Today, on Labour Day I want to acknowledge the contribution New Zealand’s workers make to our country. They are often the forgotten part of the economic equation, but without workers, no business and no public service could get ahead.
There used to be a time when each generation was proud to say that their kids would be better off than their parents at work and the effort of unions in collective organisation and bargaining was about ensuring the gains won by our forebears were not lost.
I can’t say that today.
The 8 hour day and 40 hour week is regarded by many as an anachronism, benefits like overtime and weekend rates are considered out of the ark and the National Government narrative is that employers and business are providing a generous service by taking workers on, and they should just be grateful to have a job.
We subsidise low wages through working for families, we pay employers to take on young minimum wage workers they can sack after 90 days and then we blame people when they struggle to make ends meet.
In the 112th year of celebrating Labour Day as the day to recognise the contribution of New Zealand’s workers and the progress made in workers’ rights, we must remember it’s been another tough year for New Zealand workers, with thousands of layoffs, rising costs, stagnant wages and attacks on employment rights. The Government has launched an attacked on our young workers this week and further employment legislation is in the pipeline that will drive down wages for everyone.
One of the worst industrial disputes seen since the 1990s, the Ports of Auckland is still unsettled. The weeks of wages lost to Talleys AFFCO workers , their families and their communities in a bitter lockout to try to cut their pay and job security has taken a huge toll on poor rural communities and we’ve even seen low paid rest home workers on the picket line struggling for a pittance of a pay increase.
My message to New Zealand workers this Labour Day is that Labour appreciates your hard work and contribution, we are on your side and we have real plans to improve your working lives when this government is thrown out.
And enjoy the day. The government can’t take that away from us.