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'Sick leave' boss: I've learnt my lesson

Published: 10:24AM Friday June 24, 2011 Source: ONE News

Embattled business leader Alasdair Thompson has apologised again for saying women get paid less than men because they take sick days "once a month".

Thompson, chief executive of the Employment and Manufacturers Association, released an "unreserved, unqualified apology" to media today saying his comments on a radio show yesterday were misplaced and irrelevant.

"I apologise for my poor choice of words and bad judgment during the discussion about gender and productivity in the workplace," Thompson said.

"I realise my remarks offended many people."

Thompson said he has always supported equal pay for equal work.

"Although this experience has been very painful to me, it has also served as a valuable lesson - one I shall never forget."

Thompson also apologised for his comments yesterday, but then attempted to defend them in a television interview last night.

"I'm not that unhappy with what I said...some women have immense problems with their menstruation - immense problems.

"You know they can pop a lot of paracetamol and drag themselves into work, but it's hard for them." That was only a small issue in terms of workplace productivity, he said.

The EMA will meet on Monday to discuss Thompson's future.

Former PM enters debate

Former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley has also chimed into the debate, saying she has contacted Thompson's bosses and asked them to act decisively.

She said she wrote to Thompson expressing her concern over his comments and asking him to provide statistics to support his claims.

"Women fulfil a vital role in New Zealand business and the New Zealand economy," Shipley said.

"It is these issues EMA should be championing not the absurd and demeaning arguments expressed yesterday."

Women's Affairs minister Hekia Parata said the comments represent a mindset that is "extremely dated".

"The comments are untrue, unhelpful and unfortunate," she said.

The Public Service Association today released statistics showing that while women take more sick leave than men, the difference was just 1.6 days a year.

The figures from the State Services Commission show that in 2010 men took on average 6.8 days sick and domestic leave annually while women took 8.4 days.

"Given that the majority of responsibility for children and other family members falls on women, I'm surprised there isn't a larger difference in the amount of days taken," said PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott.

Comments 'unacceptable'

EMA director Laurie Margrain told ONE News the comments were unacceptable.

Margrain said he is yet to hear the original interview, but if they are as reported, he believes them to be inappropriate and unacceptable.

"Those are not views that I would expect him to hold, in fact they're views I thought he strongly would not hold.

"He is a strong advocate for equal pay and I've never heard any suggestion that he's been sexist in anyway previously."

Margrain will be questioning Thompson about the issue at the association's next board meeting.

Dr Rachel Morrison from Auckland University of Technology told TV ONE's Breakfast there is no evidence to suggest women are less productive than men in the workforce.

"I think it's a real shame, returning to work after having children is hard enough without these kinds of stereotypes held by people in quite a lot of authority."

But Auckland councillor Cameron Brewer said while Thompson's comments were stupid, the board should back their man.

"He doesn't deserve to lose his job that he's so good at and that he's been such an advocate for Auckland and business issues so successfully, this is one relatively small mistake in quite a long and illustrious career."

The EMA's Communications Manager Gilbert Peterson said the EMA board president Graham Mountfort will call a board meeting today.

What do you think? Is he right? Have your say on the messageboard below.

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  • menacerec said on 2011-07-03 @ 17:26 NZDT: Report abusive post

    I am more than happy to debate publicly any individual who believes that this mans comments were sexist. The fact is, you're all jumping on the feminist bandwagon and attempting to make something out of nothing.

  • menacerec said on 2011-07-03 @ 17:24 NZDT: Report abusive post

    This has nothing to do with freedom of speech, this is to do with an unprofessional journalist purposefully trolling an individual with inappropriate questions in order to elicit a response. The facts are the facts, and anyone who has looked at the statistics knows the reality of the situation. Besides, he didn't just attribute women taking more leave to periods...That was a minor comment in the grand scheme of things which was taken out of context.

  • zing said on 2011-07-01 @ 18:34 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Here we go again. Out of the woodwork come all the goody-two-shoes narrow minded little people who want to take a swing some guy who tells the truth. Thanks to the women's libbers, women grew a set of nuts years ago. So what's they problem? Grow a set of broad shoulders and get over yourselves.

  • GoodGravey said on 2011-06-28 @ 21:30 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Why do people do this? Why do they keep pulling this "free speech" crap? They effectively say we shouldn't complain because he has a right to "free speech". The idea of responsibility and consequences aside, freedom of speech means he can say what he likes - but then so can we. If you support people like Thompson because of "free speech" then you surely must also support those who call for his resignation.

  • buggeryou said on 2011-06-28 @ 15:24 NZDT: Report abusive post

    please send the beautifull "MIHI" to some other old codgers....poke more nests to see what else falls