Thursday, August 27, 2009

More information thuggery

More information thuggery from the National Party, this time from Corrections Minister Judith Collins. She has volunteered the expenses claims of certain Corrections employees, claiming that they are enjoying a "jet-set lifestyle" at taxpayer's expense. These people just happen to be representatives for the Corrections Association, and their expenses are high because they are regularly required to travel to meetings with Corrections management to represent the union's position.

Collins thinks this is outrageous. I don't think so. If an employer wants an employee to turn up somewhere other than their normal place of work - at a meeting at the other end of the country, for example - they pay expenses. That is ordinary practice in the public sector, it is ordinary practice in the private sector, and it is ordinary practice for our politicians (Collins remember enjoys taxpayer-funded travel and accommodation so she can nominally live in her electorate while working in Wellington, and I believe that is perfectly fair, to the extent those expenses are reasonable and necessary rather than a pure scam like Bill English's housing).

Collins' real problem seems to be that Corrections is talking to the union (which she has identified as an impediment to her plans to turn prisons into zoos) at all. But this is required by their collective agreement, which demands consultation on certain issues. And its required because its a bloody good idea - you can't run a safe prison without the consent of the guards, and as people on the front line who must manage and face the risks of any policy changes, their opinions are absolutely invaluable. That consultation costs money, but it is well worth it - and the alternative would cost far more, in human rights claims by prisoners and death benefits to prison officers' families.