6 Jul 2011

Employment boss sacked over comments about women

10:22 pm on 6 July 2011

The board of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) has sacked chief executive Alasdair Thompson over his controversial comments about women's productivity.

Mr Thompson caused widespread outrage after saying two weeks ago that women earn less then men because they take time off for their periods and have to look after children.

On Wednesday, board president Graham Mountfort said that after careful consideration Mr Thompson has been dismissed.

Mr Mountford says they regret that his role is ending in this manner, especially considering the contribution he has made over the past 12 years.

Mr Mountford says as it is an employment matter, he does not believe is it appropriate to comment further.

Bruce Goldsworthy has been appointed acting chief executive.

Employment law specialist Max Whitehead, a member of the association and who has worked for Mr Thompson, believes the decision is the right one.

Mr Whitehead told Checkpoint Mr Thompson made a very clumsy statement which brought the association into disrepute and that is what cost him his job.

Mr Whitehead says the length of time the board took to decide Mr Thompson's future shows it tried to do things fairly.

Mr Thompson was also a member of Auckland Council's business advisory panel, but stood down last week. Chair Cameron Brewer had left the door open for a return, but says he does not expect that to happen now.

Time for change - CTU

The Council of Trade Unions welcomes the move, but says the dismissal will represent something only if the Employers and Manufacturers Association addresses gender inequality in the workplace.


CTU president Helen Kelly says the association now needs to advocate for equal rights.

"This is an opportunity for them to change their image. There are thousands of women around New Zealand; they're not just outraged because of Alasdair's comments - they're outraged because nothing has been done about the discrimination they face.

"Now is the time for the EMA to restore its reputation."

Politicians from across the spectrum say they are not surprised at the decision, including Prime Minister John Key who says it appeared inevitable that Mr Thompson would have to go.

Air NZ won't reconsider membership

Air New Zealand says it will not reconsider a decision to cancel its membership with Business New Zealand - a move partly motivated by Alasdair Thompson's comments.

The national airline said last week it had chosen not to renew its membership with the group, which is linked to the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

Air New Zealand said it had been reviewing the costs and benefits of its membership and made its decision to leave after Mr Thompson made the comments.