Red Alert

Simon says

Posted by on February 27th, 2013

New Labour Minister Simon Bridges had his first outing in question time (other than a patsy from his own side last week).  Mini me answered on behalf of the PM when he answered my question today :

DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that the living wage is “simplistic”?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Labour) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, and for two reasons. The first is that the Family Centre’s living wage of $18.40 an hour is calculated on the basis of a two-adult, two-child family, whereas a lot of low-income earners are in different circumstances—for example, students working part-time. The second reason is that it assumes that paying much higher wages is costless, when it is not—it costs jobs. If all employers in the country paid a minimum wage of $18.40, it would cost an estimated 26,000 jobs.

Darien Fenton: When he said that providing New Zealanders with a living wage is not high on his Government’s agenda, was he saying that Kiwi workers should not expect to make a living from their work while he is Prime Minister?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No. Ultimately, above the minimum wage, what is paid is up for employers and their employees to negotiate.

Darien Fenton: Does he believe that the minimum wage of $13.75 an hour is enough for families to live on; if so, why do two out of the five children in poverty come from families in work?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: What is very clear is that actually there is a range of circumstances. For people on the minimum wage with children, for example, there are a range of packages available to them from the Government. The truth of the matter is that actually our minimum wage, as a proportion of the average wage, is the highest in the developed world.

Darien Fenton: How is it fair that his Government is giving minimum wage workers a measly 25c pay rise, while at the same time it is splashing out on $23 million worth of bonuses for Solid Energy’s management?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: What is very clear is that having a job is much better than not having one, and we are very conscious, unlike the other party, which does not seem to understand economic fundamentals, that the higher we raise the minimum wage, the more people are put out of jobs—7,000 under your policy.

Darien Fenton: Why is the Prime Minister still insisting that a $15-an-hour minimum wage will cost thousands of jobs when Treasury and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment both say there is little evidence to support this, and his own Minister of Labour said this morning that there is no science behind that argument?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: It is uncontroversial amongst good economists that the higher the minimum wage goes, the more jobs people do not get. At $15 an hour, it is about 7,000—a town.

My verdict :

Not a bad effort for repeating government lines and economic mythologies about the minimum wage, but not a big step up from the previous Minister, Kate Wilkinson.

Shows a reliance on officials for advice and not much originality in the answers.

Provided some useful lines for the opposition in future debates around work and wages.

Your verdict :

Marks out of 10? 



30 Responses to “Simon says”

  1. Matt says:

    Good economists? Like who Bridges? The continual number one reason for lack of hiring in the US (they have far better statistical research than NZ) is drum-roll please… lack of sales, ie. DEMAND.

    It wouldn’t cost jobs, does one think McD’s is going to lay off workers with all that extra income floating around? Bah! The same logic drives the idea of real wage cuts increase employment even though sales will fall, employment will fall, dadida…

    Simply put, it measures how sophisticated we are as a nation. Firms that cannot improve productivity enough to fit within our society should disappear.

  2. SPC says:

    The question for the Minister

    What impact on unemployment would there be if the MW increased this year by 50 cents and the same in 2014 and 2015 – so that it was $15 an hour in 2015?

    As compared to a 25 cent increase this year and in 2014 and 2015 – so it was $14.25 an hour in 2015.

  3. the pigman says:

    Darien, I keep waiting for you to tell us why the minimum wage shouldn’t be enough to live on, why you need to accept that there should be a distinction between a minimum wage and a living wage?

    Just how much do you have to sell out to stay in with the Mallarfia? It’s a pity we lost the employment relations expertise of Charles Chauvel today, isn’t it?

  4. Darien Fenton says:

    @the pigman : I am quite happy to answer questions, but not when they come with foolish comments based on blog gossip and offensive comments like “sellout”. If you want to ask me seriously, I will answer.

  5. Darien Fenton says:

    @SPC – we will get the regulatory impact statement from the Ministry released soon. It will have some of those figures.

  6. pmofnz says:

    Since lifting the minimum wage in Labour’s view is the way to go, why not go to a decent number? Stop mucking around, we know you’ll regularly be back for more. So why not $25/hr or $50 or even $100?

    All perceived social ills should be well fixed with numbers like that. No need to annoy the taxpaying productive for more each year.

    And if these numbers are not suitable, please explain why.

  7. jennifer says:

    Maybe it’s time to wean employers off taxpayer wage subsidies and transition them to paying the full wage to their workers? We did it for farmers back in the 80s and they came back stronger and more resilient. It’s high time these ‘job creators’ actually stood on their own two feet and gave up these humiliating handouts. That way, they can really stand tall and take genuine pride in their business success.

  8. bbfloyd says:

    i give it 3/10… He gets points for sticking to the script closely(even the scripted insult regarding “economic fundamentals”… A sure sign that they are aware of how weak, to non existant the logic behind their rhetoric is….

    @pmofnz…that’s just silly …Are you another one who has convinced themselves that they are “smart”? Don’t need any more self absorbed pseudo intellectuals forcing their limitations on us…we already have too many cluttering up space here…

  9. pmofnz says:

    bbf, Smart I am not, but please indulge us with your pseudo-intellectual self absorptions why it is ‘just plain silly’

    No doubt your limitations will save real Kiwis the nausea of listening annually why rabble rousers should continue to loot the wallets of the productive.

  10. the pigman says:

    Sorry Darien, that was a petty and desperate attempt on my part to try and squeeze some fight out of the caucus… you know, even a word on this blog about Chauvel’s departure or its subtext would be nourishing to a demoralized membership in the face of caucus’ total silence on the issue. But it wasn’t blog gossip, as much as a comment on a blog that channelled the frustration of many members.

    Would you kindly answer my question about why the living wage isn’t a concession of the basic principle that a minimum wage should be enough to live on with dignity?

    @pmofnz – take your straw man about setting an exorbitant minimum wage and try feeding and clothing him on one. As for “No need to annoy the taxpaying productive for more each year.”, it is a sick country when you don’t consider minimum wage earners “taxpaying productives”. Just Gammas and Epsilons to you, right? #$#%&.

  11. pmofnz says:

    So pigman, we now know currently in your opinion $25 and above is exorbitant, but $18.40 is not. I consider any minimum wage exorbitant. I ask what will be your next year’s exorbitant level? Using your reasoning, why not jump the shark and fix it now?

    As to the minimum wage earners not being ‘taxpaying productives’, I stand by that claim as those on such wages are likely to be net consumers being in receipt of Working for Welfare along with other taxpayer largesse.

  12. Grant Hay says:

    @pmofnz. So in order to avoid your scorn / win your acknowledged respect, the poor should agree to work for any low wage offered by “employers” and go and live in tin shanty towns on the city outskirts where the smoke from their fires on the skyline is the only thing to remind the more fortunate amongst us of their existence? You’d feel happier living in a society structured like that would you?

  13. bbfloyd says:

    @pmofnz…Do you read your comments before hitting the send button? Try that next time you wish to use other peoples words to hoist yourself up by your own petard…

    That is also something that gets done far more than is useful… I’m used to people doing it to me, and it simply bounces off, but it’s counter productive,(which is why I refuse to respond to that idiocy), and obviously more about personal pride than intelligent discussion…

    What Is obvious from the answers Bridges read out, is that the current raiding party are “comfortable” with having New Zealand reduced to a workforce of “wage slaves”.. In fact, a case could be made that they are actively undermining protections for workers so that this situation can come about…..

    You know you’re living in bad times when your own government turns out to be working for the enemies of society…

  14. Darien Fenton says:

    @the pigman. Appreciate your response. And yes, of course I am sad to see Charles go. I started working with him in 1989 in the Hotel Workers Union when I was a young organiser and he was a beginning lawyer so I’ve known him longer than many. He will do a wonderful job at the UN. When it comes to the Living Wage, we are being guided very much by the community campaign that is driving it. They have made it clear that the success of achieving a Living Wage must be driven from the bottom up and it’s not the time for political involvement. You know that Labour has supported the Living Wage in every way we can – and we are beginning work on what it would mean to lead in the State – in other words, the cost of having a living wage with all government contracts because Labour will be challenged on that. Meanwhile, the debate is with the New Zealand people. We pretend we live in a fair and egalitarian society. That’s a myth. Witness how the glee with which dogwhistle welfare announcements from the government are received. We need New Zealand to be saying it’s not fair that people can’t make enough to live a decent life and participate in society and the stronger and louder they say it, the more mandate a Labour led government will have to implement it. In addition, Labour’s policy of Industry agreements that extend to all workers in an industry are a significant tool in achieving a living wage. Yes, we could legislate for a higher minimum wage, but fundamentally, I believe that a better way is to retool unions and workers to collectively bargain so they can build a stronger voice for working people, not just on wages, but on all of the other things that make decent work. Minimum wages, holidays etc are a floor to start with, but if we really want to change the lives of New Zealanders, we have to change the workplace power relationships.

  15. Matt says:

    Well said Darien.

  16. Grant Hay says:

    So the Labour Party’s current attitude to the ECA is ???

  17. Darien Fenton says:

    @Grant Hay : the ECA was repealed in 2000 by Labour.

  18. Grant Hay says:

    Darien. What is your response to Charles Chauvel’s call for the Labour caucus to stop hunting “the enemy within”?

    Do you have a response to Chris Trotters latest column “Running Dogs” 1/3/13, on the same subject?

  19. Grant Hay says:

    @ Darien 4.29:

    Sorry. “Brain fade” on my part. I meant the 2008 Employment Relations Amendment Act.

  20. Matt says:

    Um, politics? And probably because the enemy is always within per se.

  21. Grant Hay says:

    @ Matt. Sorry, are you answering for Darien, my question of 4.32 above?

    If so I’d rather hear her personal response.

    As to the question about the enemy always being within, it may or may not be true. Pablo at Kiwipolitico suggests that is certainly too often true of the political left:

    However, how people decide to deal with their differences is a seperate issue to whether or not the differences exist.

  22. @Grant Hay : not sure what you are asking about the ERA. We will strengthen it and implement a new industry bargaining framework. Our policy on work and wages from the last election stands.
    My response to Trotter: he needs to stop barking at every car. My response to Charles’ speech: I don’t comment on caucus issues.

  23. Grant Hay says:

    @Darien. But your old friend Charles’ speech is not just a caucus issue. It was made on the floor of the house, in public, to the people of NZ. You can refuse to answer, but you can’t stop people from forming their own views and carrying those views to the ballot box in eighteen months time.

  24. @Grant Hay : people will make up their minds at the ballot box yes, but I would be very surprised if it was on the basis of a comment in a speech of a departing MP made nearly 2 years earlier.

  25. Grant Hay says:

    @ Darien: Re the “08 ERA ammendment Act.

    Here is the Wikepedia precis:

    The Employment Relations Amendment Act was passed under urgency by the new National Government. It allowed small businesses (those employing less than 20 staff) to sack employees within 90 days of being hired without those employees being able to take a personal grievance case against the employer. Kate Wilkinson, the Minister of Labour, said that the Act allowed businesses to employ new staff without a concern that they would face time consuming and costly grievance procedures if the person was not right for the job. The Labour Party said that the Act opened up workers to abuse and reduced their rights.

    Will Labour repeal the ’08 ammendment?

  26. Grant Hay says:

    @ Darien 5.46. A fairly smug response if I may say so. Can I temper your complacency by suggesting that taken on its own the speech may not count for much, as a straw added to an already well laden camel’s load it may well have more effect than you think. Do you really believe that the internal ructions of the caucus and the disaffection of a large slice of your support base are having no effect on either the polls or your ability to form a Govt in 2014?

  27. @Grant Hay: yes. And we will repeal the 2013 Employment Relations Amendment Bill, coming our way soon courtesy of Simon Says.

  28. @ Grant Hay : there’s no doubt that perceptions of disunity don’t help which is why I believe in caucus discipline and am not going to engage in destructive and public navel gazing. We’ve got work to do, not least fighting the government on the shitty employment law changes and youth wages coming up fast.

  29. bbfloyd says:

    @grant..”internal ructions of the caucus”.. Care to elucidate on that statement?

    I pray that you aren’t simply using the “fourth estate” as your source of information.. You know how much of a fool that would make you look, don’t you? Don’t you?

    It always amazes me to see just how much people actually swallow of the dross that the fairfax editorial staff churn out. Even those who know how little of the News” they print, and broadcast actually has any relevance to reality…

    BTW.. this isn’t a “personal” attack… (just in case you decide to wander down that cul-de-sac again)..There is a point to this comment that is much more important than your pride…

  30. Bob says:

    Take it from me I’m on the minimum wage and the extra 25cents amounted to zero in my pay packet.
    I’d say the governments pocketing our pay rise