A recent study gives a strong indication of the extent of, and the recent increases in, insecure work in NZ. It is being released at the CTU conference today, along with the launch of a campaign to improve worker security. Simon Collins in today’s NZ Herald reports that the study largely draws on 2 Statistics NZ surveys conducted in March 2008 and December 2012. The study says:
temporary work, unemployment and the numbers of “permanent” workers fearing they may lose their jobs have all increased as employers strive to make work more “flexible”.
The study cannot be directly compared with a recent Australian study, which found 40% of Aussie workers are “insecure”, because of differences in the way workers were categorised. In the NZ study:
“The NZ data takes no account of ‘dependent’ contractors (employees of an employer skirting the law by defining its workers as ‘independent contractors’), who are included in the Australian count,” he said.
The headline figure – that “at least 30 per cent of our workforce are insecure” – is based on an unusual measure of the workforce that includes the unemployed but excludes employers.
Temporary employees increased from 7.7 per cent of the workforce in 2008 to 8.6 per cent last December, the unemployed jumped from 4.5 per cent to 7.2 per cent, and “permanent” employees who said they had a medium to high chance of losing their jobs in the next year rose from 9.3 per cent to 12.6 per cent.
The total of “workers most at risk” increased from 21.5 per cent of the non-employer workforce to 28.4 per cent.
While the exact proportion of “insecure” workers is not clear, the changes in temporary employment and unemployment do show an increase in job insecurity. The proportion of self-employed people has also decreased, while it is unclear how many of the currently self-employed are at risk of going out of business.
Many of the main offenders in providing insecure work are fast food businesses, while education was the sector that employed the highest proportion of temporary workers. Furthermore, a higher proportion of women are in insecure work compared with men. This is in-keeping with the way capitalism has treated women for over a century.
In reporting on the NZ study, TVNZ states:
… there is job uncertainty, low and variable earnings, inadequate sick leave, increased health and safety risks and little training or career development.
They then report of the different explanations of the 90 day employment law, with the CTU and business NZ claiming different general results.
“Your rights are basically removed – the right to fair dismissal, fair treatment,” said Helen Kelly of the CTU.
That includes the Government’s 90-day employment trial which allows both parties to walk away.
Since it was introduced four years ago, more than 11,000 employers have used it.
Business New Zealand says there are very few complaints about the trial system.
“We’re seeing very few complaints from anybody very much. And what’s more, we’re seeing really, really good feedback from employers,” said Phil O’Reilly of Business NZ.
The CTU claims employers are opting for the low road of driving down costs rather than investing in workers.
Helen Kelly says much of the insecure work is “just a rouse” by employers.
“It’s not necessary. The work is continuing, the work is permanent,” she said.
Chloe Sifflett, a 21-year-old fastfood worker, says employers “think they can just hire new people and forget about the people they already have.”
Business New Zealand does not agree about the extent of the problem, but is worried for some.
“With that cohort of people who really are struggling at the bottom of the labour market, what we need to do with them is invest a lot in them in terms of their skills,” Phil O’Reilly said.
So Phil O’Reilly does accept there is a problem of worry about security, while talking down its extent, and ignoring the issue of keeping workers on long term “temporary” contracts, when the work is on-going, and thus should be classed as permanent.
Helen Kelly tweeted that, with today’s announcement of the study, the CTU will be launching a campaign.
It is important for the well being of all Kiwis, that paid work is secure and provides a living wage. I look forward to seeing the details of the CTU campaign.
[Update]: Cunliffe to CTU on Labour pledges -(h/t bad12)
In his opening remarks to the conference, Mr Cunliffe told the meeting: “I want to reaffirm I’m here as part of the labour movement”.
That included raising the minimum wage immediately to $15 an hour if Labour was elected next year, supporting the “Living Wage” campaign, putting it in place immediately for public sector workers, and extending paid parental leave from 14 to 26 weeks.
Mr Cunliffe also pledged to “scrap National’s unfair employment law changes in the first 100 days”.
He took aim at the “fire at will” legislation, “attacks on collective bargaining”, the undermining of health and safety, and moves “taking away smoko breaks”.“The Prime Minister’s attacks on workers will be gone by lunchtime.”
He promised “a red Labour Party” rather than a “pale blue” one.