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What is to be done?

Written By: - Date published: 5:29 pm, March 3rd, 2009 - 39 comments
Categories: labour, maori party, national/act government, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

Kudos to the Maori Party’s Rahui Katene for using her position to highlight the situation at Sealord in Parliament today. But it’s Paula Bennett’s response that got me thinking:

Rahui Katene: Is the Minister aware that the Māori shareholders of Sealord attended the Prime Minister’s Job Summit last Friday, and what plans does the Government have for working with companies to make them responsible employers?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, I am aware that they were there. I am not in the business of telling businesses how to run their businesses. What I am here to do is support those workers and those employees who need that assistance via Work and Income.

Simply shrugging your shoulders and sending working families to the dole queue frankly isn’t good enough.

When 180 people’s jobs are at risk and another 400 are being told to take a $70 pay cut or lose theirs, maybe it’s time we did have a Government that’s “in the business of telling businesses how to run their business”.

If one thing’s for sure it’s that a Government like that won’t come out of the Labour Party in its current incarnation. So what is to be done?

39 comments on “What is to be done?”

  1. Ari 1

    Perhaps in fact they should be passing laws to keep people employed. (not that I’m asking for direct subsidies to companies that want to lay people off, that would be ridiculous for obvious reasons)

  2. Matt Holland 2

    Well John “We would love to see wages drop’ Key. Be careful what you wish for… .

  3. IrishBill 3

    Nice use of a Russian political reference Tane, is that the novel or the pamphlet you’re paying homage to?

  4. gingercrush 4

    One can just await Rave saying how we need to NATIONALISE all these companies back to the workers. The WORKERS.

    • Ari 4.1

      Don’t be a fool, Sealord doesn’t need to be nationalised for obvious reasons.

      They should probably be considering firing people a last resort in these circumstances, but frankly, with how unfriendly National is to employment… who can blame them?

  5. Fighting Redundancies

    Don’t go to WINZ- The SFWU could take a leaf out of the book of the workers in Chicago’s Republic Doors and Windows plant, or Waterford’s Crystal factory, and occupy the plant against the lay offs.



    • Rex Widerstrom 5.1

      So they got their severance and vacation pay. Good on ’em. I’m not sure what rules they face but if that were NZ it then provides WINZ with an excuse to impose a stand-down because they have “too much” money to qualify for a benefit. A necessary righting of a wrong but hardly a fix.

      I like Niall Ferguson’s solutions as outlined in The Australian recently:

      1. Restructure (but not nationalise) the banks. “Existing shareholders will have to face that they’ve lost their money. Too bad; they should have kept a more vigilant eye on the people running their banks”.

      2. A generalised conversion of mortgages to lower interest rates and longer maturities… “their are times when the public interest requires us to honour the rule of law in the breach”.

      The full article is well worth a read, and isn’t too long.

      • RedLogix 5.1.1


        Yes that is a very good article from a man who carries some clout in Aussie financial circles. Steve Keen also highly recommended the same article last month here.

        Read it and refer your friends to it. Finally the call has gone out that what is needed to get out of this crisis is not more debt, but less.

  6. Rex Widerstrom 6

    Funny, she was only too happy to laud Rio Tinto a couple of weeks ago.

    Although “Minister of Employment” has always been a misnamed portfolio – it’s been unemployment while portfolios like Regional Development have tackled issue aound the creation of jobs – you’d think she’d have had a better answer than that.

    Further evidence of being:
    a) out of her depth, and
    b) being kept within very strict boundaries by the real decision-makers

    • gingercrush 6.1

      c) She was answering the question credibly. What else was she meant to do? Oh I have authority to save such jobs. Get real Rex, you’re smarter than that.

      • Rex Widerstrom 6.1.1

        errr… if she was utterly bereft of a constructive idea of her own, she could have referred back to the Rio Tinto example, which she praised and indicated that ” the Government will help where it can”.

        That seems to amount to assistance via WINZ but I’d assume she’s aware of the idea being mooted by unions and employers in Australia that where a business cuts back to, say, a four day week, the government makes up the difference.

        The government pays less than it would on the dole. The workers earn more than they would on the dole. The company survives the downturn and is still there and able to employ when things improve.

        Something other than “don’t ask me about jobs, I’m only the Minister of Employment”. When Tizard said that about cars when she had transport, she was roundly, and rightfully, called a dozy airhead.

  7. Tane 7

    Irish, neither in particular. It’s a reference to the radical left tradition in general.

  8. djp 8

    Gee maybe you guys should cheer lead for the Workers Party? In the meantime I shall cherish the freedoms I still have.

  9. IrishBill 9

    djp, you’ll find once you lose your job that there aren’t many freedoms you get to enjoy.

    • djp 9.1

      this doesn’t make sense to me… I don’t have enough money to buy a Lamborghini, does that mean my freedom is breached?

      IrishBill: and just because the government restricts me from owning a nuclear weapon is mine? Reductio ad absurdum. Good to know some people still use it. Keep it up.

  10. Tane 10

    It’s an open question djp. If you don’t have anything to contribute to this thread there are plenty of others to keep you amused.

  11. djp 11

    ok, I am just a bit surprised at how much coercion goes into your utopia I guess.

    As for sealord, I dont know the state of their balance sheet. Would it be better if the whole company went bankrupt? Or should the govt subsidize their current level of activity.

    A third way is to let production flow from what is not economically-viable/efficient to what is. The economy will be better off as a whole in the long term.

    The only system that provides 100% employment 100% of the time is a hunter-gatherer society. History is littered with examples of capital and labour shifting to accommodate new technology, efficiencies and circumstances, this is the reason why I don’t have to hand wash my own clothes or thresh my own grain.

    • Tane 11.1

      You’re thinking entirely within a free market capitalist framework in which a lower than desired return on capital (the situation at Sealord) is reason to slash jobs and move operations to low wage economies. And, furthermore, for the Government to just sit back and take no responsibility for the workers’ employment or the decisions of the company.

      There are other ways of operating than either a) relying on the market to sort it out, or b) returning to a hunter-gatherer society. I’m interested in political alternatives, both immediately in terms of keeping these people in work, and long-term regarding the kind of economic system we choose to live under.

      As for coercion, the Right seems strangely blind to the level of coercion that exists in the system we have now. Any system I would favour, reformist or radical, would involve no more state coercion than the current capitalist setup.

      • gingercrush 11.1.1

        Well good luck in getting Greens to be the largest party under MMP. It won’t happen. See most New Zealanders aren’t stupid enough to vote in the Greens. Not even the true low income voters vote Green.They’re not that stupid themselves. The Greens are a party of inner city middle class good income people. So detached from anywhere, they are free to dream up unmeaningful liberal thoughts.

        [actually, on average Green voters are the most highly educated, so I’ll thank you to stop calling us stupid. SP]

        • Tane

          Don’t know where that came from, I didn’t even mention the Greens. But yeah, I agree with you – even though I vote for them and support their policies I realise the Greens are a party for the liberal middle class. Hence why I don’t see them as our salvation.

        • vto

          SP I have always wondered why people think that just because someone has intelligence they also have brains. Often the two are miles apart. In fact the greens could well be one of the best illustrations of this.

        • gingercrush

          I never said you weren’t intelligent. But sorry the way I see it you are stupid.

          • Pascal's bookie


            Seriously. You said that people that don’t vote for the greens, do so because they are not stupid enough to do so. That’s clear enough. You are saying that people that vote green are stupid. And yet you claim that this isn’t a slur on their intelligence?

            So what’s this alleged difference between ‘stupid’ and ‘not intelligent’?

            People can be intelligent and ignorant. That’s clear enough. Wisdom is another thing that has a feel of being possibly independent from intelligence, (and ignorance for that matter).

            But stupid? To me that means exactly ‘unintelligent’. It’s not a comment on someone’s knowledge about something (ignorance), but their ability to think clearly. Which would be intelligence. No?

            So the way I see it, is this:

            I never said you weren’t intelligent. But sorry the way I see it you are stupid.

            is either ignorant of the most common use of the word ‘stupid’, or an honest but un-recognised contradiction, (a and ~a) which would be stupid. Perhaps both.

            Or perhaps some devilishly clever irony. In which case stop it at once. The lefties make the funnies around here thankyouverymuch.

  12. Billy 12

    What’s to be done?

    I know. Why don’t you think of a product or service that people want, get a loan, start a business and employ some people on as generous terms as you can afford?

  13. vto 13

    What’s to be done?

    Billy has a good suggestion.

    Rex alerts us to another, which I like the sound of. It is kind of like what I was suggesting a few daze ago (govts will end up having to ‘lance the boil’ in some radical way. Take drastic measures which will result in splatter in short term but better in medium term. They effectively already are with buying up toxic poop).

    Such a lancing could easily be ‘legislating’ the terms of loans for a period of time or similar. Stop banks from calling up loans. Restructure the banks. all sorts of possibilities to stem the blood.

    Bugger the banks I say – they are shitting all over us. Spray the money all over the place and then all of a sudden stop, leaving all those who the banks had encouraged, in the freakin’ lurch. It is just wrong.

    I know there are myriad factors that go into downturns such as this, but banks have a lot to answer for in this instance. And given the vital role the money-changers play (for better or worse) it is too important to simply leave it up to the market – at this stage of the game especially. There is without doubt a national interest in the role of banks. It is not that much of a free market anyway – they are regulated to hell. And the cost of money is to a large extent set by a govt body ffs. So it is hardly a radical idea to drive the long arm of regulation in to the hilt.

    How that helps Sealord right now I don’t know. Probably not much instantly.

    p.s. would Fairfax get the same sympathy if it had to lay off workers?

    • r0b 13.1

      Bugger the banks I say – they are shitting all over us. Spray the money all over the place and then all of a sudden stop, leaving all those who the banks had encouraged, in the freakin’ lurch. It is just wrong

      Nahh vto, it’s just unregulated capitalism in action. The banks are acting to maximise their profit (or perhaps in this case, to minimise their loss). That’s the holy grail, right? I thought you liked unregulated capitalism? Aren’t the banks behaving exactly as they should?

      You’ve argued here before that failing companies should go to the wall – bailouts are for whimps and all the rest. If companies fail because of the acitions of the banks then that’s just campitalism, right? As it should be? But now you seem to be changing your mind:

      And given the vital role the money-changers play (for better or worse) it is too important to simply leave it up to the market – at this stage of the game especially. There is without doubt a national interest in the role of banks.

      We’ll make a big government socialist out of you yet vto!

      • vto 13.1.1

        not quite r0b. I haven’t argued bailing out banks, I’ve suggested puppetering them to look after, well, pretty much everyone – the workers, the retired, the biz folk, the bludgers even.

        I have never been an unfettered free market capitalist, but imo much of it has great merit. There is an overlap of course – between those things that require community control for the wellbeing of the entire community (police, justice, monopoly service providers such as electricity (currently), etc) and things that are not such as corollas and ferraris. Banks have clearly been blurred but they would seem to fall in the middle and veering towards the national interest end of the spectrum.

  14. Bill 14

    Think I said this before, but here we go again.

    Is it the welfare of people that is to be protected, or is it profit margins?

    If it was the general welfare of workers, their families and communities, then ways would be explored that allowed businesses to operate on much reduced profit margins.

    In some cases this could involve a government agency compulsorily buying collapsing company shares cheaply and passing them on through various mechanisms with caveats attached to the company’s workers.

    This would greatly lessen the pressure applied on businesses by shareholders demanding returns and allow them to continue producing or servicing on vastly reduced profit margins or even zero profit margins.

    Might even lead to some enterprises moving away from the insane market based ‘supply and demand’ trade altogether.

    But as that would be good for us and a six foot hole for the present day profit driven business model ( and those who have enjoyed privilege through its dynamic), it’s not a possible solution as far as leaders are concerned.

    But apart from the usual and obvious suspects ( the media, politicians, business leaders and high rollers) telling everyone that such things ‘can’t happen’, what is to prevent the promulgation of ideas that seek to safeguard people’s well being and security regardless of any profit considerations?

    • Ari 14.1

      Basically, people who don’t care about whether others are sacked so long as businesses post as large a profit as possible. Who they are is not worth trying to generalise- but you need to be willing to piss them off, and our current government isn’t.

      • Rex Widerstrom 14.1.1

        Nor, to be fair, is any Western government of which I’m aware. Niall Ferguson’s article, which I’ve linked to above, was written in the context of Obama’s however-many-trillion barrel of pork.

        What scares me is that these “leaders” are leaving the cupboard bare with their handouts. They won’t get a second chance to get this right, and I (for what it’s worth) don’t believe any of them have.

        • Pascal's bookie

          Niall Ferguson.

          Ain’t he that fella that was all

          “The British Ehm-pire was the best thing before sliced bread, and probably made sliced bread possible”

          who went on to

          “The American Empire needs to recognise itself as such, along the lines of a non ironic reading of Kipling, lest we all revert to having to eat unsliced bread, or possibly even naan. Though more likely hummus”

          and finished up at

          “The American Imperial project has failed, possibly because they over-extended themselves regarding bagels”.

          Though I could have some of the details and nuances jumbled.

          Which is not to say he isn’t right about this. But I’m suspicious of famous (popular/populist) historians bearing politically convenient and media friendly advice. Has he got a book due out? 😉

        • Ari

          To be fair, Obama is doing quite heroically, given that there is roughly a seventy percent chance that any given member of Congress or the Senate is an ideological whackjob of one sort or another.

        • Bill

          So Rex, let’s assume (reasonably in my mind) that governments will do nothing but try to preserve ‘business as usual’ which means that many, many people will have their lives turned upside down.

          What’s a second chance got to do with it?

          After the so-called ‘Great Depression’ they got a third chance. The second chance came after the 25 year long depression of the late 1800’s. Actually, that’s not numerically accurate insofar as we have carried on with the same abysmal and destructive forms of governance and business after every depression and there have been more than just two notable ones.

          Anyway, if no solution is going to come from above and one is not going to bubble up from below, then we are already accepting that business will continue as usual.

          So in terms of chance, I think it only makes sense to talk in terms of us not taking ours now, rather than in terms of not giving a ‘second’ chance to political and business leaders later. Not taking our chance now is due (at least in part) to us accepting their right to rule and make unilateral decisions that affect us all.

          So their ‘second chance’ is already in the bag.

  15. I hope New Zealand is NEVER a country that has a Government that’s “in the business of telling businesses how to run their business’.

    • Ari 15.1

      I hope we always have one in the future, but that it’s threshold for action is low enough to scare people like you, but high enough that it actually leaves New Zealand a good place for ethical employers to do business. (Though I could care less if we lose the other type.)

  16. burt 16

    Now somebody correct me if I’m missing something. Last year (or the year before) Jim Anderton swept up a popularity storm declaring large areas of the west coast as fisheries reserves. Has a reduced catch from not having the west coast based fishing vessels been a factor in this closure or are fish sales down? The retail price of fish is horrendous?

    So if it’s an environmental policy that is the root cause of the companies inability to retain the staff how would we all talk about it then?

    • Felix 16.1

      Have you actually seen anything that would indicate this or are you fishing for info yourself? (sorry)

      Remember the fishing industry gets hit by the cost of fuel harder than most others. I’d guess that would be a big factor. Emphasise “guess”.

  17. burt 17


    I’m fishing. I recall when Jolly Jim declared that vast areas of the west coast were to be set aside as marine reserves that the local fisherpeople said it would cause job losses and increases in the retail cost of fish.

    I like fish and I have noticed that the retail price has gone up. I’m interested to know what is really going on because the shallow analysis of “National don’t care’ ignores the root cause of people loosing their jobs in an industry that has been effected by environmental policies (Is it policies or just random actions that seemed like a good ideas at the time?)

    The thought that the fish and chip shops in southland won’t be selling Blue Cod as the standard fish because of Jolly Jim’s random knee jerk actions is quite depressing. The fact it’s almost impossible to now buy Blue Cod in my local supermarket is also annoying. Still Gurnard is almost as good if you can get it really fresh.

  18. grumpy 18

    Hang on a minute!

    I thought you guys said there was “only one brown face” at the Summit.

    So far the media have named 30! What else have you got wrong?

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