By Paul Titus
Which company will win the dubious distinction of being New Zealand’s worst transnational corporation and walking away with this year’s Roger Award?
Among the six judges to make that decision is Methodist Church of NZ president Rev Brian Turner.
The award's namesake
Named after radical market-oriented reformer and father of Rogernomics, Sir Roger Douglas, the Roger Awards are organised by two activist organisations, Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) and GATT Watchdog.
To be nominated for a Roger Award a company much be 25 percent or more foreign-owned, and during the year it must have had the most negative impact on New Zealand in one or more of four categories: 1) economic dominance through monopoly control, profiteering, or tax dodging; 2) impact on people through forced unemployment, abuse of workers, or lax health and safety; 3) environmental damage; or 4) political interference.
Organizers say the eight finalists for the 2007 Roger Award include three ‘golden oldies’, who have been nominated several times before, and five newcomers.
The familiar faces are Telecom, nominated this year for its disruption of its customers’ email service, British American Tobacco, for promoting a product that kills 5000 NZers a year, and ANZ Bank, for its role in the collapse and takeover of Feltex.
Newcomers include cleaning and maintenance company Spotless, which locked out hundreds of hospital workers in a labour dispute; Pike River Coal, for opening a major new coal mine despite concerns about global warming; Independent Liquor, for its anti-worker, anti-union actions in the past year; APN News & Media for contracting out its sub-editing work and making its own staff redundant; and GlaxoSmithKline, for being fined more than $200,000 after two high school girls proved that for decades it made false claims about the Vitamin C in Ribena.
The panels of judges who decides which corporations is the worst of the worst is made up of academics, activists and trade unionists. Along with Brian Turner, the judges this year are National Distribution Union secretary Laila Harre, former All Black and environmentalist Anton Oliver, Victoria University economist Geoff Bertram, Rail and Maritime Transport Union member Paul Corliss, and NZ Nurses' Organisation manager and health activist Cee Payne-Harker.
Brian says he has been a member of CAFCA for a number of years because he is concerned about how power is wielded in New Zealand. He was also a judge in last year’s Roger Awards.
“In the blurb about the judges it states that I am a minister and social activist but I prefer to think of myself as a gospel activist. Some activists are assumed to be left-wing politically but I have arrived at my position by following Jesus,” Brian says.
“Jesus didn’t only work with the poor and impoverished, he also addressed the institutions that caused people to be poor. And he wasn’t crucified by for patting at those institutions. He was crucified for the way he analysed and criticised them.”
The winner of the 2007 Roger Award will be announced on March 16th at the Trade Union Centre in Christchurch. At the presentation associate professor of accounting at Sydney Univesity Sue Newberry will present a financial analysis of the winner and singer Lindon Puffin will perform.
CAFCA spokesman Murray Horton says he wishes all the finalists good luck. “And may the worst man win!”