It's over, period, for Alasdair Thompson

By Michael Dickison

Alasdair Thompson. Photo / Richard Robinson
Alasdair Thompson. Photo / Richard Robinson

Business boss Alasdair Thompson has been fired for his comments on gender - and worker advocates hope the controversy will flow on to actually closing the pay gap between the sexes.

Mr Thompson was sacked yesterday as chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern), almost two weeks after commenting on radio about women's pay and menstruation.

Board president Graham Mountfort said Mr Thompson's dismissal related to media interviews and "the resulting consequences".

In a radio debate about proposed legislation to reveal workers' pay in order to ensure gender equality in the workplace, Mr Thompson said women tended to take more sick leave than men - and that some women suffered terribly once a month.

He said he supported equal pay based on productivity, but his suggestion that periods could be a factor in women being paid 12 per cent less than men caused an uproar.

Yesterday, hundreds of people took to Twitter, Facebook, online polls and websites to cheer his dismissal.

On Twitter, Wendy Davie said, "Yeehaa", Brenda Colmore said, "Yay!" while others ran wild with puns. "It's over. Period," said one.

"I hope that Alasdair Thompson can put this unfortunate period of his life behind him," said another.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty, whose private member's bill sparked the debate that led to Mr Thompson's comments, said the controversy showed how laws needed to do more for women's pay.

"His unfortunate remarks show there are barriers to women getting fairly treated in the workplace.

"The fact that sexism is still out there just shows we need the law to be robust. We can't just rely on the goodwill of individuals."

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said she hoped the dismissal would lead to changes in how the employers' lobby approached pay equity.

The association had not backed any efforts to narrow the pay gap between men and women, Ms Kelly said.

Mr Thompson continued to have some supporters last night, including Act Party MP Sir Roger Douglas, who said the business leader had been brought down by a "lynch mob".

However, Auckland Council Business Advisory Panel chairman Cameron Brewer said Mr Thompson would not return to the panel.

Employment lawyer Kathryn Beck, of Swarbick Beck Mackinnon, believed Mr Thompson would have fought against dismissal.

The EMA had likely claimed that his actions amounted to serious misconduct because public relations was a significant part of his role.

Ms Beck said it was unusual for such a high-profile case to end in a sacking rather than a resignation negotiated by lawyers.

"He may genuinely feel he didn't do anything wrong."

- NZ Herald

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