Tomorrow, John Key’s much anticipated jobs summit will take place. It’s a big deal, it’s got a logo and everything.
Unfortunately, John seems to have left The Standard off the invite list along with all but a few unionists, the unemployed, women’s groups, and any party left of centre. If you’re going to be there, feel free to let us know your thoughts and impressions as it happens, contacts here.
Here’s what I think you’ll find. The businessmen (and they will be nearly all men, only 35 of 200 invitees are female) will outnumber the workers and workers’ representatives massively. So, the sessions in the different work-groups will be dominated by pro-business, anti-union ideas. The appearance will be of strong agreement that the way to protect workers is to favour business. There won’t be a real platform for other ideas – most of the people who have them haven’t been invited and the unionists who are there will be out-numbered.
Oh, sure, you’ll get a chance to speak and people will nod their heads, just don’t expect them to listen. But, then, don’t fear any radical anti-worker stuff either. The anti-union provisions of National’s election promises will not be part of this summit. The agenda is already set – Key as uniter, feel-good populism, small favours for business, none for workers. This is just a PR occasion to ratify that agenda by showing how everyone is behind the Government’s ideas. For that to work, no group can be made too angry.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be outcomes from the summit, we can’t have this do-fest be nothing more than a talk-fest. But it will be things like the other banks following ASB’s lead and announcing a business loans fund directed at job creation, which looks impressive at first but is really just a reshuffling of existing loan money. In a long-shot, we might even have Business New Zealand head Phil ‘my only concern is the workers’ O’Reilly and the Council of Trade Unions’ Helen Kelly announce some kind of joint working party on job protection. There will probably be an announcement of a government policy, maybe some kind of small subsidy for employers, but don’t expect anything that might make a real difference. Big job creation schemes will take lots of government money, and Bill English has ruled that out.
Every participant will call the summit a success, unless something very ideological is sprung on them. But the desire to keep everyone happy will prevent any significant action from resulting. This won’t make the slightest difference to jobs in the real world. In a year’s time, the outcomes of the summit will be as ripples from a pebble dropped in a storm-tossed sea.