GUEST BLOG: Willie Jackson – Bringing dignified work back for our people


New Zealand has an employment crisis that the last National Government has refused to engage with and this denial has left tens of thousands of Kiwi workers without the wages, job security and dignity that employment can give them.

These are workers who are still unemployed and looking for work, who can’t get decent jobs, who can’t get the training to advance themselves, who can’t get extra hours and who have been left to the cruelty of the free market with Government labour programs and a job creation policy that is basically broken and not responsive to the needs of real people.

As the new Minister for Employment I am not interested in vanity statistics that show unemployment dropping when the lived reality for Pasifika, Māori, women, migrant workers, students and the disabled are the complete opposite of such rosy numbers. The truth is that the latest unemployment figures dropping to 4.5 per cent conceals the actual reality regarding employment in our communities. It is undeniable that we have a crisis, particularly with Māori being unemployed, under-utilised and not being resourced adequately.

Job creation programmes must be developed through a partnership with trade unions, business, Māori, local and regional government, tertiary education sector, Pasifika, migrants and the community economic sector. We can no longer afford to be a Government that leaves job creation to the free market as that free market is exploiting or disqualifying our communities from the benefits proper jobs can bring. The job market that the new Government inherits from the previous one is an unequal and broken labour force with chronic shortages, incredibly loose criteria for migrants entering our workforce, weaker worker rights and high unemployment amongst Māori, young people and in the regions.

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For nine years we’ve had Government policy which has offered up little more than lip service to job creation. Enhanced Taskforce Green was kept running for natural disasters and WINZ continued to subsidise employers wage costs for natural disasters, but waiting on natural disasters to occur isn’t really much of a job creation program. The only other program that can be held up by the previous Government was ‘unpaid workplace training’ for companies like the Warehouse. Unions have noted the evidence of job dislocation from this unpaid training.

I want to be a Minister that is part of a Government that brings dignity back to work and proactively seeks community partnerships for job creation. If we can give people jobs that give them dignity, then that dignity can start healing many of the frictions we see erupt in our society.

In my column next week, I’ll detail our solutions to creating jobs with dignity.


First published in the Manukau Courier 


  1. That’s good Willie we need to bring back courses and upskilling opportunities for second chancers. These courses need to be tailored to the current and future job market. As you mentioned too many people have been locked out of the job market and the previous government just brought in cheap labour they didn’t care about our people (Maori) or our Pacific cousins. No it was all about the business people. Now you are in there you need to push for funds to invest in the most important thing on the planet apart from the environment ”people “

  2. Two points Willie:

    1. The unemployment level is at a 17 year low. Anyone who wants a job can have one. Employers are crying out for people prepared to turn up five days a week.

    2. Any job offers more dignity than no job.

    • “Anyone who wants a job can have one…”

      Let’s qualify that with: “…if they’re prepared to accept the miminum wage and no guarantees they’ll have as many hours as they need to live with dignity.”

    • Anyone who wants a job can have one.

      An old cliche, Andrew.

      The unemployment level is at a 17 year low.

      The official unemployment rate is not as accurate as you might believe, Andrew. For one thing, Stats NZ has redefined unemployment to exclude anyone looking for work using on-line only;

      Unemployment rate falls after Stats NZ revision

      30 Jun 2016

      The unemployment rate has plunged to a seven-year low as a result of Statistics New Zealand revising how it measures the labour market.

      The department now classifies looking at job advertisements on the internet as not actively seeking work, and so it has removed them from the unemployment figures.

      The change has resulted in a sharp downward revision to the jobless rate to 5.2 percent for the three months ended in March.

      That’s the lowest since the first quarter of 2009.

      Previously the unemployment rate was at 5.7 percent.

      Statistics New Zealand said the revision brought the numbers in line with international standards.


      The unemployment rate is higher than stats suggest.

    • thats a big fat lie Andrew how do I know my partner has been looking for work and he has been working like me since the age of 16yrs

    • Bullshit Andrewo, I’ve been applying solidly for 8 years and never got a job. Educated, multitalented, but no opportunities. Over 60, what a waste. Dignity?

  3. I’m fully supportive of Willie but I wish he had mentioned that National change the way the unemployment rate is calculated so that it is half a perent lower than it should be and that the last census showed that the real unemployment rate was another percent higher than the ‘official’ figures. The current rate is therefore about 6%.

    I also wish he had mentioned that anyone who earns 1 hour a week is also considered to be employed since there are probably a lot of people out there working part weeks

  4. Willie, you are claiming there is a crisis and the last Government has refused to engage with. That’s your opinion, OK. I would expect some proof. But no, 100 percent polemics, just words. Blaming the other and claiming you will do better. At the end a vague promise to later “detail our solutions to creating jobs with dignity”.
    No proof, no facts, just statements, claims, opinions. Is polemics all you can?

    “… I am not interested in vanity statistics that show unemployment dropping when the lived reality for Pacifika, Māori, women, migrant workers, students and the disabled are the complete opposite of such rosy numbers.” Nice polemics. You are good in that, are you politician?
    Let’s talk numbers: People having a job: about 95%. People having no job 5%. If I got your words right, these 5% are the “lived reality” you are interested in.
    Let me just rephrase that: You are not interested in the employment situation of the majority (95 percent). Should we better keep that in mind when we judge your “solutions to creating jobs with dignity”?
    What could these solutions be?

    I would say (Attention, opinion coming:) you are not able to create jobs, except those paid by the Taxpayer. (Now a fact:) Jobs are created by companies. (Claim:) There are thousands of job vacancies. (Proof:) Seek lists more than 22 thousand.
    Are the companies just too stupid to find one of the tens of thousands of unemployed workers? Or are the tens of thousands just too shy to apply for one of the jobs?
    You might come up with some quotas of women/Māori/Pasifica/… or create more bureaucracy for companies. The latter would decrease the efficiency of companies. And quotas do not create additional jobs, just replace one worker by another.

    I know, you never promised to create jobs. You just promised to create solutions to creating jobs. I understand that tiny but important difference. It conveniently provides an entire universe of excuses like “My solutions were genius. XXXX just did not understand them and used them wrongly.”
    But this tiny difference was just unintentionally, just kind of typo, right? You would never trick the public … ever … as respectable politician, serving the society.

    Last one: Is the effectiveness of your solutions measurable? Are you considering to take responsibility for the effectiveness of your solutions? I mean providing solutions that bring an advantage for the society actually is your duty (and you are paid for that I guess). So how can we evaluate your performance?
    I am listening, and looking forward to checking the facts.

    • Debates on accuracy v hyberbole aside, let’s analyse your 5% unemployment figure at face value. Under a very conservative estimate of 2 million people in the nation’s workforce, that would equal 100,000 people. That is, one hundred thousand individual lives impacted.

    • Thomas (doubting?)You are attacking the messenger. There is no way someone working one hour per week should be considered employed.

      Willie has been put there by people who hope for more consideration, not to meet your criteria. You are not judge and jury!!

      • Can we say, I’m challenging the messenger? Personal offense is not my intention, sorry if my comments made that impression.
        I totally agree your second statement. And I never said something else. Not sure why you came up with this.
        More consideration is nice, but what counts is “improvement or no improvement”. The post contains only polemics. I am asking for intended measureable results. What’s wrong with that?
        I would say the only criterion is: does a Minister meet the criteria of the public. The people are judge and jury. This is called democracy. Please kindly reconsider your last sentence this way.
        Of course you cannot make it right for all 2 million people. But I doubt that focusing on just 5% (or 7% or 9%) will bring an improvement for 100,000. So, again, how to measure the effectiveness of any “solution”? Is getting 1000 people of that 100,000 an improvement? That would be 1% of 5% = 0.05%. How about if at the same time 1000 other people got fired and the over-all number of vacancies did not significantly drop, is it still an improvement?
        Again, no offense intended. Just asking for a bit more that brilliant words. Open discussion very welcome.

  5. Fortunately things are still a bit difficult in this country so people can be encouraged to work if they can see that the reward for their efforts will be worth it. We need to get better though at linking reward for effort in our dialogue as a nation.

    • A lot of times people fight against religion, aliens, farmers, the reserve bank. But we barley fight against what is real. What the causes are. Like transnational corporations. So when wages fall we get ang and blame the government. And then get angry at unions who are just trying to help. But no one can help a sole-less corporation who only wants to know what you can do for it.

  6. Well Tbomas for a start the employment stats are wrong anyway. There are way more unemployed than officially stated. The companies out fhsre or corporateshave the upper hand and they know this hence they are very punitive in there employent practices ie low pay and poor conditions. They also make it harder to get on board with 90 day fire at will policy that from evidence is used excessively in poor faith by the employer.
    So in essense you have a power base that needs to shift back to the worker which wil give more empowerment. I think the unions are needed as they give the workers a voice.l

    • agree with Jono more cheap labour brought here by the gnats, low wages , insecure jobs , not enough hours of work, cost of living going up up and wages not keeping up with these rising costs. The biggest cost is housing, power, food, electricity, transport if you don’t own a car and petrol if you do own a car then there is Insurance cost just gone up. If you have a mortgage rates are climbing. Foreign labourers happy to have a job and be treated like slaves as we (NZers) moan too much. And people expected to work like a dog for their master the employer and the list could go on people like Andrew need to shut the f…up he has no idea.

    • I totally agree.
      The new Government has the power to come up with a statistics that reflects the reality much better. Will they?
      I think it is widely agreed that something has to be done. Question is what will be done, besides speeches. And how should we measure and judge the results.
      It is not fair to blame companies for using all legal possibilities to keep costs low and profit high. If you want more equality you need to change the related laws. But I have doubts that will happen.

    • Putting coins in workers pockets is easy to do. What’s more difficult is getting people to behave as if every can be, and have the opportunities to be successful.

      • “Putting coins in workers pockets is easy to do”

        So what’s Labour’s excuse for not lifting the minimum wage to the living wage?

          • Labour’s coalition deal with NZ First promises to lift the minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2021.

            However, the current living wage (which increases annually) is $20.20 an hour.

            Therefore, by 2021 not only will Labour’s $20 an hour minimum wage fall short of the 2021 living wage, it won’t even meet the rate of today’s living wage.

          • @TheChaiman

            The difference is that if we allow employers to set wages below the local cost of living we, the American people, are effectively subsidizing shitty business practice with our tax dollars. And this work is going on outside of the wage debate in courts thanks to Mike Treen, First Union, Unite Union and Wendy’s and other employers of Mc Jobs.

            They don’t even try to hide their seething contempt for workers anymore, do they? Apparently it’s all about how computers feel according to Wendy’s CEO. These are the things holding wages back. Not the government. Sure the government could easily raise it to a million dollars. Doesn’t mean any one will actually pay the price. Employers will likely automate faster than they would have otherwise.

            The government maintains a minimum standard of living through government programs and policy like state housing, food programmes, ACC, welfare, and a progressive(?) tax code. Every Kiwi who is forced to turn to government assistance is a failure of the free market. I would love for resources to be so plentiful that no Kiwi could help but stumble their way into a comfortable standard of living, but that is not the case. Therefore, since we as a society have decided that we will not allow people to die on the street, we create social safety nets. We use welfare to subsidize amoral, selfish capitalism because cut throat business practices are fantastic at generating wealth. We just need to be careful we are subsidizing useful cut throat business practices, and not parasitic ones. That’s what can be achieved in a first term, IMHO. And given the rhetoric around all this very achievable.

            So boosting wages in real terms will be far more difficult than boosting subsidies and all that.

            It also doesn’t help old people are selling the family home at the request of the real estate industry just to take that million dollars and down scale to a million dollar batch? If people want to sell the family home fine. But your going into a property and wage market you helped destroy.

  7. Job creation is music to my ears. Please check out the MMT school of economics and its Job Guarantee policy scheme that proposes using an employed buffer stock rather than unemployed buffer stock (NAIRU) as a means of stabilising demand in the economy and controlling inflation. A job guarantee should be seen as an improved automatic stabiliser. Anyone who wants a job should be given one at a living minimum wage by the state with employee benefits like Kiwisaver. The job guarantee can put people to work in areas the private sector find unprofitable and recognise that work is vital to mental health. We are not just consumption units to be kept alive with minimalist welfare. We have native forests to replant, elderly who need care, areas that need a good clean up and a lick of paint, community gardens that need tending, schools that need arts practitioners, schools and hospitals that need more support workers, teenagers that need youth centres, poor communities that need after school activities, murals that need painting, pests that need controlling – there is always work to be done. If the government needs to increase the deficit to do this so be it. Allow it to be a creative, vibrant scheme and give people back their dignity. Such a programme would help break the inter-generational despair that occurs through long term unemployment.

  8. The exploitation starts at schools. Especially when it comes to result driven targets teachers are obligated to deliver as “Credits”. $25/credit. The financial incentivisation of education leads to pressure put on student to go to Uni & or shitty PTe’s who also clip that ticket. It needs an overhaul completely.

    We need real jobs & stop steering unnecessarily, everybody onto been highly educated dummies. You end up with 25y olds+ starting work & have no understanding what to expect in a real job.
    On-the-job-training & ed is the only thing that has been proven to work. Thats a fact.

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