Red Alert

Archive for the ‘jobs’ Category

Working harder but never getting ahead

Posted by on April 14th, 2013

I just received an email from a constituent Alisha Keoghan who describes herself as a working Mum. Alisha says what I think most of West Auckland and much of New Zealand is feeling. She and her husband are working harder and harder and not getting ahead.

Wages are too low. Houses are too expensive. There aren’t enough jobs. The costs of commuting, paying childcare, and all the monthly bills leave little left over.

Hi Phil,

I am a resident of Te Atatu South and I have received your letter in the mail re: mobile clinic.

I would have loved to come along but tomorrow it is my birthday.

I know this will fall on deaf ears but I don’t know what else to do.

I have worked full time since the age of 16 and have been a law abiding citizen paying my taxes etc.

I went on maternity leave end of Aug 2011 and then resigned from my job (of 6 years) as the cost of childcare to gas, parking, traffic to and from the city was not going to work in my favour.

My question is how am I meant to succeed in my life?  I want to work full time.  I am not a home body and I want to provide for my family and pay off a home.

I see  young teens walking the streets with the newest iphones, smoking, drinking and I cant even afford to get my son nappies from time to time?

I dont get the logic of it all? I would LOVE more then anything to go out and have a glass of wine with my girlfriends but I just get NO help from the government.

IRD and WINZ tell me we make too much $???  How is my husband earning $20 ph earning enough to pay rent, power, water, rego, WOF, gas, groceries enough?

Im so ashamed of the system!  I need help or a job!  I am a talented woman!  I worked for Baycorp NZ for 6 years in the sales area and now I am stuck in a temp job with not even a guaranteed 40 hours and childcare of $235 per week to pay for?

How is Labour going to help me?

A far as I’m concerned John Key’s only concern is looking after the rich!  I would be rich if I was given the opportunity!


Alisha Keoghan

I replied to Alisha that this is not what we want for New Zealand. Labour’s vision is for a more prosperous New Zealand where people who are prepared to work hard can get ahead.

I cited a few of our policies I believe will make the difference she wants to see:

1.    Jobs – This is our number one priority. We will support Kiwi firms, and grow more and better paid jobs. We are going to support our exporters, and help NZ manufacturing to rebuild.
2.    Minimum wage – We will increase the minimum wage to $15\hour immediately.
3.    Housing affordability – We will build 10,000 affordable starter homes every year for 10 years. This will drive down the cost of families getting into their first homes.
4.    Public transport – we will deliver better public transport. I am campaigning for high frequency bus routes, a dedicated busway on the NW Motorway, and a commuter ferry service for Te Atatu that would mean she would not need a car for commuting to work.
5.    Skills and training – Labour will increase the number of apprenticeships, and training opportunities.

This is the job description of the 6th Labour Government.

* email posted with Alisha’s permission.

Two minutes silence for Hillside

Posted by on December 18th, 2012

On Friday at 11am, please stop whatever you are doing for TWO  MINUTES to mark the passing of 130 years of engineering work at Hillside Workshops in Dunedin.

Filed under: economy, jobs

Unemployment: The National scourge

Posted by on November 9th, 2012

The National Party is a downright irresponsible manager of New Zealand’s economy.

John Key inherited from Labour one of the lowest unemployment rates in the developed world. This Prime Minister promised to create 170,000 new jobs, but instead we have 175,000 looking for work.

Overall unemployment  is up to an horrific 7.3%. That’s the worst rate in 13 years – and guess which party was in government the last time things were this bad.

What’s worse is when you drill down into the detail. It’s much worse.

Auckland’s unemployment rate is up to 8.6% at the exact same time as tax-driven property speculation pushes house prices hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond what ordinary families can afford.

In the Hawkes Bay unemployment is now 8.9%. Like the Bay of Plenty and Southland, the Hawkes Bay has thousands of conscientious Kiwis who want to work but who have been completely disappointed and let down by their government.

What really worries me, though, is the youth unemployment rate for 15 to 19 year olds. It’s now 25%! What sort of New Zealand can we expect if one in four of our kids have no hope of even getting a job? Our young people will give up and leave for Australia, like so many of their peers before them. The few who stay will never know an affordable education, or a sustainable public health system, or a livable pension. It’s so unfair to our children.

Earlier this week I wrote about just one element of Labour’s plans to turn this mess around, the importance of pro-growth tax reform. The global orthodoxy has changed and big discussions are happening in economics. Labour is fully engaged in the discussions and we’re energised too. Kiwis need us to be.

But National MPs are as “relaxed” as ever while our beautiful country collapses. They should feel nothing but shame for their government’s record.

There is one thing all Kiwis can do to fight back. In 2014 New Zealand will have a general election. The people can show 59 National MPs just what a scourge unemployment is.

Please join the Labour Party. Give hope to our young people. Help put New Zealand’s best days ahead of us again.


The National disappointment.

Tough going on the West Coast

Posted by on November 8th, 2012

Today’s news that we now have the highest jobless rate in 13 years will surprise no one on the West Coast.

Things are getting tough on the West Coast. Unfortunately through Government failures at a number of levels our communities are reeling from the loss of family in Pike River mine and jobs at Solid Energy’s mines. National hasn’t a clue what to do in the regions to stop the exodus of great people who have to leave for new work.

David Shearer has been down on the coast talking to some of the people who have lost their jobs. Here is a video of part of his chat with Darryl, who has just lost his job at the Spring Creek mine. I hope Darryl and family can find a way to stay.


Filed under: employment, jobs

Employment law changes – 6A just part of it

Posted by on October 31st, 2012

Some people seem to think the government has cleverly covered up its employment law changes with its announcement on Part 6A yesterday.

I guess I was assuming people would remember the rest of the changes on employment law were revealed way back in May this year, when a cabinet paper dropped off the back of a truck and the Minister of Labour was forced to confirm the government’s plans – that’s after saying I was making it all up first!  The changes will impact on the pay and conditions of hundreds of thousands of workers whose wages and conditions are set by union agreements – whether or not they join the union. They will contribute to the growing income inequality gap and add to our abysmal child poverty record.

They are the actions of a government that thinks that picking on the workers and unions and driving wages down is the answer to our economic woes.

Here’s a summary of the changes I did back in May.

We have yet to see legislation – but there will be strong opposition from me and Labour.

And for the record – Labour will repeal these changes – I didn’t think I needed to say it, but apparently I do.


Speaking up for jobs

Posted by on October 18th, 2012

It is really great to hear David Shearer today speaking up for a bigger effort to put Kiwis at the front of the queue when it comes to jobs and also creating opportunities for more of our young New Zealanders to get into apprenticeships.

You can check out the speech here.

I’ve been talking about the issue of cheap migrant labour for a while now. It’s not the fault of migrants.  Many of them come here expecting a lot better than they end up with and we’ve been playing fast and loose with migrants to keep wages low in crucial industries.

There’s been plenty of media coverage about the foreign charter fishing vessels and the atrocious working conditions for migrants.  That was a scandal that hit the international headlines, but there’s on land stories as well.

Earlier this year the Equal Opportunities Commissioner criticised the aged care industry for its low pay. The average pay for a residential rest home worker is $14.50, despite this job requiring considerable skill and experience, not to mention dedication.

The fast growing skill shortage is being met by bringing in migrant workers rather than offering higher wages or training opportunities to attract more New Zealanders into care.  The EEO Commission found that migrant workers are often highly skilled with suitable nursing qualifications, but find themselves working for lower wages, working overtime and irregular hours with no extra compensation.

I’m also hearing similar stories in our agriculture industry with farm workers being hired from overseas, paid very little and given no support.

65 employers in Horticulture, Hospitality and Auckland CBD businesses are currently under investigation for exploiting migrants after 4 PTEs were found to be fronts for providing cheap labour.

Cheap migrant labour is now becoming a substitute for providing decent work, training and fair pay in some industries. The migrant workers miss out, but so do New Zealanders who want work.

David Shearer has announced Labour will institute a more rigorous process of giving approval to employers to bring in migrants.

We want to ensure employers make the effort to train New Zealanders, and don’t see migrant workers as an cheap alternative to paying fair wages and conditions to all workers in this country – whether they are born here or other countries.


Filed under: jobs

Awarded more than $8000 when she was sacked for bad breath

Posted by on August 27th, 2012

I promised to provide an update on real-life struggles and challenges the NZ workforce was experiencing on the ground under present conditions. Did you hear about the Auckland beautician who refused to work on clients and had complaints about her bad breath? What appears to be trivial on the surface was actually quite substantial when the Employment Relations Authority dug into the case. Her employer made suggestions to the beautician that she should perhaps chew mints or receive some assistance from a dentist.

Later she was told by her employer, “If you don’t attend these clients, don’t come back tomorrow”. She managed her workload and left according to her planned departure time, and when she returned the next day, she felt she may have been fired, then asked for a formal letter of termination, and got it.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) said that the employer had other options available to him, such as he could have suspended the employee on pay while an investigation was carried out, or conduct a formal meeting into the incident.

In any case the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) awarded her $8022.45 in wages and compensation.

NB: Just pointing  to this case to show how important it is for employers to treat their staff with respect.

Kiwirail blocks new work for Hillside and Hutt workshops

Posted by on August 24th, 2012

Click on the image to enlarge. Here is the link

Govt on ropes over Kiwirail

Posted by on August 23rd, 2012

Worth watching the whole question. Government squirming. Kiwirail on ropes



Employment Matters

Posted by on August 20th, 2012

The average Kiwi spends a huge amount of time working. An indicative calculation of an average working week of 40 hours, for a 44 year working life, adds up to at least 91,250 hours or 22.4% of their lives working.

As politicians we spend a lot of time looking at the job market from a statistical or policy perspective. We look at the overall unemployment levels and why so many Kiwis are struggling to find work. We look at government policy and how we can grow our economy. We look at the trends of youth unemployment, the numbers of Kiwi workers moving to Australia, and the growing skills deficit.

Unfortunately, we often don’t get the time to highlight the real stuff that is happening day-in, day-out for Kiwis in the workplace. As Labour’s Employment spokesperson I’m going to start posting on a weekly basis about the problems, successes, aspirations and obstacles Kiwis are facing in real-time. I am keen on your feedback and your stories. I think your personal experiences of the challenges and struggles in finding employment, or gaining the skills that will enable you to get a job will be very useful in looking at new ideas for the future.

As an initial focus this week, I thought I would highlight a familiar event in my neighbourhood. Entries for the Westpac Auckland South Business Awards 2012 closed last week. I’m hopeful there were plenty of entries. In all the years I’ve attended these awards, the winners have always praised the dedication and effort of their staff for the achievements and successes they received. There have been many examples from these awards of local manufacturers and exporters who had a clear vision for taking on the world and succeeding. Many of these employers have fought tooth and nail in a tough economic climate to retain their staff and boost their businesses in an area formerly called Manukau City.

One company I would like to point out is Fishpond – founded in 2004 by Daniel Robertson and is estimated as New Zealand’s biggest online bookstore. Daniel launched his company six months before graduating from his electrical engineering studies and his business quickly outgrew the family garage. He had 30 staff working in his first warehouse by the Airport when he won the 2009 Young Business Person of the Year Excellence in Business Award. Today Fishpond has graduated to its fourth warehouse, 3000sqm, still by the airport, selling something to an online customer every 7 seconds, adding a new customer every 51 seconds with about 80 staff.

The Fishpond – Daniel Robertson story is in my view such an inspirational story of Kiwi courage and innovation, generating export earnings, creating high valued jobs, that I think we need to be celebrating its successes widely. I think these kinds of successes are important for New Zealand’s economic future and for the Kiwi workforce. I’ve organised to have David Shearer visit Fishpond soon so that our Labour leader can meet Daniel and his team in person and just learn from their experiences. I’m keen on ideas and experiences on how we can best match the skills requirement of companies such as Fishpond with the skills training opportunities for those currently unemployed in the local workforce.

I’m sure there are many other companies in other regions, just as innovative, just as successful, generating export earnings and creating high valued jobs that we would be just as keen to learn about. Let me know if your happy for a visit. Cheers.

Rail expert speaks out

Posted by on August 18th, 2012

Today the Otago Daily Times’ Allison Rudd has an important story where a former Kiwirail senior engineer has spoken out about the mistakes and failures of the decisions to purchase the cheapest locomotives and rolling stock and the impact it will have on New Zealand rail for decades.

It’s time more people spoke out. And it’s time that the board of Kiwirail and the Ministers that have directed their deeply flawed policies becomes accountable to New Zealanders.

KiwiRail bought 1970s technology when it bought new locomotives from China, but now has an opportunity to put matters right, one of its former long-serving senior engineers says.

It was “baffling” KiwiRail had ordered the type of locomotives it did, Randall Prestidge, who worked for KiwiRail for more than 34 years and headed the fleet performance team until he took voluntary redundancy last year, said yesterday.

“These locomotives [are] very similar to DX locomotive technology of the 1970s,” Mr Prestidge said.

… he said KiwiRail should make sure it did not buy the same technology again.

“They are thinking old and small and not thinking into the new century.”

He said he had tried to discuss his views with KiwiRail but “no-one wanted to listen” and he had decided to go public.

“I didn’t want to be disloyal to KiwiRail. I didn’t want to bag them in public. I wanted to help.

“I’m saying they . . . must change their ways. But I know in my heart they are not going to.”

Something amiss

Posted by on July 27th, 2012

2000 workers have applied for 200 jobs in a Christchurch supermarket, most of them being paid minimum wage, or a dollar or two above if the supermarket is unionised.  200 workers will get a job and that’s a good thing.

But no New Zealanders will get a shot at 110 “Facade Installers” jobs paying a minimum of $18.33 an hour because Immigration New Zealand has granted an “approval in principle” for a company to bring the workers from China, on the basis that there are no New Zealanders easily able to do or be trained to do the work.

From the documents I’ve seen, the company appears to have inflated the pre requisites for the job, saying they require 3 years proven minimum experience in “commercial facade installation”, their advertising has been limited (a few ads on Trademe and Seek) and they’ve made no commitment to training Kiwi workers.  Insiders in the industry tell me that these are jobs that labourers can do, workers are easily trained and the work is pretty basic construction work.  The company has successfully tendered for a range of construction projects without having or training the workforce to perform the work, and they have now turned to the government to rescue them.

I believe Immigration NZ has been shoddy in going along with this.  I asked the Minister of Immigration yesterday in the House whether he was satisfied with the labour market testing requirements and he said he was.

He shouldn’t be.  From time to time we will need migrants to work in New Zealand – especially in areas of skills shortages and in times of high employment.

But this situation doesn’t cut it. It’s not the first I’ve seen, and it won’t be the last unless the government makes a real commitment to Kiwi jobs and training.

And that means the Minister of Immigration paying more attention.

Filed under: Immigration, jobs

National’s legacy; false economy

Posted by on July 21st, 2012

Today at the National Party conference, Steven Joyce spun the line that his Party was all about jobs and the Opposition was about fairytales.

His own intellectual dishonesty is breathtaking. Neither he, nor any member of his government have ever been able to articulate the source of  the Kiwi jobs of the future other than in vague unsubstantiated terms.

His government has instead made countless decisions which have cut skilled Kiwi jobs and resulted in the flight overseas of thousands of New Zealanders who should have been plotting their futures in our country not elsewhere.

Perhaps one of the worst things this government has done to demonstrate its disregard for Kiwi jobs, Kiwi skills and Kiwi industry is to use the purchasing power of government to buy trains built in China which do not meet New Zealand standards.In doing this they are responsible for destroying essential skills and ensured that a whole industry has been cut off at the knees.

A country that deliberately destroys manufacturing capability is not a smart country.

Yesterday, Radio NZ revealed that the brakes on all 500 Chinese-built freight wagons ordered by KiwiRail had to be replaced before they could hit the tracks last year.

Initial tests found that when the wagons were fully loaded to 72 tonnes, the wagons did not stop within the required 650 metres.

The wagons have been in New Zealand for less than a year and have been plagued with problems. Kiwirail pretends it’s no big deal and the government says it’s an operational issue and nothing to do with them. They have backed Kiwirail all the way in its outsourcing decisions. At some point they will become accountable.

As a result, the Hillside Rail workshops in Dunedin, which made the original wagons in the 1950s, has been gutted, skilled workers made redundant and now the workshops are up for sale in a deal which Kiwirail shows little enthusiasm for.

False economy is a kind way of describing the harebrained decision to buy cut price substandard wagons shipped across the world, which require serious faults to be fixed and parts replaced before they can even be put on the tracks. It’s my understanding that some of the wagons are already demonstrating more serious faults.

How long will it be before there is a serious derailment involving these wagons? Who will be held accountable then?

Gordon Campbell wrote sensibly about this issue yesterday.

Steven Joyce, meanwhile, speaks with a forked tongue.

Ten ideas for the Government

Posted by on June 26th, 2012

Yesterday the Government released a list of ten “ambitious targets”, and despite ballooning debt, declining exports and slow job growth, there were no new ideas.

In question time today, Bill English confirmed they have no targets for making superannuation affordable, no targets for wage growth, no targets to grow the economy and no targets to reduce overseas debt.

It is just the latest laundry list of vague ideas with no meaningful milestones or policies to achieve real outcomes. It is simply a stunt designed to take the attention off the unpopular asset sales plan and the Government’s botched attempt to increase class sizes.

This list exposes National for once again tinkering around the edges instead of making the tough decisions needed to create a long-term, prosperous future for New Zealand.

While the Government is wishing for rainbows at the end of every street, it has little credibility when it is not dealing with the big issues we are facing as a country.

Here is an example of 10 key issues that National is not addressing:

·         Job creation

·         Economic growth

·         Reducing overseas debt

·         Securing superannuation for the future

·         Reforming our tax system

·         Investing in research and development

·         Supporting our exporters

·         Cleaning up the environment

·         Being tougher on foreign ownership of our land

·         Giving Kiwis a reason to stay in New Zealand

Those are just my first ideas at some “ambitious targets” the Government isn’t trying to address. I’m sure the erudite readers of this blog will have plenty of ideas of their own, please leave them in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

Kiwi jobs a priority? Judge for yourselves

Posted by on May 3rd, 2012

Transcript below


Money talks

Posted by on April 27th, 2012

Today we learn that the government caved into another demand from Sir Peter Jackson and Warner Bros which involved bending immigration rules in their favour.

In 2010, Peter Jackson told Government Ministers that Warners were worried about our employment law, because the distinction between “contractors” and “employees” established five years earlier in the Bryson case required employers to treat him as an employee.

Bryson was not an actor, yet we changed the law because Warners said so and in doing so, removed rights for a whole category of workers.

Turns out, it was just one of their demands.

Official Information finally released, shows that the government was only too happy to fall into line with other concerns, such as the alleged visa “blockages” for overseas performers.

And hey presto : changes have been made. And they don’t only apply to actors – they apply to everyone working in the industry.

I seem to recall John Key saying this was about New Zealand jobs.

But secret deals in immigration processes like this completely undermine our immigration systems and are unfair to Kiwi workers.

The integrity of our immigration system stands or falls on transparency, but this latest revelation adds to a trend of giving privileges to the better off and a willingness to bend the rules when money is involved.

Update: You can view the OIA request here.

Sticking up for your city

Posted by on April 22nd, 2012

It’s one of the main jobs of any member of parliament to stick up for your patch. You are elected by a constituency and they want and expect you to defend them and promote their rights. I don’t think constituents expect to get a better deal than anyone else in the grand scheme of things, but they don’t want to be treated with contempt and disrespect.

I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone that I’ve come out fighting over the extraordinary, but probably predictable decision by Kiwirail to put the Hillside workshops up for sale. In Saturday’s Otago Daily Times I was quite forthright in expressing my views. I used some rather unladylike language and had to ring my mum the day before to warn her.

I stand by what I said. I think the government (and Kiwirail) have pissed on Dunedin. I think many Dunedin-ites agree. Saturday’s ODT editorial seems to agree too though in more polite terms.

I think that the only way we’re going to sort things is for Dunedin people to take control ourselves. And to have a future Labour government backing rail.

I’ll do my best to help find a buyer for Hillside. I’ll continue to take the fight to parliament and I’ll remain a thorn in the side of this government and the local National List MP Michael Woodhouse who has seriously let down the people of Dunedin in the pursuit of his own career. I’ll advocate for the need for and the importance of this industry to remain in public hands, and indeed to just bloody remain in our country.

When I took this job on I understood that there are times when sticking up for your city is more important than towing toeing a party line that you don’t agree with and which is going to hurt your city. It’s a judgement to be rarely exercised. Sometimes the greater good is more important than a local issue. But every MP should have the right and the responsibility to stand up for their city. This was one of those times. Woodhouse didn’t even think about it.

He blocked a select committee hearing on the petition signed last year by nearly 14,000 people (mostly from Dunedin) calling on the government to save the Hillside and Woburn (Hutt) workshops. He has never been held accountable for refusing to allow the people of Dunedin, the Hillside workers and their union to have a say before a parliamentary committee. He should be.

His government is negligent, disingenuous and downright liars about their responsibilities for Kiwirail and its decision and their knowledge of those decisions. As my colleague David Parker has said; if the KiwiRail board had made the same announcement without telling a Labour government, the board would have been sacked. It is just nonsense and untrue for shareholding Ministers to say they didn’t know Kiwirail’s direction and decisions. And it is very clear that they don’t oppose Kiwirail’s decision to sell Hillside.

There’s more at stake than the nearly 130 jobs, the loss of wages, taxes, skills and the more than 137 year history of a competent and valued rail manufacturing plant to the city of Dunedin. There are more than 70 engineering businesses clustered around Hillside. It’s the backbone of our city. It’s becoming more high tech. It’s a hugely important part of our local and regional economy.

This government doesn’t give a stuff. They allowed (and encouraged) it to be run down and now it’s being sold because Kiwirail says it’s not viable. Kiwirail deliberately made it unviable.

I ask you this. How is that that contracts have been handed to the Chinese to build rail wagons that are dubious in quality, when those same wagons could have been built here? They may have cost a bit more, but the workmanship would have been assured, the maintenance would have been less and have been more easily accomplished, and the people who built the wagons would have been earning decent wages and paying taxes in the New Zealand economy.

Kiwirail, and the government, has blocked any independent scrutiny of the dodgy process in awarding those contracts to China North Rail and the quality issues associated with the Chinese wagons. It’s time for some sunlight on both.

It is not false economy to manufacture in your own country. It’s our productive economy. I’d stand up for manufacturing jobs any day against paying for more pokie machines that create immeasurable social harm and are part of a mates deal to an organisation that will profit, might create a few more service economy jobs, but is unlikely add much more real value to our economy.

And I reckon that’s worth sticking up for.

NZ – the new low wage frontier?

Posted by on April 18th, 2012

Fran O’Sullivan reported at the weekend about “New Zealand envy” from Australian businesses :

…the frank admiration across the Tasman for English’s economic policies is something that has not been displayed by Australian power-brokers since this country was in the grip of Rogernomics and Bill Birch’s labour market reforms.

Bad comparison Fran. Who in their right mind would want to own up to admiring the dreadful Bill Birch’s Employment Contracts Act or the damage inflicted by Roger Douglas?

And then today the Dom Post reports that Australian firms are moving jobs to New Zealand, attracted by our low wages and more “flexible” labour rights.

Hundreds of Australian jobs have been shifted to New Zealand as producers there try to avoid the impact of high wages, a soaring dollar and restrictive labour laws.

Supermarket giant Woolworths is the latest to transfer jobs across the Tasman, shifting 40 contact centre jobs to Auckland this week.

Imperial Tobacco has also said it will move cigarette manufacturing from Sydney to New Zealand.

As David Parker says, there are record numbers of Kiwis leaving for Australia. They are not going so they can work in call centres or cigarette-making factories.

“National made closing the wage gap a key election pledge in 2008. It now wants to attract investment to New Zealand on the basis of cheap wages.

Heinz Wattie has already ditched 300 jobs across Australia and supposedly was bringing them to New Zealand.

But not for good New Zealand jobs. These days, a Heinz Watties worker is just as likely to end up being employed by Allied Workforce – a temporary labour hire contractor, and be paid minimum wage – doing the same job directly employed and unionised workers used to do for a whole lot less.

Perhaps the brighter future we were promised involves rolling ciggies for Australia?

It certainly seems to involve low wages.

Time to talk about work

Posted by on March 19th, 2012

James Ritchie, National Secretary of the Dairy Workers Union has a good piece in the NZ Herald today calling for a national conversation about work. It’s a timely call, as we are seeing good jobs in our primary and export industries under threat, with pretty draconian actions being taken by some employers.  James Ritchie says that insecure work is destroying our country, saying :

What about the quality of the jobs that are being created, demanded and restructured? Do employers and Government have a responsibility to provide the space to negotiate a decent job?

A decent job is one which is healthy and safe and which allows the worker to have some say over the work and the working conditions. It is an opportunity for training, personal development and ideally for a career path.

A decent job pays enough to keep body and spirit together and provides an environment free from discrimination, harassment, bullying and the constant threat of dismissal.

The enormous growth of insecure work in our society denies individuals opportunities for development. It is almost the only work being offered to young people entering the job market. It is common for workers to be notified to come to work, or told their daily hours, by text message and many have no guaranteed hours or guaranteed time off.

We’re not alone in this.  A few weeks ago, I posted about the Precariat and the author, Guy Standing was on Radio NZ this morning talking about a global phenomenon and the risks to society and our future.

Should we in New Zealand just lie down and accept it ? Some have resorted to arguing that any job’s a good job. There’s an attitude that people should be grateful to have a job and the gradual erosion of job security and decent pay and conditions is just a fact of life.

Some are even getting into “deserving” workers and the “non deserving” workers.  I’ve heard almost no-one criticise the Oceania aged care workers (and I strongly support them), but others, like the Port workers, standing up for decent work, built up over years of negotiation and give and take are pilloried as jurassic and unreasonable, despite one of the more flexible collective agreements I’ve seen.

We can keep doing this to ourselves. But we will pay a price – and in fact, we already are. Ask many Kiwis and they’ve more than likely already booked their ticket to Australia, or  likely still, their kids, like mine, have already fled. Others are depending on support from the Sallies or other organisations, or just getting by because of Working for Families. It’s not a pretty picture.

So I agree with James.  Time to have a national conversation about work.  Not just about jobs, not just about where are the jobs, but what kind of jobs?

So what has Michael Woodhouse got to say?

Posted by on March 7th, 2012

Last year nearly 14,000 (mostly Dunedin) people signed a petition to parliament. It demanded the Government take immediate action to ensure KiwiRail did not reduce its workforce at the Hillside and Woburn rail engineering workshops and called for the state-owned enterprise to commit to building rolling stock instead of outsourcing contracts to China.

The petition was put before the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee.

A report was called for from Kiwirail. But no report was ever sought from those who brought the petition to parliament, despite their repeated pleas.

Over a number of months,Labour members of the committee pressed for the petitioners representatives to have a say before the committee, but to no avail. The RMTU union representing the Hillside workers wrote to the committee. They were ignored.

I asked questions of the chair of the committee in the House as to whether the petitioner would have the chance to appear and put their case, but received evasive answers.

The final report of the committee was tabled yesterday in parliament. It contained a minority report from Labour strongly protesting at the refusal of the committee to allow the workers and those opposed to giving Kiwi jobs and contracts to the Chinese to have a say.

Dunedin-based List MP Michael Woodhouse sat on that committee until parliament dissolved late last year. He sought the cloak of committee confidentiality to protect him from commenting on his views.

I think it’s time to ask him whether he supported the right of the Hillside workers, their union and all of those who signd that petition to put their case to a parliamentary select committee.

When you sign a petition you should have that expectation. Especially if there has been considerable public interest in the issue. Which there has been.

The ODT story today sums it up. It is an erosion of democracy and an utter disgrace and Michael Woodhouse should front up and tell the nearly 14,000 people why he blocked their right to have a say.