Labour leader David Shearer yesterday advocated a return
to government intervention in the job market, including
adopting a "one in a million" target for government contracts.
The "one in a million" programme, which is successfully used
in the United Kingdom, would require companies that were
awarded major contracts to take on one apprentice or trainee
for every $1 million in contract work it received from the
Speaking at the Hornby Working Men's Club, Mr Shearer said a
start would be made in the construction sector and expanded
into other sectors where it might also create opportunities
for young New Zealanders.
With an earthquake-destroyed Christchurch as his background,
Mr Shearer attacked the Government for letting a "fantastic
opportunity" to build a workforce for the future pass by.
The Government had set aside $42 million to help train New
Zealanders for the rebuilding, but 80% of that money was
sitting untouched, he said.
"With 84,000 young New Zealanders not in training or work,
something's not stacking up. The latest estimates say half
the 30,000 workers needed to rebuild the city will be brought
in from overseas."
Migrant labour was an important part of the economy and once
they were here they should have the same rights as anyone
else, Mr Shearer said.
But New Zealand also had a responsibility to New Zealanders
who needed work and skills.
"I want to be confident the rebuild isn't used as an
opportunity to bring in workers prepared to work 12 hours a
day, seven days a week for minimum wage simply to undercut
"I'm not prepared to watch New Zealand go down a path that
ends with builders or painters - decent jobs - being paid the
minimum wage, instead of for their skills."
Mr Shearer wanted to make sure employers wanting to bring in
migrant workers were doing what they could to find or train
New Zealanders to do the job.
Businesses would need to prove they had engaged with Work and
Income and Industry Training Organisations before they got
approval, he said.
Labour would require Immigration New Zealand to consider the
competitive impacts, particularly on wages and conditions,
when it considered granting an approval to bring in temporary
Mr Shearer also wanted to see conditions regarding wages and
working conditions attached to such approvals. Where
appropriate, employers would need to offer apprenticeships to
young New Zealanders.
"New Zealanders want to work. They are crying out for
opportunities. The rebuild is the chance to give New
Zealanders world-class skills and experience to build a
career in New Zealand," he said.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said Mr Shearer's
decision to give a speech on employment and training in
Canterbury, a region with massive jobs growth, was the
"latest string of hapless own goals".
In January, there were 5185 people on an unemployment benefit
in Christchurch. As of yesterday, there were 3131.
Mr Shearer had given a speech on employment in a city full of
manufacturing and other business success stories and where
the Government had spent an extra $43 million on additional
trades training places to help supply skilled workers to help
in the city's recovery, Mr Brownlee said.
The Labour leader would have difficulty finding an
appropriate place to scaremonger about jobs, Mr Brownlee
said. Job numbers were not just good in Canterbury.
On a year-on-year basis, job availability was improving right
across New Zealand.