Shearer argues for job market intervention, 'one in million' scheme

David Shearer
David Shearer
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 Government.

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 competitors.

"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 workers.

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.


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