Impulse buys of luxury items such as yachts are becoming more common” said Phill Gregory, the Singapore head of yacht dealers Simpson Marine, who sell everything from sports boats to super yachts costing tens of millions of dollars.

Gregory said Singapore-based clients have some of the most sophisticated tastes and an eye for style: sometimes he flies them to Europe to deck out their yacht with luxury furniture from the artisans of Milan or world-famous Carrara marble straight from the quarries in Tuscany.

Others have more unusual requests. These include a bespoke ‘beach club style’ lounge area set underneath a shimmering swimming pool, helipads or even a space to park a small submarine or sea-plane.

  1. 999 roses

The iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel – which resembles a giant surfboard perched on three tall columns – features prominently in the film’s trailer.

The hotel features the invitation-only Chairman’s suite – the largest in Singapore – which has its own gym, hair salon, and karaoke room, and according to some media reports costs over $15,000 a night. There is no publicly available price.

The likes of former British soccer star David Beckham and Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan have stayed at the hotel.

George Roe, director of hotel operations at Marina Bay Sands, said he has had some unusual requests from his guests including organizing the delivery of 999 roses to a residential address in Singapore as a surprise.

  1. Rare beef

“You do realize Singapore is the most food obsessed country on the planet?,” Nick Young, the very well-heeled protagonist of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ tells his girlfriend Rachel Chu ahead of their trip to the city-state.

Even hawker stalls hold Michelin stars in Singapore but there’s no shortage of places for the super-rich to get their fix.

The restaurant CUT by Wolfgang Puck is the only one in Singapore to offer Hokkaido snow beef – which is even scarcer than Kobe beef – through an exclusive arrangement with a private reserve in Japan.

Only two cattle are harvested from the reserve every month, with CUT receiving about 20-30 steaks a month – a chunk of which goes to regulars who visit the restaurant every time it comes on the menu, said general manager Paul Joseph. The current price is S$330 ($240) for a modest 170 gram serving.

  1. Gold tea

Forget wearing gold – in Singapore you can drink it. 

Boutique Singaporean tea company TWG Tea claims to sell one of the world’s most expensive teas – a white tea plated with 24-karat gold which retails at S$19,000 ($14,000) a kilo.

The Grand Golden Yin Zhen is described as a “glimpse of the divine in a teacup”, and the gold is said to have anti-oxidant properties that revitalize and rejuvenate the skin.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

In Chinese Port City, Japan’s Toyota Lays Foundation to Ramp Up Sales

Toyota is likely to make 120,000 more cars a year in the Chinese port city  of Tianjin as part of a medium-term strategy that’s gathering pace as China-Japan ties improve, said four company insiders with knowledge of the matter.

The Japanese auto maker’s plan to boost annual production capacity by about a quarter in the port city will lay the foundation to increase sales in China to two million vehicles per year, a jump of over 50 percent, the four sources said.

The Tianjin expansion signals Toyota’s willingness to start adding significant manufacturing capacity in China with the possibility of one or two new assembly plants in the world’s biggest auto market, the sources said. Car imports could also increase, they said.

The move comes at a time when China’s trade outlook with the United States appears fraught and uncertain.

Toyota plans to significantly expand its sales networks and focus more on electric car technologies as part of the strategy, the sources said, declining to be identified as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

Toyota sold 1.29 million vehicles in China last year and while sales are projected at 1.4 million this year, “capacity constraints” have restricted stronger growth, the sources said.

Over 500,000 vehicles a year

Toyota’s manufacturing hub in Tianjin currently has the capacity to produce 510,000 vehicles a year, while Toyota as a whole, between two joint ventures, has overall capacity to churn out 1.16 million vehicles a year.

Manufacturing capacity numbers provided by automakers are called straight-time capacity without overtime. With overtime, a given assembly plant can produce 20 to 30 percent more than its capacity.

According to two Tianjin government websites last week, Toyota has been given regulatory approval by the municipal government’s Development and Reform Commission to pursue its expansion.

The two websites — including the official website for the Tianjin development district where Toyota’s production hub is based — said the Japanese automaker plans to expand its Tianjin base to be able to manufacture 10,000 all-electric battery cars and 110,000 so-called plug-in electric hybrids annually. It wasn’t immediately clear when Toyota will be able to start producing those additional cars.

A Beijing-based Toyota spokesman declined to comment. The Tianjin facilities, which produces cars such as the Toyota Corolla and Vios cars, are owned and operated by one of Toyota’s joint ventures in China.

The venture with FAW in Tianjin plans to invest 1.76 billion yuan ($257 million) for the expansion, according to the two Tianjin websites.

Historical backlash 

China is sometimes a market difficult to operate for Japanese companies because of historical reasons.

In 2012, cars sold by Toyota and other Japanese automakers were battered when protests erupted across China after diplomatic spats over disputed islets known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

Since then, Toyota has emphasised steady growth rather than taking on risky expansion projects.

According to the four sources, Toyota’s attitude towards China began changing markedly after an official visit to Japan by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May.

During the visit, Li toured Toyota’s facilities on the northern island of Hokkaido, and was escorted by Toyota’s family scion and chief executive Akio Toyoda.

Toyoda has since sought to boost his company’s presence in China, a vision that had culminated in an active effort to identify specific ways to do just that, according to the four sources.

They said aside from boosting capacity, Toyota is also looking at the possibility to significantly expand its distribution networks for the mainstream Toyota and premium Lexus brands.

Timing is perfect for Toyota

It wasn’t immediately clear how significant a distribution network expansion Toyota is planning for both brands. Currently, Toyota has more than 1,300 stores for the Toyota brand and nearly 190 for its Lexus luxury cars.

The timing for the China expansion couldn’t be better. Earlier this year, Toyota was able to finally launch a couple of much anticipated, potentially high-volume subcompact sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) — two China-market versions of the Toyota C-HR crossover SUV which hit showrooms in the United States last year.

The C-HR variants are relatively small crossover SUVs that other manufacturers, most notably Japan’s Honda, have leveraged to grow sales rapidly and sell more cars in China than its much bigger rival Toyota. Honda sold 1.44 million vehicles in China last year.

Benefit for Lexus

Lexus is also deemed likely to benefit from a windfall from growing trade tensions between China and the United States.

In retaliation for U.S. trade actions, China raised tariffs on automobiles imported from the United States in early July to 40 percent, which, among other things, has forced Tesla, BMW, as well as Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz to raise prices on certain U.S. — built vehicles, such as the hot-selling BMW X5 and X6 crossover sport-utility vehicles.

One likely consequence for those brands is a sales fall, a profit squeeze, or both.

By contrast, all Lexus cars Toyota sells in China are brought in from Japan and benefit from a much lower tariff rate of 15 percent levied on non-U.S. produced car imports.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Home Shopping Networks Refine Their Pitch to Stay Alive

HSN, once known as the Home Shopping Network, is getting an image makeover.

A U.S. television network where shoppers can buy everything from electronics to kitchen gadgets, HSN is overhauling its lineup to offer more beauty products while adding streamed video content to win over shoppers without cable TV.

A division of Qurate Retail Group, the network is facing growing competition from Amazon and Evine Live for consumers like 24-year-old Erin Bounds, who regard buying products through TV shows a relic of the past.

“Someone who is 24 doesn’t have the time nor desire to watch an hour-long show about a piece of jewelry or a vacuum when they can get an answer and the product quicker and probably cheaper on Amazon,” said Bounds, a resident of Ellicott City, Maryland.

​HSN and QVC

For decades, the main difference to shoppers between HSN and Qurate’s other shopping network, QVC, typically came down to variations in branding and merchandise, with HSN selling more electronics. Qurate acquired HSN in late 2017 for $2.1 billion so the two shopping networks could join forces to better compete against Amazon and its home-shopping-style online video promotions.

Qurate executives told Reuters they now are culling HSN’s core merchandise offerings to eliminate many higher-priced electronics and some home goods, such as vacuum cleaners and blenders.

Instead, they are adding more niche cosmetic and apparel brands to help draw some distinction with QVC. They are also pushing both QVC and HSN to pursue younger shoppers with click-to-buy links on Instagram and Facebook Live for items such as earrings, shoes and Vince Camuto jeans, in a bid to spark a rebound in demand.

Second-quarter revenue at HSN declined 12 percent to $473 million from $533 million a year later the company announced Wednesday. Stock in the company, which counts media mogul John Malone as one of its largest investors, is down about 8 percent year to date, compared with a 14 percent increase for the Nasdaq index, and 64 percent increase for Amazon.com year to date.

“You’re seeing the impact of them digesting a large organization that is clearly not growing if you look at the numbers,” said Ben Claremon, partner and research analyst at investment firm Cove Street Capital, one of Qurate’s shareholders.

“There’s just not the degree of demand for home shopping products, and the desire to spend hours of the day watching them diminishes as you go down in age,” he said.

​Two distinct networks

The new strategy is aimed at creating more distinction with the two cable channels after the merger, according to Rob Robillard, the new VP of Beauty Integration at Qurate.

In beauty, for example, one of HSN’s top selling products is Too Faced “Unicorn Tears” blue lipstick, which sells for roughly $22. One of QVC’s best products is the Doll 10 Nude lipstick with a price tag of around $25, Robillard said.

“We were sort of hoping there would be this real big difference between HSN and QVC,” he said. “But the two are actually very similar.”

Qurate will partner with Robin Burns-McNeill, chairman of Batallure Beauty, a company specializing in brand strategy, product and package development, sourcing and manufacturing in the fragrance, cosmetics and skincare categories, to create a collection of proprietary beauty brands, the company told Reuters exclusively.

The first manufactured beauty products from this partnership are slated to launch in fall 2019 on QVC.com, and, if all goes well, the company said they would likely tap on Burns-McNeill’s shoulder to create proprietary brands for HSN as well.

They have a tall order. Amazon is the top online destination for beauty and the fifth-most-popular retailer for skincare and cosmetics, according to Coresight Research, behind leaders Walmart, CVS Health, Target and Walgreens. QVC and HSN do not rank on the list.

In March 2016, Amazon launched “Style Code Live,” a daily live fashion show that has since gone off-air.

This June, Amazon unveiled Prime Wardrobe in the United States, allowing Prime members to try on clothing, shoes and accessories before purchase. Customers have up to seven days to try their clothes on at home, and are charged only for those items they choose to keep.

Celebrity advantage

Celebrity-driven shows and videos on QVC still have their upside, according to vendors such as Xcel Brands Inc. Chief Executive Robert D’Loren. A QVC apparel vendor for more than six years, D’Loren cites on-air appearances of fashion designer and QVC host Isaac Mizrahi, D’Loren’s largest, most successful brand on QVC, as strategic advantage for selling goods on TV.

D’Loren thinks Qurate, which currently accounts for 60 percent of Xcel’s brand volume, is well-positioned to take on competitors Amazon.com and video retailer Evine, and that it’s “only a matter of time” before millennials like Bounds give Qurate’s QVC and HSN a shot.

“There is something to tuning in, watching, having product fully demonstrated to you that is unique and has great value, and I haven’t seen that anywhere else in the market,” he said.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Foundation: Brazil’s Samarco to Pay $512.5M to Disaster Victims

Brazil’s Samarco Mineração SA expects to pay up to 2 billion reais ($512.5 million) this year to 19,000 families affected by the 2015 mining disaster in the

state of Minas Gerais, the foundation created to pay the  victims said Wednesday.

The first families to receive payments will be “the most vulnerable,” said Roberto Waak, president of the foundation.

The disaster, Brazil’s worst environmental catastrophe, occurred when a dam designed to hold back mine waste burst in November 2015, killing 19 people and leaving a trail of destruction for hundreds of kilometers.

Samarco and parent companies Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd. said in June that they had signed a deal with Brazilian authorities that settled a 20 billion-real ($5.30 billion) lawsuit related to the accident.

Waak, speaking on the sidelines of a mining event, estimated the total number of families entitled to receive damages would eventually rise to 60,000, but he did not say how much the remaining families would receive or when.

So far the foundation has spent 4.2 billion reais to repair damage, according to information posted on its website.

Around 500 houses built by the foundation are expected to be delivered early next year, Waak said.

Samarco’s operations have been halted since the disaster.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Turkey Boosts Tariffs Amid US Feud

Turkey on Wednesday announced tariff hikes on a range of U.S. goods in the latest back-and-forth move amid a deteriorating relationship between the two countries.

The extra tariffs apply to imports of vehicles, alcohol, coal, rice and cosmetics.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter the increases were being done “within the framework of the principle of reciprocity in retaliation for the conscious economic attacks by the United States.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accusing the United States of waging a targeted economic war on his country, and on Tuesday he proposed a boycott of U.S. electronic goods.

“If they have the iPhone, there is Samsung elsewhere. In our own country we have Vestel,” said Erdogan.

Asked how U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration would react to any such Turkish boycott, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders replied during Tuesday afternoon’s briefing, “I certainly don’t have a policy announcement on that at this point.” 

Trump administration sources say further sanctions against Turkey are under active consideration. But Sanders declined to say how the U.S. government plans to apply more pressure on Ankara, which repeatedly has ignored calls from Trump and others to free Christian pastor Andrew Brunson. 

Turkey accuses Brunson of espionage and is holding him under house arrest pending his trial. 

The chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Turkey, Jeffrey Hovenier, visited Brunson on Tuesday and called for his case — and those of others detained in Turkey — to be resolved “without delay” and in a “fair and transparent manner.”

National Security Adviser John Bolton met at the White House on Monday with Turkish ambassador Serdar Kilic, but the discussion reportedly did not result in any substantive progress.

Trump, who has called Brunson’s detention a “total disgrace,” last Friday doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum exports in order to increase pressure on Erdogan. 

Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Turkey’s ministers of Justice and Interior in response to the continued detention of the pastor, who has lived in the country for 20 years and heads an evangelical congregation of about two dozen people in the port city of Izmir. 

The escalating dispute between the two countries has exacerbated Turkey’s economic crisis, pushing the lira to record lows. The Turkish currency has lost about 40 percent of its value this year against the U.S. dollar.

Erdogan has called on Turks to exchange their dollars for lira in order to shore up the domestic currency.

In a joint statement Tuesday, Turkish business groups called on the government to institute tighter monetary policy in order to combat the currency crisis. They also said Turkey should work to resolve the situation with the United States diplomatically while also improving relations with another major trading partner, the European Union.

The Turkish central bank has pledged to take “all necessary measures” to stabilize the country’s economy to make sure the banks have all the money they need. But world stock traders were dismayed the bank did not raise interest rates, which is what many economists believe is necessary to ease the crisis.

The United States and Turkey also have diverging interests over Syria, which is enmeshed in a protracted civil war. 

The differences are drawing Turkey closer to Russia, they key adversary of NATO but a country supplying more than half of Turkey’s gas.

Turkey has agreed to buy S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia, an unprecedented move by a NATO member, which has raised objections from members of both parties of the U.S. Congress and the Trump administration. 

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, voiced support for Turkey during a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara on Tuesday, stating both countries plan to switch from dollars to national currencies for their mutual trade.

“We view the policy of sanctions as unlawful and illegitimate, driven mostly by a desire to dominate everywhere and in everything, dictate policies and call shots in international affairs,” said Lavrov, predicting “such a policy can’t be a basis for normal dialogue and can’t last long.

Lavrov, alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, also declared, “We are at a turning point, without exaggeration, in world history” from dominance by a single power toward a multipolar environment. 


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

NZ Teachers Strike for First Time in 20 years, Challenge Government’s Fiscal Plan

New Zealand school teachers went on strike on Wednesday for the first time in more than 20 years, challenging the Labor government’s plans to balance promised fiscal responsibility against growing demands to increase public sector salaries.

The government’s first budget in May was stretched to fulfill its promise to juggle investing in much-needed infrastructure with a self-imposed rule to pay down debt and insulate the economy from potential shocks.

Almost 30,000 primary school teachers did not turn up to work on Wednesday and held protests across the country, leaving parents of children aged 5 to 13 at public schools scrambling to find childcare.

“Teachers and principals voted for a full day strike…to send a strong message to the Government that the current collective agreement offers from the Ministry of Education would not fix the crisis in teaching,” said Louise Green, lead negotiator at NZEI, the union that represents teachers, in a statement.

NZEI said it has asked for a 16 percent pay increase for teachers over two years, whereas the government has offered between 6.1 and 14.7 percent pay rises, depending on experience, over three years.

“Our view is that we need to have those discussions around the negotiating table but…there isn’t an endless amount that we have available to us in order to meet those expectations,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at her weekly news conference on Monday.

​The action comes in the wake of a one-day nationwide nurses’ strike in July and a series of smaller actions by government workers, challenging Ardern’s center-left government, which ended almost a decade of center-right National Party rule in October.

The stand-off with its traditional union support base comes nine months after Labor formed a coalition government, promising to pour money into social services and rein in inequality, which has increased despite years of strong growth.

Wage growth has remained sluggish in the island nation for years, despite soaring housing costs, which labour groups and economists say has left workers struggling despite robust growth.

The government is also struggling with gloomy business confidence, which has sunk to decade lows and contributed to a surprise signal from the central bank on Thursday that it planned to keep rates on hold into 2020 and saw downside risks to its growth forecasts.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...