It seems that every day recently there are new stories of job losses in the news. Living in National’s Brighter Future we have 304 job losses in Waipukurau and 171 full-time-equivalent jobs lost in Christchurch yesterday. The day before we had 55 staff at Pumpkin Patch told they could face redundancy (and hundreds in their US operations). Earlier in the week we had 61 job losses as the Colorado chain shut down. 20 jobs as Breakers Bar closed in New Plymouth.
Not long before this we had Yarrows, where 41 were made redundant and 192 forced onto new no redundancy contracts. Designline went bust in Rolleston, with more than 90 staff having lost their jobs over the last few months. Far more jobs at suppliers are at risk too.
Government refusing to back Kiwi jobs cost another 40 jobs at Hillside in Dunedin also earlier this month. At the end of last month 25 jobs and 6 Whitcoulls shops were gone, with once again remaining workers being threatened out of pay and conditions.
And those were just the ones that made the news in the last 3 weeks. The Public Service has lost 2000 jobs and is expecting 2000 more jobs to be frittered away as they make the $1 billion in cuts to services that the government has targeted. Hawkes Bay and Northland are feeling the bite of unemployment particularly acutely. Although Auckland with 7.9% unemployment isn’t doing much better.
But the government doesn’t seem to have a plan over this crisis. They’ve been contributing to it by raising the dollar through excess borrowing, which is hurting our exporters. But they refuse to help it by backing Kiwi workers to build our infrastructure like trains. We will probably see imported labour re-build Christchurch too, as the government hasn’t put the requisite skills training in place in time.
Now their only idea for unemployment is to cut youth wages to possibly $8/hour. The initial announcement is for up to 24-year-olds, but I suspect that will be scaled back to 19-year-olds as they follow their general bait and switch formula to appear ‘moderate’.
No-one should have to work for less than a living wage of $15 / hour. Rent and food (up 7.4% in year to May) cost no less if you are 19 than if you are 40. There’s no discrimination on power and fuel prices for being young. Why should we expect people to work for less than it costs to live and do that work, whether they are 18 or 80?
I’d like to see a move amongst councils and businesses here similar to the Living Wage campaign in UK as promoted by the Fair Pay Network. So that all Kiwi workers are guaranteed the respect of a minimum income to meet their needs, and our wages can catch up with the productivity gains we’ve seen in the last 30 years.
Then we might see a stronger economy where workers can afford to help us out of recession.