Shane Jones has the ability to make the most straight forward proposal contentious. His recent use of the phrase “work for the dole” has caused some news comment. If only he could choose his language more carefully because what is being proposed is something different to what he has said.
From Radio New Zealand:
The minister Shane Jones is overseeing a $1 billion regional development fund and told TVNZ’s Q + A programme yesterday he would announce four projects before Christmas.
He wants the government to introduce a work-for-the-dole type scheme where people would receive the minimum wage.
“I don’t want people on the unemployment benefit,” Mr Jones said.
“They’ll be made to go to work, and where it is necessary, to pay them. They’ll have to receive a minimum wage, but there will be no more sitting on the couch.
“I am going to take proposals to Cabinet. I’m calling it Work for the Dole – it may be the Work Readiness Kaupapa. But I am not going to remain silent any longer while my young ne’er-do-well nephews in Kaikohe and other places fall victims to the gangs and they’re in Disneyland. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not happening anymore.”
What is being proposed is no more than current WINZ practice. Currently people who do not take up offered jobs face the prospect of losing their benefit.
The Union response has been cautious. Again from Radio New Zealand:
CTU president Richard Wagstaff would support the creation of real work for beneficiaries but not coercion to work for the dole.
Mr Wagstaff said if the minister was talking about having to work for the benefit, that would be below minimum wage, and the union did not support that.
“We do not support people being coerced to work for the dole payment.
“What we do support is the creation of decent work options for people who are unemployed, so they no longer have to go and look for work that doesn’t exist.”
Mr Wagstaff said there was some confusion about what Mr Jones was talking about.
“If we’re talking about a proposal whereby people on the dole are offered real jobs which meet the minimum wage, that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. If that’s what Shane Jones is proposing we’d be interested in hearing more about that.
“If he means we’re getting people who are currently on the dole to work for the number of hours that make up a dole payment then that’s not supported, and it’s an unfortunate and wasteful way of using this investment. Why not simply provide people with work like the rest of us do who are lucky enough to have a job and have them paid without being on the dole. That’s where he should be going.”
The president of First Union, Robert Reid, said his union was opposed to work for the dole schemes and wanted people off the unemployment benefit and into paid work.
“We want people who are on the dole to be able to work for wages. People are wanting to have work, and if those jobs are paying decent wages that is what will actually happen.”
By all means Shane Jones should go ahead and create these jobs. But linking this to slightly veiled beneficiary bashing is not helpful.