What the hell went wrong at Fletcher’s?

By   /   March 8, 2018  /   11 Comments

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John Tamihere has asked crucial questions in his new Herald column demanding to know where the public good values have evaporated within NZs largest construction company…

John Tamihere has asked crucial questions in his new Herald column demanding to know where the public good values have evaporated within NZs largest construction company…

My family used to be employed by the Fletcher Construction Company. We were all steel workers and I recall as a kid the company putting on Christmas functions for its workers at Coyle Park in Pt Chevalier. My father had great regard for Sir James Fletcher because he said Sir James truly cared about his workforce, how they were housed and that they were paid a fair 40-hour wage that was enough to feed and provide for their families.

Fletcher ran trade training programmes and ensured apprentices were looked after and well-skilled. I recall on these sites that there was a Code of Ethics and Duty of Care to other tradies. We would not condone second-rate work by other trades — and equally, they would not accept ours.

Then along came market deregulation and sub-contracting on a vast scale. Add the leaky building fiasco to this Fletcher performance, and to me it appears there’s a breakdown in the construction industry around standards, values and ethics over the years.

I do not accept some quantity surveyor, well down the food chain, is responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of debt. It’s like the story of the bishop blaming the altar boy for a bad sermon. It is simply not true and the spin around the story means, as usual, those at the top end of town can walk away without adverse impact.

But ask the poor chippie, sparky, plumber or drainlayer whether they would be so lucky if in contracting to Fletcher they made the same decisions in running their businesses. They know, and you know, their houses would go, their vehicles would go and more than likely their marriages would also go as a consequence, because they were too small and they failed.

Forget corporate responsibility to Fletcher’s shareholders. Where is their social conscience and responsibility when bidding and receiving funding on massive government contracts?

…where are those social good values now?

Where is basic decency within our public service?

We have a State insurer contracting corporate spies to spy on earthquake victims, we have WINZ counter productively reporting on the homeless using motels and we have a prison population exploding beyond our ability to contain because counter-productive spite has replaced social policy.

We desperately need reform and culture change in our public service and we need to inject our Public Private Partnerships with a social conscience.

There is a looming economic crunch and NZs favourite wealth creator, property speculation continues to splutter…

House prices expectations hit six-and-half year low
Expectations that house prices will rise are at a six-and-a-half year low, and the number of people who think it is a bad time to buy has fallen, particularly in Auckland, according to the latest ASB Housing Confidence Survey.

Ten signs we’re heading for ‘economic armageddon’

John Adams, a former Coalition policy adviser who last year identified seven signs that the global economy was heading for a crash — later warning the window for action had closed — believes the US$4 trillion wipe-out was just the opening act of his apocalyptic prophecy playing out.

“When the economic earthquake hits, don’t be surprised to see soaring interest rates, massive falls in asset prices [like] shares, real estate and bonds, higher unemployment and widespread bankruptcies,” he said.

…at some point the new Government are going to have to review their whole commitment to appeasing our corporate overlords with the Budget Responsibility Rules and start demanding a social conscience for their taxpayer spend rather than the cheapest cost.

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  1. WILD KATIPO says:

    Well said and excellent recollections by John Tamihere.

    I wont go into it, its all been said before about the neo liberal model of economics,… but there you go. This is what you get.

    And yet there is a way out of it. A return to a modified form of Keynesianism for today’s world.

    And yet you can bet your bottom dollar ( inadvisable with the coming crash … ) that we will see, during and after the coming economic melt down , a desperate return to the principles of Keynesianism , – coupled with an arrogant assertion of something resembling free market neo liberalism once the coast is clear and the dusts settled and market health regains some semblance of order.

    It is then that these pirates need to be opposed most loudly and strongly to prevent a repeat of the crisis.

  2. CLEANGREEN says:

    Hi Martyn,

    Fletcher Challenge was up untill 2000 also heavily invested in the West Coast Canadian wood pulp industry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fletcher_Challenge

    I believe as we had the son of Sir James Fletcher come and live at our home for a time in Toronto while Fletcher’s Dad with Ron Trotter was involved then in tree pulp industry in British Columbia.

    “Sir James Fletcher’s son was a nice young guy who liked the bright lights of Toronto then in 1989 and got drunk and run into trouble while at the home so Hugh Fletcher flew over from NZ and knocked on our front door looking for his son, and then said we had a nice front door!!!!!!

    Looking back now i think too much money must have been spent on rorting and corruption and bribery by what i see now was what caused this mega NZ Company to fail.

    I thought Sir James Fletcher was a nice man then but it seems like they got too greedy since when the company failed last time during the 1990’s then called Fletcher challenge.

    It did o/k under the last national Government but seems to fail when under a labour government???

    Maybe they cant get away with buying favours under this government???

  3. Michelle says:

    one word explains everything ‘Greed’ Martyn

    • GreenBus says:

      John Keys legacy! What a fuckwit. He should be put in stockade on the back of a truck and paraded around for us to pummel the wanker with rotten eggs. Oh and stripped of the “sir” bs.

      • darth smith says:

        bastard bolted like winstone predicted fonterra next up for gross mismanagement

        when the damm house bubble pops john keys legacy well be complete

  4. Kim dandy says:

    In other words – go back to how things were done pre-neo lib days.
    When Nats were in government, I remember mentioning the attitude of those in power rubbing off on a country – arrogant, greedy and a mean bunch.
    Sound familiar? Not the NZ I grew up in. People did care…once.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      100% correct as me born in 1944 I grew up in a society that had endured, with two world wars, and the worst depression ever known.

      So our elders all cared about us young then, and the world they will build with care and compassion as an equal sharing more “egalitarian society” they would leave for us later.

      Now we klive in a greedy self serving narrow focused un-caring society where the rule now is “only the “stronger and careless survive”.
      when we as a society stops caring it will whither.

      Welcome to the “brave new century’ – I will not.

  5. esoteric pineapples says:

    Forty years of Neo-Liberal/Monetarist policies begat this.

    And always going for the cheapest rather than the best value for money

  6. Andrew says:

    OK, now some facts closer to the action:

    Big construction projects are always risky. Every construction company eventually makes a mistake that can potentially bury it.

    Fletcher’s hired the wrong CEO. Probably a narcissist/sociopath, he went around firing senior people with decades of construction and estimating experience.

    They tendered on several lump sum projects at too low a price. Having lost the experienced ‘costies’ and construction managers, they went in too low and won contracts that were losing propositions.

    As the panic set in, they started making more bad decisions which buried them even deeper.

    It’s worth noting that the Shareholder’s Association tackled the board on this ages ago and were brushed off. I wonder if shareholders will tackle board members for negligence.

  7. darth smith says:

    inside word is the whole truth is yet to come out about fletcher its on a knife edge