Red Alert

Wake up and listen

Posted by on February 15th, 2013

This last week has seen the Living Wage profiled in a way rarely seen of any social movement in recent times. The NZ Herald ran a week long series, Duncan Garner came out as a strong advocate on Radio Live, other journalists picked it up with interviews and stories. Even the Prime Minister took on the language of the Living Wage even if he was trying to diss the notion and tell us all it’s not happening under his government.

Like it or not, the Living Wage movement has hit New Zealand. It’s powerful, it’s growing and will change the narrative not only around work and wages, but around community expectations about how they want and need to live.

While there’s been a lot of publicity around the “rate” of the living wage, announced by the community alliance of the Living Wage Aotearoa NZ, the two day symposium held this week in Auckland was much more than a talk about wages. It was designed to highlight the changing nature of work, the challenges to the norms of defining work and labour, the impact on our communities and the Living Wage movement as a growing community movement in response.

Guy Standing, who I blogged about some time ago, kicked off the seminar with a challenging lecture on “The Precariat – the new dangerous class”. You can find many Guy Standing lectures on Youtube and he’s really worth tuning into. Standing says the old class structures of the 20th century are vanishing (whether we like it or not) and being replaced by new ones – the largest being the growing class of the “precariat” – who have no occupational identity, who work in increasingly precarious arrangements, are expected to do a high ratio of work for labour (ie applying for multiple jobs, filling in forms, travelling to interviews and from job to job) and who, by and large reject the political agendas of the Right and the Left and other established organizations such as unions, simply because they are irrelevant to them.

Then today, Deborah Littman, from London Citizens and now the Metro Vancouver Alliance gave a compelling lecture about the movement in the UK and Canada. If you want to know about why and how, you can watch it here.  If you want to know about the business case and case studies, watch it here.

The overseas movements have grown up over many years, but their experiences and stories provide a lift for our own home grown version as it gathers strength.

New Zealand’s movement is following in their footsteps, building an alliance with unions, faith based and community organisations involved in Living Wage Aotearoa NZ. It’s a different dynamic; not party politically aligned, with no group dominating, with a lot of listening and understanding of how low pay comes at a cost to society as a whole. And then a negotiation through the process of moving to a living wage that provides families with the basic necessities of life, to live with dignity and participate as active citizens in our society.

We need to wake up and listen.

6 Responses to “Wake up and listen”

  1. Colin says:

    It seems the lesson Henry Ford tried to teach the buisness world has been lost.
    Some time around 1910, Ford had a problem with staff retention, and therefore staff training. The conditions at Ford’s Dearbourne plant were, to put it lightly, the sort that would have OSH turning red! Ford was no accountant… in fact, he hated accountants. Ford learned the hard way that paying peanuts only got you monkeys.
    He decided to double the wages of his factory workers. Buisnessmen, anylists, economists and accountants all slammed Ford for what they all described as “Stupidity”.
    Henry Ford had the last laught. It turned out cheaper to double the factory wages, and retain keen and productive staff, than to run with what everyone else in the buisness world was saying.
    As a result of Ford’s backwards cost-cutting measure, his job advertising, staff training and supervisory costs were slashed by a large margin.
    In Te Aroha, a company official recently described his staff as “monkeys”. He didnt like me taking a dig at his pay-rates by using his words against him! Too bloody bad!!!

  2. Colin says:

    A high staff turnover and a low staff morale is ALWAYS a sign of bad management!

  3. Grant Hay says:

    @ Colin. Agree 100%.

  4. Jack Ramaka says:

    At least Labour, Greens, NZF and Mana are prepared to discuss the topic, similar situation to the demise of the manufacturing industry here in NZ which the above parties have had a Forum on.

    John Key is displaying true Tory characteristics whereby the wealth continues to be transferred to a priviledged elite in NZ, the Assets Sales under the Tory in Drag Roger Douglas merely transferred wealth from the State into private individuals hands
    Have a look at the wealth list in NZ many have been the primary beneficaries of State Asset Sales and close alliances to Governments both Tory and Labour.

    Government in NZ originally appropriated Maori land for the growth of New Zealand and now they have Asset Stripped our State Assets whereby we now remitt $14.0 Billion overseas in dividends from previously owned State Assets.

    People in NZ need to wake up to what is happening here in NZ before it is too late, Auckland real estate is being snapped up by Asian buyers, leaving young New Zealanders out in the cold and the Government does not have any accurate information on how much farmland is owned by offshore buyers.

  5. John Ryall says:

    You are right that it has been an exciting week Darien in which the media has picked up the message that the measure of our success is whether we have a wage for all New Zealanders that is enough for working families to not only survive on, but to allow them time to participate in school, church, family and other community activity.

  6. Jack Ramaka says:

    We are heading back to the Victorian Era under this NACT Government.

    They are not even interested in communicating with the Manufacturing Sector, just shows how much interest John Key has in growing NZ and creating an environment for sustained economic growth. The NACT Policy of driving down wages to increase profitablity for the Multinationals is ideologically driven.

    Unfortunately John Key is a currency trader come merchant banker who make money from picking up commissions on transactions, he does not understand the productive sectors of the economy and how they contribute to the wellbeing of the country. Key and English’s policy of greed is good does not help the lower socio economic groups in society.

    I wonder whether he gets a trailing commission on the State Assets once they are sold. One would not know what is going on behind the scenes.

    Like Winston has stated John Key is a CV Politican