CAFCA views, analyses, research

ANZ Wins 2015 Roger Award

Serco Second; Bunnings Third

The six finalists for the 2015 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand were, in alphabetical order: Apple, Bunnings, IAG / State Insurance, Mediaworks, Serco and Westpac.

The criteria for judging are by assessing the transnational (a corporation with 25% or more foreign ownership) that has the most negative impact in each or all of the following categories: economic dominance - monopoly, profiteering, tax dodging, cultural imperialism; people - unemployment, impact on tangata whenua, impact on women, impact on children, abuse of workers/conditions, health and safety of workers and the public; environment - environmental damage, abuse of animals; and political interference - interference in democratic processes, running an ideological crusade.

IAG / State Insurance: Winner

For three of us, IAG was a clear winner.

Dennis Maga: This is a consistent finalist and far worse compared to others. IAG should be exposed and condemned publicly because of their economic dominance, low tax rate, high paid CEO and the pain they have caused to Christchurch earthquake victims.

Deborah Russell (summarised): IAG has behaved in a callous fashion with respect to people in Christchurch by refusing to pay out insurance and engaging in shoddy repairs. People who feel insecure, who do not have a place of refuge, and who have no place to call home, can't function well in our society. This state of insecurity has a particular impact on women who are usually the people responsible for making a home and ensuring children have a safe place to be. Children are badly affected when living in insecure environments.

IAG also deserves the Award because they have simply refused to play by the rules of the business game. Whatever else may be said of the other five finalists, they have at least played within the rules (perhaps only MediaWorks could also be described as not playing by the rules). The rules of insurance are very clear. The insurer takes the risk, assesses it and charges a price. IAG took peoples' money but it has not taken the risk. Instead it has tried to shift the risk back to its customers.

Sue Bradford: From the perspective of someone outside Christchurch it seems incredible that IAG has had such a free run. The degree of suffering for which they have been responsible from just after the earthquakes up to the present day seems phenomenal and abhorrent. Adults and children have suffered in all sorts of ways, with life options closed off, mental and physical illness, broken relationships, financial hardship and more. Alongside other institutions, including Governmental, IAG have been part of presenting an impenetrable wall that people can't get through to resolve their housing and insurance issues. In terms of degree of harm inflicted, even just looking over the past year which is the subject of this Award, the level of damage caused is high compared to that perpetrated by the other nominated companies. There is an ecological aspect also, in terms of the impact of IAG's approach on the built environment in Christchurch.

Serco: Runner Up

Dean Parker - Handing prisons over to private companies seemed at the time totally insane. Private companies' sole concern would be capital gain, surely? Social benefit would be of little concern. Now this has been shown. We need to highlight Serco as an example of what happens when areas of social need are handed over to private market operators out to make a fast buck.

David Small (summary) - Serco's neglect and abuse has been thoroughly reprehensible - they have been charged by society with looking after people who are compelled to be in the prison system, and they make a lot of money doing this.

Dennis Maga - Have benefited from privatisation of the Government's services and displayed serious mismanagement.

Deborah Russell - IAG and Serco are the worst offenders because of their callous treatment of vulnerable people who have no choice about whether or not to deal with them. Serco has enabled abuse of prisoners and has done so while making huge profits. Further, it has collaborated in the abuse of NZ citizens in Australian detention centres.

Sue Bradford - Their treatment of prisoners at Serco's privately owned prison in Mt Eden has been repulsive, but there are several reasons why I've put Serco at no 2 instead of no 1. (a) State run prisons are not run well either - privatisation alone cannot be blamed with the way our society deals with those it locks up. Just as much harm can be done by a public organisation as a private one. (b) IAG has had a free run from Government - Serco hasn't. In this past year it has had to pay massive fines to Government and has had its contract for Mt Eden prison cancelled. In Social Development, the Minister is also now very clear contracts will not be let to Serco in the social services sector, something that was mooted much earlier on. (c) I think we need to be conscious of not being overly influenced by our knowledge of how Serco acts in other jurisdictions.

Bunnings: A close Third

We want it noted that Bunnings came a close third, nearly but not quite equal runner-up.

Dean Parker - Every company seems to have stumbled upon this new weapon, flexible hours, as a way of squeezing its workforce. Bunnings was clearly the one that took the lead in this last year.
David Small - Bunnings' very clear union-busting agenda constitutes real political interference in my view. They are using their economic muscle to take over and degrade a significant part of NZ society and economy.

Deborah Russell - Bunnings' treatment of its workers and its continued efforts to impose zero hours contracts on its staff show that they are determined to exploit NZ workers. However, we have our own home-grown example of even worse employers - Talleys. I am loath to give Talleys any opportunity to claim they are not as bad as other employers.

Sue Bradford - Bunnings must clearly be held to account for the attempts by its Australian owners Wesfarmers to maximise profits by attacking the right of its workers to have some control over the time they can spend with their families. There are also environmental issues here with the nature of the products it sells, with issues around sourcing and lifetime of products. However it is not a monopoly (in regards to economic domination) - and the impact on people is not at as severe a level as that inflicted by either IAG or Serco.

Some reasons given by judges for not awarding the prize to the other three companies:

Westpac: We felt uncertainty around Westpac's exact position on the Nicky Hager data release, as there was no clear "smoking gun" on this. In terms of the bank's impact on staff, Westpac does not treat its workers quite as badly as, for example, the ANZ does - the winner of the 2014 Roger Award. We also felt that it is up to Government to take action on the tax dodging by Westpac and other entities.

MediaWorks: Dennis Maga would really like MediaWorks to be considered an "accomplice" in its role as a perpetrator of Rightwing propaganda. We also felt that while some staff have been treated badly, key figures would have got big payouts and that overall the level of harm to employees, and the numbers affected, do not match the levels of damage inflicted by IAG, Serco or Bunnings.

Although the political influence of MediaWorks is high, they are not a monopoly.

Apple: This giant transnational profits hugely from a lack of State regulation. It is up to our lax, inactive Government to take action on tax dodging and avoidance. Companies are just going to make the most of the Government's negligence. Apple has high market domination, but IAG has even more within its sector.

Thanks Murray and CAFCA researchers for the effort and energy you continue to put into the Roger Award, and "kia ora" to my fellow judges for the time and effort you've dedicated to this project at a time of year when most of us are trying to ease up on outside commitments. In this era of economic, political and ecological crisis it is more important than ever that a spotlight is constantly and systematically shone on the role played by transnational corporations in Aotearoa.


The five judges were: David Small, a lawyer and Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Canterbury; Dean Parker, Auckland writer and former Writers' Guild delegate to the Council of Trade Unions; Dennis Maga, union activist from the May First Movement Philippines, organiser of FIRST Union and founder of Migrante and UNEMIG; Sue Bradford, community activist with Auckland Action Against Poverty and Economic and Social Research Aotearoa (ESRA); and Deborah Russell, feminist, social and political commentator and tax expert, Tertiary Education Union member, and candidate for the Labour Party in 2014.

Dennis Maga did not rank or make any comment about Bunnings, to avoid conflict of interest due to his role with FIRST Union (which was in dispute with that company at the time of the judging process).


Full details of this year's Roger Award are available by downloading the Judges Report below.

Murray Horton
For the Roger Award organisers


Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa,
P.O. Box 2258
Christchurch 8140.