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Thompson’s own “sick problem” confirmed

EMA chief Alasdair Thompson, under siege for comments about women’s “monthly sick problems”, is on sick leave himself, the employer’s association confirmed.

President of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) Graham Mountfort told Without a Word of a Lie Mr Thompson was on sick leave from the country’s biggest employer group, after controversial comments about gender pay equity prompted calls for his resignation last week.

Concern for Mr Thompson’s health was understood to have stalled the board’s determination on the embattled chief executive’s future, with an insider claiming he might be in hospital.

Mr Mountfort said he was “incredibly frustrated” things were not moving more swiftly, but next steps were not in the board’s hands, he said.

 “It’s just got to take its course,” he said.

“It’s incredibly frustrating, I know everybody would like to see a resolution.”

He recognised the irony of an employers association, which advised its members on thorough employment relations procedures, was going slow at its own game, he said.

“We would like to be acting more decisively, but as an organisation that advises employers on responsible process, we have to be seen to go through due process. Unfortunately, that’s taking longer than we hoped.”

Mr Mountfort, a former director of packaging company Permark Industries, was not paid a bean as chairman of the EMA’s 16-member board.

The voluntary board had earned every cent in the “horrific” four days since Mr Thompson made the inflammatory comment the gender wage gap was due to women taking more sick leave than men, citing one reason as their "monthly sick problem".

The board was now in into “damage control mode” to distance itself from Mr Thompson’s comments.

“Alasdair’s comments were way off the wall. They were not representative of our attitudes. In our working experiences, we have not ever seen an issue in that area,” he said.

The ensuring frenzy was distressing because it had overshadowed the EMA’s long-standing advocacy for equal pay for equal work.

But Mr Mountfort thought a Green Party bill to amend the Equal Pay Act --discussion of which is where Mr Thompson’s comments originated – went too far.

Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty’s bill would “give teeth” to current employment laws by allowing workers and unions to request information on pay levels by gender in their workplaces to assess whether the Equal Pay Act was being applied.“I think it’s step to far, and too intrusive into workplaces. While we encourage pay equity, we don’t think the steps being promoted in the bill are the right way to go about it.”

Mr Mountfort said the Thompson “crisis” had triggered a review of how the EMA board interacted with it’s appointed CEO "going forward," but would not be drawn on whether that would be Mr Thompson or not.

Mr Thompson was in touch with the board this week, but he had not personally spoken to Mr Mountfort since the weekend.

The EMA board had strong legal experience, with former head of the Takeovers Commission and senior partner at law firm Russell McVeagh John King among members who also included Rankin Treasury Advisory’s Derek Rankin, Geoff Whitcher from the University of Auckland, Scott Fuller from NZ Steel and Kevin Reilly from ASB.

Although there were only two female board members: Cogita Business Services executive director Margaret Brown and Weight Watchers New Zealand national manager Colleen Stairmand, the board would like to appoint more.

“”We're always on the lookout for additional women and good members generally,” said Mr Mountfort.

A sub-group of senior board members was overseeing the decision process that would determine Mr Thompson’s future.

Mr Mountfort commended Mr Thompson’s contribution to the EMA during his 12-year tenure at the helm.

His role in driving the 2005 ‘Rev Up’ campaign that secured an extra $330 million from the government in planned spending on Auckland transport and in spearheading the One Auckland project that helped kick-start the Royal Commission of Enquiry into Auckland governance in 2007, were among his key achievements.

“He has done an excellent job, but I think his judgment has deserted him.”

The people deciding Alasdair Thompson's fate


Graham Mountfort (President), Permark Industries

Colin Martin, Nuplex Industries

Margaret Brown, Cogita Business Services
Andrew Hunt Kinetics Group

John King, Russell McVeagh
Kevin Reilly, ASB Relationship Banking

Derek Rankin, Rankin Treasury Advisory
Colleen Stairmand, Weight Watchers NZ

Geoff Whitcher, University of Auckland
Andrew Corbett, Tranzsoft Group

Chris Davis, Rinnai NZ
Laurie Margrain, Open Country Cheese

David Thomas, Winstone Wallboards 

Scott Fuller, New Zealand Steel

Bob Fenwick, Planhorse Systems NZ
Maurice Barton, Sonoco NZ

More by Georgina Bond

Comments and questions


Why doesnt th EMA show moral courage and terminate AT's employment. This will show that EMA is a real employer and demonstrate that it is well within its capacity (& legal right) to do so in this particular instance. Instead we have the "irony" of the EMA being as cowardly as AT was with his comments. Shame on the Board.

Mr Thompson

C'mon mate, HARDEN UP - what are you doing on Sick Leave???

The irony is SICKENING.

The pain of extracting your foot from your mouth and your head out of your backside should leave you in no position to return to work.

Permanent sick leave (e.g. retirement) is probably your best option.

Storm in a teacup stuff. Hardly anything to get excited about, particularly when comments by AT are taken in full context and apparently backed by research. I'm reminded of Salem witch hunts and church heresy trials. Looks like comments made by AT don't fit the current orthodoxy and the mob has been whipped into a frenzy by the high priests/ priestesses of PC. All of this indignant foaming at the mouth that passes for debate is laughable.

Research has been shown to be invalid

May be, may be not. The point is whether the reaction is out of all proportion to the gaffe made and the media and social commentators ability to be selective in their reporting. Of course it ultimately says more about the pitiful attention span of most people that they can't digest anything more than a 10 second sound bite and are too stupid and/or lazy to inform themselves about something they seem to want to get emotionally passionate about but can't muster the intellectual effort to critically question what is being spoon fed to them through the media.

You're on to it.
If Mountfort was the leader he's pretending to be, he'd sense the feeding frenzy and being of no consequence to the actual progress of EMA, sacrifice himself and jump in the shark tank tonight.
Issue over. EMA's real problem gone.....and something for the mob to ch/jeer at provided.
Before he jumps, he must tell AT to go on a sicky until after the RWC, and no one will care a toss what happens thereafter.

Storm in a teacup stuff. Hardly anything to get excited about, particularly when comments by AT are taken in full context and apparently backed by research. I'm reminded of Salem witch hunts and church heresy trials. Looks like comments made by AT don't fit the current orthodoxy and the mob has been whipped into a frenzy by the high priests/ priestesses of PC. All of this indignant foaming at the mouth that passes for debate is laughable.

Well said L Houwera.

Comments from a unionist and green things seem to have significant weight in the media.

Jesus people give the man a break. He said some daft things but he did not exactly advocate a return to witch-burning or anything. He has already made an unreserved apology. And quite possibly he is actually sick, either with an underlying condition or/exacerbated by stress from this episode. Have a heart.

This has nothing to do with his comments but his believes, his comments only make them known.

The real issue is that he is at a level where people with like views have promoted him. A real bad look for New Zealand, the place where women were given the voting rights first.

Hell hath no Fury and all that - I don't condone what he said - and surely we all say something we regret in the heat of the moment - I know I have - but I am beginning to think that the righteous calling for blood - the hounding in the media etc.. is getting to the point that it is worse than what he said. Surely people need a second chance. We see it over and over again the viscous attacks on people who may have done wrong but are human after all. There is no evidence that what he said is true and I have not seen any evidence that what he said is a deep belief that impacts his work. I have seen no evidence that he is a bad person who should be thrown on the floor and kicked in the head which I think this verbal violence is starting to head towards.

The crowing over this man's misfortune is ugly.

This is simply a blood sport now. (No pun intended but it is funny so I will leave it in)

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People have over reacted. This guys is in touch every day with the business world. He runs his own company. If he says its happening - its happening. You PC lot need to harden up.

People have over reacted. This guys is in touch every day with the business world. He runs his own company. If he says its happening - its happening. You PC lot need to harden up.

Wow - talk about periods and you get lynched.
Steal millions from Mum & Dad investors and contractors, go on holiday on the gold coast or spain and no body cares.
The NZ Lesbian Labour Left needs to grow up.

That reporter should resign too.

Putting aside for a moment issues of the gender pay gap and what constitutes productivity, one of his key jobs surely has to be managing the media and how the EMA is presented in the media. From my recollection of the full interview (which may be incorrect but you can check on the TV3 website if you want to)...

- He used shonky statistics.
- He did not know when to end the interview.
- He did not know when he was on camera.
- He threatened - on camera - to breach employee privacy.
- He used standover tactics with the journalist.

It is not my decision to make in the end but the extended interview did little to convince me he is a suitable or representative spokesperson for the EMA.

Is this really the advocate the EMA still wants?

You forgot bringing his organisation into disrepute.

Dumb and dummber - regardless of your name you make a very valid point. Surely some of the larger members of the EMA must now be calling into question the leadership of Mountfort and calling to account some of the other members of the board. The EMA have done a terrible job of handling the whole sorry situation. One option would have been to carry the cost of a deal more favourable to get Thompson out of there as soon as possible in hope of retaining the good name of the EMA. It seems way to late for that now and no surprise Air NZ has walked. Let's hope a few more major corporates stand up and be counted so as to get this whole saga out of the way as soon as possible!

As the country's biggest employer group, unfortunately Mr Thompson's comments have compromised the organisation. The most dignified option is for him to retire. More importantly, it is disappointing to see that such an organisation only has two female board members.

Nice to get a glimpse into the otherwise murky thinking that goes into EMA policy.

Agreed. I suspect Alasdair Thompson's real crime is that he's just wasted goodness knows how much cash on the PR consultants that came up with the EMA's "Pay Equity" facade. The moment a politician wants even cursory level of accountability put into effect, the veneer peels off revealing the codger-mentality that lies just beneath. This whole escapade is revealing in just how shallow the EMA's commitment to pay equity really is and raises questions as to whether its members are getting value for money or just sponsoring another branch of the Old Boys' Club.

Regardless of the content of the argument – why aren’t employers making more noise about the entire “process” the employer must adhere to, to be seen to be following “Due process” in “good faith”?

The entire “Due process” needs reviewing – whilst still protecting the employee – but protecting the employer at the same time.

Currently, (and ironically) the EMA have to sit on their hands and wait for such a time until AT can attend further “meetings” meanwhile the delay only exacerbates the poor process, the untenable position the EMA find themselves in, and the frustration and embarrassment of the EMA’s other employees.

All at the cost of the EMA – an innocent employer of an employee that has had his senses go “AWOL”

This is the same process any employer must follow should one of their staff have a similar situation happen – huge cost to the innocent employer in terms of reputation, lost opportunities, lost productivity and malicious rumours.

Then there’s the cost of the organisation having to “support” an employee in “good faith” whilst making do without their input, whilst trying to manage the entire “process” of what/where to from here?

SME’s can not afford this process – and many SME owners I know would prefer to go without the burden and risk of creating employment against having to be a party to this sort of nonsense or sustain employment through such a lengthy, costly and time distracting exercise – that the individual created themselves.

Especially when the likes of the ERA rule to re-instate the likes of an unskilled labourer who has vandalised a Jewish client’s property with swastika’s, the employer fires his butt for the cost, embarrassment and treatment of the client – only to have to pay a huge fine to the employee because of some minor technicality. Wrong message!

National – please fix our employment laws. Level the playing field so employers are not entirely held responsible for everything that someone working for them does! More business’s will then employ more people without the huge risks to their enterprise.

Given the comments of Alasdair Thompson I took the opportunity to look a little further into the structure behind the organisation and the network of organisations known as Business NZ. What struck me first was there was not a single female representative on the Business NZ Council (according to their website). Given this context is it surprising that Mr Thompson shares the views he does? It seems as though the 'old boys' club is very much alive and well... which I find very antiquated and the antithesis of what Business NZ should be about i.e. using ALL of our talent for the success and betterment of NZ businesses. I would encourage Business NZ to take a long hard look at what they have created.

Phil O'Reilly usually courts attention at the the drop of a hat but has remained oddly quiet over this one.

If Mr Thompson were true to his free hire and fire and no redundancy values, he would have walked rather than call in his lawyer. Clearly those values were just charade.

Mr Mountfort's comments will cost EMA a lot of money as they give AT a cast iron case to argue constructive dismissal.

What he is saying is"I'm very frustrated we have to go through this damn process before we sack him, but it's not our fault so please stop shouting at me".

Pathetic and expensive attempt to placate the baying hyenas.

at least now I know EMA is leaded by these kind of people.

Head of EMA on sick leave due to chronic Manstration.

Frankfurt School societal infiltrators from the Green Party and Unions condemn person with penis.

Latest news... a study conducted by the Gender Diversity Outreach Coordinator Trust of Aotearoa New Zealand has concluded in a report backed by Penny Bright that Water is indeed Wet.

For : Questionable structure | Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 9:54am

The former female board members resigned en masse due to terrible wimmins twubbles.

A. Dyke.

Hey Questionable structure | Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 9:54am.....perhaps you could complain about the Old Boys club to Helen Clark the head of the multi-billion dollar man hating group UN Women.

Smash the patriachy!