Alasdair Thompson's job on the line

  • 24/06/2011

By Rachel Morton

The man who enraged women the length of the country with his menstruation comments has apologised again – but it may not be enough to save his job.

The board of the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association will meet on Monday to discuss the future of its CEO, Alasdair Thompson.

When he went on radio and linked menstruation with workplace productivity, he unleashed a barrage of criticism – all of it aimed at him. His appearances on 3 News and Campbell Live last night did nothing to calm feelings.

3 News rang around board members of the EMA today and most declined to comment or couldn't be reached, but one member says he was out of line and wants an explanation.

Mr Thompson was keeping his head down today, but his comments are still reverberating.

"Women take more sick leave in general, I know it's an awful thing to say but it's true," was one of the things he said yesterday.

Auckland City Councillor Cameron Brewer says Mr Thompson was wrong, but doesn't deserve the sack.

"It was ill-advised and I'm pleased that he has unreservedly apologised but what he also needs to do is retract all of his statements," says Mr Brewer.

This afternoon Mr Thompson released a statement, saying: "I apologise for my poor choice of words and bad judgment... The EMA unquestionably believes in equal pay and both the EMA and I believe gender plays no part in the productivity of a person, and that there is no justification for gender to influence what someone is paid.

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

Business lecturer Rachel Morrison says the apology is too little, too late and it's comments like his which make it even harder for women to re-enter the workforce after having children.

"I think these sorts of comments speak to that situation where women are almost forced to leave organisations," she says.

Laurie Margrain was the only EMA board member who answered questions today. He says he'll be confronting Mr Thompson on Monday.

"I would be surprised if the consensus was in anyway supportive of that," he says. "I can't speak for the EMA membership and I can't speak for the board, I haven't spoken to them, but I'd be very, very surprised indeed if EMA supported that approach."

Now other groups who represent employers are distancing themselves from Mr Thompson. 

"EMA Northern are a separate organisation to us and they form their own views," says Ken Harris, Employers Chamber of Commerce, "and our views are quite straightforward we think that paying fairly and working with employees in a respectful fashion is the key to a successful business."

But do women really take more sick leave than men? 3 News looked at a number of surveys which have been done internationally, and the results were quite inconsistent.

This afternoon the State Services Commission released statistics that show on average, men in New Zealand take 6.8 sick days a year, while women take 8.4.

But there is no evidence to suggest menstruation is the cause.

3 News

source: newshub archive