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A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part toru

8 March 2014 3 comments

Continued from:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part rua

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new-zealand-national-party_3382 adapted 2014

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An incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?*) coalition government will have much work to do – especially in it’s first three years.

In the six years that National has been in power, they have passed many odious and often repressive pieces of legislation. Labour and the Greens have already committed to repealing some of these laws and policies.

As a Labour-led coalition government addresses growing problems of child poverty; income inequality; a shortage of decent, affordable housing; and chronic unemployment, a legislative programme will demand a long list of progressive reforms.

In no particular order;

The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

An amendment to the Employment Relations Act 2000, Section 67A, allows  employers to sack – without just cause or a chance for an employee to improve performance – within a 90 day period.

It gives unbalanced power to employers who can blackmail an employee or get rid of them at the slightest whim. It also makes workers less willing to be mobile in the workplace. Why change jobs at the risk of being fired within 90 days of taking up a new position?

When the 90 Day Trial period was first introduced in April 2009, it applied only to companies employing 19 staff or less.

By April 2011, this was extended to all companies regardless of staff numbers. (A typical National strategy; start small – then encompass an entire sector.)

Has it helped  generate more jobs as National claimed it would?  Evidence suggests it played very little part in creating employment, and indeed unemployment went up after both legislative changes,

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Source

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So aside from empowering employers and disempowering workers, what exactly was the point of enacting this piece of legislation? Because it seems that an awful lot of people lost their jobs through this legislation. As one media report stated,

It is not known how many workers were dismissed during the trial period, but the figures revealed 27 per cent of employers said they had fired at least one new employee during or at the end of their trial.

This means at least 18,000 people lost their jobs in the first three months of employment last year, with the actual figure likely to be much higher.

And precisely how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s past promises (see below)?

This law gives too much power to one party in the Employer-Employee relationship, and it has no place in a fair-bargaining workplace.

On 17 October 2010, Labour promised that this law would be scrapped by an incoming Labour-led government. I hope the current Labour leadership has not resiled from this commitment.

Ports of Auckland Dispute – Shipping Lines Price Fixing

“The average income has been about $90,000, so it hasn’t been a badly-paid place. But the problem is flexibility when ships arrive and when staff get called out, how they can cope with that.” – John Key, 12 March 2012

Putting to one side the myth of  POAL maritime workers earning $90,000 – so what?

Even if it were true (which is doubtful – POAL has never released the workings of how they arrived at that sum, despite requests), isn’t such a good wage precisely what Dear Leader John Key has been advocating?

POAL management sought to reduce costs;  casualise their workforce; and compete with Ports of Tauranga for shipping business. Unfortunately, competing on costs would, by necessity, involve driving down wages.

This appears to have been motivated  by a high degree of price-fixing by shipping cartels, as was pointed out by the Productivity Commission in April 2012,

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Full story

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Rather than supporting the workers, Dear Leader bought into a situation where international shipping companies were playing New Zealand ports off against each other, to gain the  lowest possible port-charges.  Even local company, Fonterra, was playing the game.

Here we have a situation where New Zealand workers were enjoying high wages – something John Key insists he supports – and yet he was effectively allowing international corporations to create circumstances where those wages could  be cut and driven down.

As with the “Hobbit Law”, our Dear Leader appears to pay more heed to the demands of international corporate interests than to fulfilling his pledges to raise wages.

An incoming Labour-led government should immediatly implement the Productivity Commission’s recommendation,

“The commission recommends that New Zealand require shipping companies wishing to collaborate to fix prices or limit capacity to demonstrate to the Commerce Commission that there will be a public benefit which will outweigh the anti-competitive effects.”

This problem must be addressed by an incoming government. It is simply intolerable for foreign corporations to be dictating labour laws; industrial relations; and wages, in a supposedly sovereign nation.

Youth Rates

From 1 May 2013, National  re-introduced a new Youth Rate. The rate would be set at $10.80 an hour [soon to be increased to $11.40 per hour]– compared to the then- minimum rate of $13.50  an hour  [soon to be $14.25 on 1 April this year], and would include 16 to 19 year olds.

John Key stated,

“For a lot of employers, they will go out there and say, ‘I’m going to give somebody a go that’s been in the workforce before’ and so the balance is against that younger person. That’s very disheartening for them – they are good young people, they just want a chance.

So I think it’s got to be seen in perspective – the vast overwhelming bulk of youngsters actually won’t go on a starting out wage.”

Which conflicts with John Key’s other assertions that he wants to see wages rise;

We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

Youth rates won’t achieve that goal, Mr Prime Minister!

There is no good reason why Youth Rates should actually create new jobs. More likely, a drop in youth wages will simply create more ‘churn’ in employment/unemployment numbers.

As David Lowe, Employment Services Manager for the Employers and Manufacturers Association, inadvertently  revealed,

Without an incentive an employer with a choice between an experienced worker and an inexperienced worker will choose experience every time.”

As Lowe admitted – there is no new job for the  younger worker. S/he is merely displacing an older worker.

As it is, figures from Statistics New Zealand’s  Household Labour Force Survey showed that unemployment for young people had already fallen by the March 2013 Quarter – a full two months before Youth Rates came into effect;

In the year to March 2013, there was a large fall in unemployment for people aged 15–24 years (down 10,500). This fall can be largely attributed to a decrease in unemployed 20–24-year-olds (down 11,200). This was an atypical fall in unemployment, as the number of people unemployed for this age group usually increases during March quarters. The unemployment rate for people aged 20–24 years fell 4.1 percentage points to 10.9 percent – the lowest rate since the September 2009 quarter.

The employment rate for 20–24-year-olds rose over the year to March 2013. There was also an increase in the number of people aged 15–24 years not in the labour force over the year. Behind this was a rise in the number of young people outside the labour force who are studying (up 25,000). The number of both 15–19-year-olds and 20–24-year-olds in study rose –  up 16,200 and 8,800 respectively.
NEET rate declines

In seasonally adjusted terms, the NEET (not in employment, education or training) rate for youth (aged 15–24 years) decreased 1.5 percentage points, to 12.5 percent in the March 2013 quarter. This is the lowest youth NEET rate since the September 2011 quarter. The NEET rate for people aged 20–24 years fell 2.4 percentage points to 15.9 percent.

As the global economy continued to improve; the Christchurch re-build moved into high gear; and demand for our exports increased, unemployment was bound to eventually fall.

In which case, paying young workers a lower wage than their older counterparts was nothing more than a “gift” handed to employers.

As such, it has no place in a modern, civilised society. Youth rates are exploitative and demoralising. They also drag adult wages downward, as employers can opt for cheaper labour, as  David Lowe stated above.

In October 2012, Labour’s then-Leader, David Shearer condemned youth rates,

“It’s not going to create jobs by driving down wages.  These people are going to leave and go to Australia.

We need an economy that provides decent, secure jobs and good incomes and where young people have hope and opportunity, not the low-wage vision promoted by National.”

An incoming Labour-led government must repeal this exploitative legislation.

Continued at:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part wha

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(* At this point in time, NZ First’s leader, Winston Peters,  has not indicated which bloc – Labour or National – he intends to coalesce with. As such, any involvement by NZ First in a progressive government cannot be counted upon.)

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

To be continued at:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part wha

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References

Parliament Legislation: Employment Relations Act 2000, Section 67A

NZ Herald: Will the 90 Day trial period make a difference?

Beehive:  90-Day Trial Period extended to all employers

Trading Economics: New Zealand Unemployment Rate

Waikato Times: Thousands sacked under 90-day trial period

Radio NZ:  Labour would scrap 90 day trial – Goff

Fairfax media: Calls to end shipping lines’ price fixing

Fairfax media: Jackson pulls back from port comments

Radio NZ: PM defends lower youth pay rate

Scoop media: Starting-out wage will help young people onto job ladder

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: March 2013 quarter

TV1 News: Employers back youth ‘starting wage’

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Key’s broken promise on raising wages

 

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https://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/john-key-says-id-like-to-raise-wages-but-i-cant.png

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Once again, the Prime Minister has shown that he says one thing – whilst doing completely the opposite. The implementation of Youth Rates next month will be another in a series of his broken promises.

I think most readers of this blog (and other sources of  political information) will recall certain statements made by Dear Leader over the last four to five  years,

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: National policy – SPEECH: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

One of National’s key goals, should we lead the next Government, will be to stem the flow of New Zealanders choosing to live and work overseas.  We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere.

To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.” – John Key, 6 September 2008

See: National policy – Speech: Environment Policy Launch

I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

See: Speech: Key – business breakfast

Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

See: National policy – Boosting Science and Innovation

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key,  8 February 2011

See: Statement to Parliament 2011

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

See: Parliament – Speech from the Throne

We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

See: Key wants a high-wage NZ

Key has repeated the same pledge every year since 2008.

On 1 May this year, National will be implementing a cut to the wages paid to young New Zealanders. The new youth rates will be  euphemistically known as the “Starting-out wage”.

The cut to wages of young workers will be as follows,

  1. 16 and 17-year-olds in their first six months of work with a new employer
  2. 18 and 19-year-olds who have been paid a benefit for six months or longer, and who have not completed six months of continuous work with any employer since starting on benefit
  3. 16-to-19-year-old workers in a recognised industry training course involving at least 40 credits a year.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – Starting-out wage available from 1 May

On 21 March Labour Minister, Simon Bridges, said,

“…The starting-out wage will provide an incentive for employers to help give young people a foot in the door and start building their skills and experience…

[…]

The starting-out wage will help set young people up for a lifetime of meaningful employment.”

Acknowledgement: Parliament – Hansards – 3. Youth Employment—Starting-out Wage

So will  a reduction in wages for young people, 16 to 19, help create more jobs? Or will it simply increase “job churn”, displacing older worker for younger, cheaper labour?

A previous “job creation” initiative from National was an amendment to the Employment Relations Act 2000, Section 67A – the 90 Day Trial Employment Period.

The 90 Day Trial Employment Period was implemented on April 2009, for workplaces with fewer than 20 employees. Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson enthusiastically predicted that the change to legislation would create more jobs,

“ The 90-day trial period will provide confidence for employers engaging new staff and allow struggling job-seekers to get their foot in the door, rather than languish on a benefit…

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… The 90-day trial will provide real opportunities for people at the margins of the labour market.”

Two years later, by April 2011, National extended the 90 Day Trial Employment Period to cover  all businesses.  Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson stated,

The Government is focused on growing a stronger economy and creating more jobs for New Zealand families,” says Ms Wilkinson.

There are a lot of people looking for work and the changes announced today will help boost employer confidence and encourage them to take on more staff.

[…]

The evaluation showed that 40 percent of employers who had hired someone on a trial period said it was unlikely they would have taken on new employees without it.

Acknowledgement: Government statement – 90-Day Trial Period extended to all employers

So. How did the 90 Day Trial Employment Period work out? Did it create more jobs? The stats reveal the results with unambiguous, damning, clarity,

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Source

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As the chart above clearly shows, the answer is clearly no.  After the initial introduction of the 90 Day Trial Employment Period in April 2009, unemployment continued to rise. The same occurred after April 2011.

There is no reason to believe that implementation of Youth Rates will yield any different results.

The evidence suggests that tinkering with labour laws does not – and cannot –  create jobs. High unemployment is caused by other factors; entrenched problems in our economy; the high value of the dollar; a flood of cheap consumer goods; foreign workers being brought in to fill vacancies; poor wages; lack of planning between business-labour-government; and an ad hoc approach to on-going training for young people.

Instead of treating on-going education and training in young people as an investment – successive governments have erected barriers such as training and education fees. The situation that New Zealand finds itself in is sheer lunacy. We have thousands of unemployed New Zealanders – and yet government does little to facilitate them into training or higher education.

Why, for example, are unemployed paid a benefit to do nothing – and yet are forbidden to take up further education or trades-training?

To a half-way sensible person, this is madness.

And speaking of madness… National must know that cutting wages for young workers will not help create new jobs.  It may displace older workers in some areas, but otherwise it may act as further de-moralisation and discouragement for young people who are already facing tough times and an uncertain future.

What this does show is that National has no real job creation policies. For National, their sole reliance is on the “marketplace” to deliver new jobs. Sadly, they are mistaken – their market-based faith is half the problem.

Having faith that rain will come on a given day will not make it so.

Sensibly, the fast food industry has already come to the same conclusion that unions and others on the Left have instinctively understood for ages,

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Thumbs down by fast-food chains to youth rates

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Thumbs down by fast-food chains to youth rates

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The Nats appear to be so wedded to their screwy market-based faith-politics that the failure of the “marketplace”  eludes them.

It’s a shame that National hasn’t caught up with the bleedin’ obvious.  Or… have they? It appears that some people are doing very well from the “marketplace”.

At our expense…

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Increase for SOE bosses 'obscene'

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Increase for SOE bosses ‘obscene’

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Addendum

Here’s a clever idea – all those people who vote National should have a wage/salary freeze during the term of that government.  After all, as some National supporters keep insisting, raising the minimum wage “harms the economy”. (I assume the same holds for all  wages and salaries?)

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– “Hey, Krystal, let’s freeze our wages, to set an example for everyone else, and for the good of the economy!”
– “Oh, Toby! What an absolutely spiffing idea! Dear Leader WILL be pleased!”

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The rest of us, who vote for Labour, Greens, Mana, et al, can have our wages/salaries linked to Australia’s pay rates.

Now I ask you – what could possibly be fairer than that?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 April 2013.

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Previous related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages: Preface

1. The “Hobbit Law”

2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

4. Rest Home Workers

5. The Minimum Wage

6. Youth Rates

7. Part 6A – stripped away

8. An End to Collective Agreements

9. Conclusion

10. A New Government’s Response

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