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Drug testing: employers back Bill English

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/02/2017

Employers are backing Prime Minister Bill English over work-seeker drug testing and say statistics that seem to minimise the problem are "just plain wrong".

Mr English has been under fire from opposition parties and unions since he said on Monday young Kiwis were failing pre-employment drug tests and that was one of the reasons companies turned to migrant workers.

"Various groups have disputed the prime minister's claim," Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell said on Wednesday.

"However, the prime minister is right - it is an issue and we hear anecdotal evidence to this effect from our members regularly."

The Council of Trade Unions said on Tuesday it was last year given official figures showing just 0.6 per cent of job-seekers were failing drug tests.

And RNZ reported only 466 people failed drug tests in the last three years among tens of thousands tested.

"It's all very well quoting government statistics which seem to minimise the issue," Mr Campbell said.

"But as a business leader representing more than 4000 companies I can tell you those figures are just plain wrong."

He said government departments should get better data, and his members were prepared to help with that.

Labour has accused Mr English of making "sweeping generalisations" and the CTU says he overstated the issue.

NZ First leader Winston Peters says Mr English should talk to people looking for work rather than relying on what he's told by employers.

"The prime minister has called out of work New Zealanders druggies and lazy," he said on Wednesday.

"What does he call the 4000 people who applied for 26 WorkSafe positions around the country?"

Mr Peters, a persistent critic of the government's immigration policies, challenged Mr English to say that allowing more than 70,000 people into the country every year wasn't affecting the chances of Kiwis getting jobs.

Meanwhile ACT leader David Seymour is blaming schools, saying students are leaving without the basic skills they need to participate in the workforce.

Mr Seymour, who is parliamentary under-secretary to the minister of education, wants poor performing schools closed down.

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