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?