The nine finalists for the 2009 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand are (in alphabetical order): ANZ, BNZ, Infratil, Newmont, Rio Tinto Aluminium NZ, Rymans, Telecom, Transpacific and Westpac. There are two finalists for the Accomplice Award – the Business Round Table, and the Auckland City Council and its officials (as part of the nomination of Transpacific Industries).
Telecom, the winner of the 2007 Roger Award, is the only transnational corporation (TNC) to have been a finalist every year since the Roger Award started a dozen years ago (although it has only actually won it twice). In 2009 it was nominated primarily for its shabby treatment of its phone technicians, whom it is forcing into becoming self-employed contractors who will have to carry the costs and risks previously borne by their employer when they were wage workers. Transpacific is the only one not to have featured before, at least not under that name. In recent years it bought out Waste Management which, under its previous owners, was a finalist one year. All the rest have previously been finalists (and BNZ and Westpac were joint winners in 2005). This tells you something about these corporate recidivists. In fact this is such a strong field that the defending champion, BAT (British American Tobacco NZ), which won the 2008 Roger, couldn’t even make the finalists.
ANZ was nominated very specifically for its role in the ING frozen funds scandal, which is a continuation from 2008, when it was also a finalist for the same reason. BNZ and Westpac are there for a variety of sins but first and foremost because they have been found guilty of massive tax avoidance in a case that Inland Revenue has brought against all four Australian-owned banks (ANZ and ASB are yet to have their day in court). The total amount of tax avoided is more than $2 billion. Infratil is there again, as it was in 2008, because of union bashing (specifically for locking out Auckland bus drivers by its NZ Bus subsidiary. Last year it was for NZ Bus locking out its Wellington workers. Do you detect a pattern emerging here?). Newmont Mining, which was last a finalist in 2003, is there for the same reason – the appalling impact of its gold mine which has left Waihi with a huge hole in the middle of town. Rio Tinto Aluminium (which is still better known by its former name, Comalco), the 2008 runner up, was nominated for a range of reasons, but primarily for being the biggest corporate bludger in NZ vis a vis its power price; and for the huge amount that the public will have to pay for every job at the Tiwai Point smelter because the Government is making taxpayers carry the burden of NZ’s carbon emissions, and pay for the biggest carbon emitter in the country. Rymans, which people mistakenly think of as being New Zealand-owned (the same mistake is made about Infratil), has been a finalist once before and for the same reason – it is a prime example of the for profit retirement home industry and it treats both workers and residents poorly. Transpacific was nominated for its takeover, aided and abetted by the Auckland City Council and its officials, of the excellent locally owned and run rubbish and recycling operation on Waiheke Island.
The criteria for judging are by assessing the transnational (a corporation which is 25% or more foreign-owned) 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
Political interference – Interference in democratic processes, running an ideological crusade
The point needs to be made that the likes of Fonterra are not eligible for nomination (we always receive nominations for it and this year got more than usual). We have no doubt that there is a place for an award for the worst New Zealand owned transnational (of which Fonterra is the prime example) and even for the worst company in NZ (Fonterra would probably be a prime contender for that too). But the Roger Award is not the place for either of those. Nor is it the place to judge the worst transnational corporation in the world, although some nominators would have it so. It is for judging the worst TNC operating in NZ (and NZ alone) in the year in question. Some might criticise that as a narrow focus but it is a formula that has worked extremely well for the now very well established and credible Roger Award.
The judges are: Paul Corliss, from Christchurch, a life member of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union; Christine Dann, from Banks Peninsula, a writer and researcher; Bryan Gould, from Bay of Plenty, a former Waikato University Vice-Chancellor; Joce Jesson, a Senior Lecturer in Critical Studies in Education, University of Auckland and an activist in various community organisations; and Wayne Hope, Associate Professor, Communications Studies, Auckland University of Technology. The winner(s) will be announced at a Wellington event in March. The Roger Award is organised by the Christchurch-based groups, Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) and GATT Watchdog. Bad luck to all the finalists and may the worst man win!