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Work ideas

Written By: - Date published: 8:13 am, May 22nd, 2020 - 28 comments
Categories: Economy, grant robertson, jacinda ardern, labour, uncategorized, Unions, workers' rights - Tags:

It was weird to see the Prime Minister muse about a four-day week recently.

She is encouraging businesses to think about it.

The Prime Minister has also mused this week about more public holidays.

These are not small changes to our society.

Unfortunately the government released its budget just last week and there was no mention of either of these ideas, or indeed of labour reform barely at all.

This is despite Minister of Finance Grant Robertson putting an awful lot of thought and study into the future of work over the last four years.

A wee bit of evidence wouldn’t have killed them before big ideas get floated. Maybe even a bit of plan-like context.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance need to get their story straight. Sure there will be plenty of balloon-type ideas to float in the coming year. And of course there’s a Labour election manifesto to put the idealistic stuff into. Lots of red balloons floating about.

But seriously. They’re in government.

If they want to change the Holidays Act, they should just propose it.

If they want us to have a four day week like France, they should actually propose it.

The economy and indeed our whole society is going into such an incredibly parlous state that we need the government to continue as it started in March: communicate a clear plan, and execute it. Not hot air balloons.

28 comments on “Work ideas ”

  1. Muttonbird 1

    More public holidays is a small change to our society.

  2. barry 2

    An extra public holiday would require legislation and there is not enough support in parliament. A 4 day week is something that businesses and government departments can just do.

    In any case it needs to be more organic than just dictated from above.

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    Politicians of all stripes put ideas out there and see what sticks. 4 day weeks (at no loss of pay) have potential benefits, surely for those on more than 4 days to start with! and the flow on employment sharing, and work life balance effect.

    The use of “we” as in “we need the government to continue as it started in March: communicate a clear plan, and execute it. Not hot air balloons.” by the writer is interesting. There are many “we’s” in this society.

    I read the NZ Labour Party Future of Work paper when it was released, and there was some great stuff–which like the Experts Working Group on Welfare, just needs implementation. Though things are obviously moving on from those 42 Welfare recommendations.

    This is the political time & space for significant change. It is about timing not if change will be made, hence the PM raising 4 day weeks and public hols–including hopefully Matariki. Given the mounting examples of middle class surprise at how far our once admired Social Security system has deteriorated, and is incapable of rapidly delivering what newly vulnerable unemployed need, the Govt. absolutely needs to move.

    How about an immediate Basic Income via IRD, Disestablishment of WINZ/MSD, and establishment of a new Social Security Agency for disabled, child poverty, incapacitated, and others with ongoing special needs. This takes UBI out of right wing orbits.

    • weka 3.1

      How about an immediate Basic Income via IRD, Disestablishment of WINZ/MSD, and establishment of a new Social Security Agency for disabled, child poverty, incapacitated, and others with ongoing special needs. This takes UBI out of right wing orbits.

      Nice. I would go UBI (prob via IRD), and replacing WINZ with a new SSA for all NZers that need additional assistance.

      Don't limit welfare to specific groups, as this ghetto-ises people into the 'needy'. Consider someone living in a rural area who can't get work but doesn't fit the disability categorisation. How are they supposed to live? Many disabled people would prefer to be treated as regular citizens too.

      • Tiger Mountain 3.1.1

        I get your point. To clarify, I mentioned disabled because of the current raw deal. Everyone under Nats got put in the one size fits all “jobseeker” category. Really the imagined SSA would be for all citizens needing something different than the basic “Basic Income”.

        • weka

          I think so. The Greens have the UBI and welfare under the Income Support policy. I like that it is for everyone, and then gets more specific around different needs and different ways to provide support.

  4. Peter 4

    The PM 'mused' and the antis had her actually proposing to do it.

    Four day weeks? Immediately for some it's horrendous, it's a crime against history and it gets to be another indication that the economy will be stuffed and Labour hasn't got any idea about how these things work.

    Like my dairy farmer friend who decided years ago to milk his cows once a day. Did the world end then? Is he destitute and a broken man?

  5. weka 5

    I disagree. This is a clear signal from Ardern/Labour for businesses and the community to consider the ideas for future development. Then we can talk about them across a wide range of perspectives, rather than waiting until a political party presents us with a narrow version of what they want that is then hard to broaden, and really hard to remedy major design flaws (been talking a lot about TOP's UBI policy in this regard).

    This is how good design should work. Put the idea out there, throw in all the good, bad, interesting, boring takes, and then sift through them to find what inspires and what works and then design the actual policy.

    I'm so over fait accompli politics. Policy development shouldn't be left to politicians.

  6. Molly 6

    This is an oldie but a worthwhile read from the New Economics Foundation (2010):

    21 hours (pdf link) – talking about the benefits of a much shorter working week.

    "A normal working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.

    This report sets out arguments for a much shorter working week. It proposes a significant shift in what is considered ​‘normal’ – down from 40 hours or more, to 21 hours. While people can choose to work longer or shorter hours, we propose that 21 hours – or its equivalent spread across the calendar year – should become the standard that is generally expected by government, employers, trade unions, employees, and everyone else.

    The vision

    Moving towards much shorter hours of paid work offers a new route out of the multiple crises we face today. Many of us are consuming well beyond our economic means and well beyond the limits of the natural environment, yet in ways that fail to improve our well-being – and meanwhile many others suffer poverty and hunger. Continuing economic growth in high-income countries will make it impossible to achieve urgent carbon reduction targets. Widening inequalities, a failing global economy, critically depleted natural resources and accelerating climate change pose grave threats to the future of human civilisation.

    A ​‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems. These include overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.

    21 hours as the new ​‘norm’

    Twenty-one hours is close to the average that people of working age in Britain spend in paid work and just a little more than the average spent in unpaid work. Experiments with shorter working hours suggest that they can be popular where conditions are stable and pay is favourable, and that a new standard of 21 hours could be consistent with the dynamics of a decarbonised economy.

    “A ​‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems.”

    There is nothing natural or inevitable about what’s considered ​‘normal’ today. Time, like work, has become commodified – a recent legacy of industrial capitalism. Yet the logic of industrial time is out of step with today’s conditions, where instant communications and mobile technologies bring new risks and pressures, as well as opportunities. The challenge is to break the power of the old industrial clock without adding new pressures, and to free up time to live sustainable lives. To meet the challenge, we must change the way we value paid and unpaid work.

    For example, if the average time devoted to unpaid housework and childcare in Britain in 2005 were valued in terms of the minimum wage, it would be worth the equivalent of 21 per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product."

    • Jum 6.1

      Interesting. The 40 hour week was right for its time. Now, we have a new way of working.

  7. Jum 7

    Governments have the benefit philosophy completely backward. Pay beneficiaries a living wage, then it trickles up to workers paid more and skilled workers having spent time and money getting these skills would be better rewarded. Business treats workers like serfs and an ever-reducing expense, when they are actually the businesses' main asset. Some businesses do recognise that. Not enough. Money paid is spent in NZ.

    Once we know all New Zealanders are being paid humanely we can then go after those stealing from the public purse, whether they are business or worker or beneficiary, because they have betrayed our new values of humane treatment for all.

    The ball is now coming back to business to play beneficiaries one against the other. There needs to be some clear carrot and stick from government to business to stop that criminal behaviour. Foreign especially or local business needs to be held to financial account if they renege on their responsibility towards their employees. Responsibility and loyalty are not exclusive.

    Case in point Freightways Courier coy. Twyford needs to deal to that company on our behalf. And he needs to do it now. That company is making asses of us all. Who owns them; who are the directors; why are they being allowed to get away with stealing taxpayers' kindness with the wage subsidy? Name and shame.

    The 'surprised' middle class should be shown the I Daniel Blake film at their first induction course; that criminal behaviour against that man and woman and children in the story better not be happening here.

    We need to publicise the reality of beneficiary lives; all we get are the bashers and the monied controlling the story. ' Struggle street' is about those that are found to perform to the rightwing storyline. I hope they're at least getting paid for it. They would probably love the attention when all they normally get is judgment. Unfortunately, they may not realise they are hurting their fellow beneficiaries and low paid workers by creating a false reality against most people living difficult lives.

    • indiana 7.1

      Are you aware that NZ Post runs the same model as Freightways? I suspect that is why you will not see Tywford lift a finger on this issue. Perhaps what you should be really asking is why was a badly worded wage subsidy scheme rolled out? All good intentions, but resulting in unintended consequences.

  8. Cinny 8

    Spoke to a local business owner today who is giving all of his employees $25 each to spend at a locally owned business and is encouraging others to do the same.

    I thought that was a pretty cool gesture.

  9. Herodotus 9

    Who comes up with these "great" White Middle Class PAYE idea vote winners? another example of a Polly lacking real world experience and not thinking before opening their mouth.

    We already have on one side a skills shortage and the other, many workers are struggling to live beyond day to day with multi jobs.
    This being discussed in regard to domestic tourism – Many workers are in need of additional assistance eg foodbanks etc so touring the country would be difficult for these families to afford, and not everyone will be able to have Mondays or Fridays off and have children to look after, further restricting going away.

    • RedBaronCV 9.1

      What skills shortages? As far as I can see this is just endlessly repeated by the right to justify there employment policies.

      • Herodotus 9.1.1

        We have surplus medical staff, teachers, builders/tradies, Old age workers etc that are there able to cover for a reduction of 5 to 4 days, and NO need to acquire immigrants to fulfil such duties. Or have you the answers to where these people are ??

        • RedBaronCV

          I'm lost -are you saying we have enough people or we don't? Some of these jobs have struggled to attract people because of the dumbed down wages and conditions – ( listed age care companies who want too much profit). Others have a period where we could retrain and work concurrently .

          • Herodotus

            I am saying that we don’t have enough. I thought the question mark was asking you if believe we have surplus.

            also many traditional blue collar workers would be excluded from this flexibility eg cleaners,

            also many families would want to have their holidays aligned with education institutions, this musing does not allow that. Remember the context of the comment by our PM, substituting overseas tourists with local.

  10. RedBaronCV 10

    There is a difference between a 4 day week without a reduction in working hours ( so longer days) and a 4 day week with fewer hours.

    That said we could do with a redistribution of both hours and money inside a large number of organisations. Starting with chopping the top wages. Take $1mill off a top salary and that's another $4000 for 250 workers. And I'm sure they would appreciate it or another 25 jobs at $40k.

    • Janet 10.1

      I agree but first lets decide how much one man can possibly be worth more than another – I say no more than five times and redistribute accordingly. How about UBI and a 3.5 day ( 20hr ) working week. The companies that want to run 24/7 can , with two teams .

      • Cinny 10.1.1

        I agree but first lets decide how much one man can possibly be worth more than another

        Absolutely, and those who worked the hardest and got us through lock down, the supermarket workers, the rubbish collectors, the gas station workers, the apple pickers, call center phone operators etc are the lowest paid.

      • RedBaronCV 10.1.2

        For starters I'd go for any redistribution. I have wondered if it is worth getting onto some of the kiwi saver providers- who own shares in local companies – asking them to vote for resolutions where the top salary pool can not exceed some ratio of other salaries. They might just be minded too – given that quite correctly dividends have been suspended in many cases but these idiot managers didn't bother with too much of a hit on themselves. Kiwisaver is after all our savings so we have some power.

  11. Johnny on the spot 11

    Germans can only work a 36 hour week by law work more and companies will be penalised. Some companies here do work a 4-day week, but 10-hour days. The latter is voluntary

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