Union boss Helen Kelly says she finds irony in the timing of today's announcement that former business boss Alasdair Thompson has lost an appeal over a TV3 interview on his claims women need more sick leave due to their "monthly sick problems''.

Mr Thompson had complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) that a Campbell Live interview was unfair, inaccurate and unbalanced.

But the BSA, in a finding released today, disagreed.

The finding comes as debate rages over a Labour proposal to extend paid parental leave for mothers from 14 weeks (paid at a maximum of $458.82 a week before tax) to six months.


The bill has been drawn from the member's ballot and looks set to pass its first reading in Parliament.

The former Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive (EMA) was last June debating proposed legislation to reveal workers' pay in order to ensure gender equality in the workplace with Ms Kelly when he said women tended to take more sick leave than men - and that some women suffered terribly once a month.

He said during the radio debate 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.

He was sacked two weeks later but not before giving an interview on TV3`s Campbell Live, which he and wife Joan later complained to the BSA about. Ross Francis, of Masterton, and Nick Gouge, of Hamilton, also objected.

They complained of sarcastic comments by host John Campbell and a caricature of Mr Thompson singing Alice Cooper's Only Women Bleed and the Split Enz song I See Red.

They claimed the items were inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair, particularly because only a part of the interview was broadcast.

Mr and Mrs Thompson also considered the item breached his privacy and that of his employees.

But the BSA said the broadcast was not unfair, inaccurate or unbalanced, and there was no breach of privacy.


The items were not unfair given Mr Thompson's position as a public figure, and the comments reported on were made during a political discussion in the public arena, and accurately reflected Mr Thompson's behaviour in the full interview, it said.

"It is our firm view that if the item caused any harm to Mr Thompson's reputation and dignity, this was not a product of unfair editing on the part of the broadcaster but was the result of how Mr Thompson chose to conduct himself in the interview and was largely self-imposed,'' the BSA said.

One member believed the cumulative effect of a number of aspects of the items amounted to unfairness.

The Thompsons had claimed his privacy had been breached because his request to speak off camera was ignored.

But the BSA said Mr Thompson was an "experienced public figure'' and would "know the care to be taken with `off-the-record' and the need to obtain agreement with the journalist prior to stopping and starting an interview''.

"These have been challenging complaints,'' the authority said.


"We can well understand those people who are sympathetic to Mr Thompson and we can well understand those who are not.

"Essentially, our view is that the broadcast of 23 June showed Mr Thompson as a public figure under pressure and showed his reactions to pressure.

"What was broadcast allowed viewers to draw their own conclusions.''

Ms Kelly noted the timing of the BSA finding, coming as it did on day when she had been arguing with Business New Zealand about whether paid parental leave should be extended.

"... we've still go organisations denying that working women have equity issues that need to be addressed,'' she told APNZ.

"I would have thought the response I got to the Alasdair interview - in the end a massive outpouring of disbelief by women workers - that they might have reviewed their approach to that but they don't seem to have.''


Business organisations continued to have a very chauvinistic and male-dominated approach to industrial relations, and had failed to have consider the fundamental issues "stressing women workers''.

"They still object to any initiatives that are aimed at improving the equality of working women,'' Ms Kelly said.

"We've got some very good employers out there who are interested in their staff but the organisations themselves are still very traditional and I don't hold much hope for them changing.''

A TV3 spokeswoman said the broadcaster did not comment on BSA findings, preferring to let the findings speak for themselves.

"Obviously we're very pleased with the outcome,'' she said.

Bruce Goldsworthy of the EMA said he did not want to comment on the finding, despite Mr Thompson being the EMA boss when he made the comments.


"He was. We've got a new one now and we're going forward with him and I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment from an EMA perspective at all.''

Mr Thompson directed inquiries to his lawyer, Patrick Mcpherson, who said the Thompsons were disappointed with the decision.

"They note that a minority BSA member upheld aspects of the complaint.

"We will be considering the decision and the reasoning of the majority over the next few days and weeks, and in due course we will make a decision about what if any future steps might be taken.''

Asked if Mr Thompson accepted the decision, Mr Mcpherson would not comment.