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Air NZ Gets It Right?

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Samantha Lee
Samantha Lee
Alasdair Thompson

Air NZ this week withdrew its membership from the EMA, citing as part of the reasoning behind this decision that Alisdair Thompson’s recent comments regarding his view that women’s monthly menstruation affects their productivity at work.

While I acknowledge the irony of this move coming from the company that brought us Rico, the rude crude, and sexist talking beaver-squirrel-rat thing who loves his Kiwi “bitches” and hangs out with Snoop Dog (who himself blatantly supports the degradation and exploitation of women), it’s still nice to see a little evidence that there are consequences for a high profile employee shooting their mouth off in a professional capacity.

I have been following this case on and off and am surprised that I cannot find any coverage of EMA’s members stepping forward to condemn a comment from a representative of a company that among other things provides advice on how to “manage their employees successfully.”

Logically speaking, if the Chief Executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association makes a blatant derogatory comment and there isn’t an immediate public outcry from its business members (who provide “influential networking opportunities” in New Zealand business in general), it suggests that said members agree with or at least condone this type of outrageous comment.

Not owning a business, I’m not particularly qualified to comment. But in my opinion, rationally, in the interests of fostering greater employee trust and engagement with my company if I did happen to own a business... I would be making damn sure I was doing everything I could to reassure my employees, particularly my female employees, that any advice taken from EMA in the future would be on a fair and balanced basis.

And that comments like women are paid less because “once a month they have a sick problem“ are not only completely unacceptable but completely untrue.

I haven’t seen a rush of businesses doing so- in fact, with the exception of Air New Zealand, I think everyone is just hoping it will go away.

In a statement, the EMA confirmed “its commitment without qualification to:

·         Equal pay

·         The gender plays no part in a person’s productivity

·         Gender should not influence what someone is paid.

EMA is also fully committed to men and women showing respect and courtesy to each other in the workplace.”

Unfortunately EMA’s “commitments” equate to a whole lot of nothing, given that currently New Zealand women are consistently underpaid by twelve percent on average for the same job description as a man, for no reason other than they do not possess a...well, you can probably figure out what it is they don’t have.

As for men and women showing respect to each other in the workplace, I don’t deny this is wholly possible. However, although there are no gender specifics available, the fact New Zealand has one of the worst rates of workplace bullying does give one food for thought, doesn’t it?

I acknowledge that some privately held beliefs may have come to the surface by a slip of the tongue by Mr Thompson. However from where I’m sitting this is someone who is meant to represent an important link between employers and information about developing their business, and therefore further the ideals and goals of the organisation he represents, right?

The Employers and Manufacturers’ Association’s mission statement includes “employment relations advice, employment consultancy, and improve the environment in which we do business.”

What is progressive, forward-thinking or even, you know, correct, about suggesting someone is less productive, less worthwhile or valuable to an organisation because she is female?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m astonished that this is still being talked about...just like pay equality.

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