A great piece by Byran Gould yesterday on National’s refusal to acknowledge the jobs crisis in manufacturing, even as the ANZ says unemployment is on its way up to 7%. National is really on the wrong side of public perception and the wrong side of history here. They look like ostriches trying to deny the problem, while the Left is presenting the solutions.
I want to reproduce the Gould article, it’s so good, but here’s some snippets:
In January 1979, the British Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan, returned from a Summit meeting in the Caribbean to a Britain suffering the serious industrial unrest that became known as the “winter of discontent”.
Interviewed at Heathrow airport, Mr Callaghan’s relaxed attitude to talk of chaos was translated by The Sun the following morning into a headline reporting the Prime Minister as saying “Crisis? What Crisis?”
The electorate’s reaction led directly to Mrs Thatcher’s election victory later that year.
John Key, returning from Hollywood this week, was equally dismissive of talk of a crisis in manufacturing.
Our Prime Minister was in some ways even more insouciant than Mr Callaghan; faced with Statistics New Zealand figures showing 40,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the last four years, he airily asserted that our expert official statisticians were simply wrong.
Ministers dare not say so publicly, but they use economists’ jargon to explain why unemployment remains high. Labour costs are “sticky” – that is, they have not fallen in order to clear the market, as the theory says should happen. Their conclusion is that the market must be helped by “unsticking” labour costs to force them down.
It may be hard to credit that our government wants to bring wages down, yet that is what they have set out to do.
How else to explain why workers’ rights have been significantly weakened, so that workers can be taken on, and then thrown back on the scrap heap without any redress?
Why else are young workers to be paid less than the minimum wage, if not to remove the floor placed under wage levels?
Why was a modest rise in the minimum wage voted down while top salaries zoom upwards?
Why have benefits been removed and reduced so that even solo mums with young children are forced back into the labour market, whether or not there are jobs?
Why is covert support lent to big employers such as Oceania or Talleys as they cut the real wages paid to already low-paid employees?
These measures are explicable only if the intention is to force the lowest wages lower, so that downward pressure will increase on wages across the board.
A lower exchange rate would at least give us a fair way of reducing our costs across the board, and provide a platform from which we could begin to grow the economy again.
The government, though, would rather see the whole burden of reducing our costs in international terms borne by working people. Little wonder that the share of national income accounted for by wages has fallen.
Oh, and have you seen this from the Greens? What crisis, indeed.