The Living Wage Campaign is undermined by both high unemployment and a trade union hierarchy that has nothing to offer but rhetoric.
One can appreciate the merits of the campaign for a living wage but the campaign has been undermined from the off by the growing level of unemployment and underemployment. High unemployment and the increasing casualisation of the labour force put downward pressure on wages. Why? If someone won't do a job for the derisory minimum wage there's always someone desperate enough who will.
The research work of Charles Waldegrave and Peter King of the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit has concluded that an hourly wage of $18.40 is required to allow people to live a life that isn't just about trying to survive.
Waldegrave says about one third of New Zealand workers earn less than $18.40 an hour.
The purpose of the Living Wage campaign is to 'persuade' employers to pay more. But why should they? With a chronically high rate level of unemployment they just won't. This campaign, I'm afraid, demonstrates far too much misplaced faith in the 'benevolence' of employers.
No wonder Labour leader David Shearer supports this campaign - he doesn't actually have to do anything but he will get a few brownie points in the process of doing nothing.
The support for this campaign by the Council of Trade Unions is entirely hypocritical since it has done next to nothing to fight the rising tide of job losses. In fact in a time of economic crisis industrial action is at an all time low.
Says Helen Kelly of the CTU: “Many people talk about the need to lift pay – but often little is done. We need a real commitment to decent jobs in New Zealand and lifting pay requires improvements in the minimum wage, improvements in collective bargaining coverage, sharing the benefits of productivity improvements, and a real recognition that the huge inequalities of income are unjustified and must be addressed”.
As Helen Kelly and the CTU regularly prove, we can all release a press statement and show up at some media bash but it is quite another thing altogether to actually do anything.
While Kelly talks of needing ' a real commitment to decent jobs in New Zealand' she and her fellow union officials having done nothing to fight back against the thousands of 'decent jobs' that are disappearing right here, right now. Ms Kelly and her CTU colleagues certainly haven't shown much 'real commitment to decent jobs' in recent years.
Since 2008 something like 47,000 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector alone. The CTU have nothing to oppose these job losses - in fact they have shamefully cooperated with employers to ensure the redundancy process is polite and orderly. We don't want any trouble now do we? Nothing to see here, folks - just move on.
Just yesterday NZ Post announced that it was axing 100 jobs - with more job losses rumoured to be in the pipeline.
These job losses have come on to top of recent loss of 200 jobs losses at Mainzeal, 100 jobs at Contact Energy and 190 job losses at Summit Woolspinners.
You would of thought that union officialdom might have finally decided that 'enough is enough' but there is never 'a line that must not be crossed' as far as these people are concerned.
The response of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) to the job losses at NZ Post has been typical.
All EPMU postal spokesman Joe Gallagher had to offer his sacked workers was that the EMPU ' was working with NZ Post on the redundancy process.'
Fantastic. Give that man a white flag to wave.