The figures look bad but we always knew they would be.

For the three months to December 2009 unemployment rose from 6.5 percent to 7.3 percent - a ten year high.

The number of official unemployed at the end of last year was 168,000, with a sharp rise in the jobless aged between 15 and 24 where the unemployment rate is now at a disturbing 18.4 per cent and trending upwards.

And, just as significantly, the number of New Zealanders who simply cannot get enough paid work hours continues to rise. Perhaps Rodney Hide or John Key could tell these workers how the casualisation of the workforce has been of benefit to the country. I'm sure they'll appreciate it.

As Bill English might say, the figures are not 'a good look' for a government that has repeatedly claimed for nearly a year that 'we are coming out of recession'. Nor is it good look for the government's cheerleaders in the media who have tried to talk up the economy with good news stories about 'rises in business confidence' 'and an increase in house sales' and other irrelevancies. They should all now be forced to wear dunces caps have and told to stand in the corner of their local Work and Income office. But, of course, being a free marketeer means never having to admit you screwed up again.

But another villain at work here is the trade union bureaucracy.

It might come as a revelation to the likes of Robert Reid, the national secretary of the National Distribution Union (NDU), but workers join unions to have their jobs improved - and defended when the going gets tough.

The union officialdom has spectacularly failed to do this. It has not been a case of 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going'. The Combined Trades Union has organised no resistance and fought no battles. You want an argument for the rank and file regaining the control of their unions? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Robert Reid, Andrew Little and Helen Kelly.

Instead of fighting for the jobs of workers they have simply led workers away to the door marked 'Exit'. It's little wonder that Andrew Little, the secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union and President of the Labour Party, is well liked among employers. He is, they say, 'a pleasure to work with' and, apparently, he is the 'new face' of the Labour Party. Which just goes to prove how stuffed the Labour Party is.

When the clothing manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin collapsed last year with the loss of over 500 jobs all Robert Reid could say was that he was dismayed and pleaded for help from the government. There was no hint of any effort to stop the job losses, not even a flicker of a fight from a union that immediately raised the white flag of surrender.

The only thing the NDU did was organise a few cake stalls to raise money for a so-called 'fighting fund'. Even this pathetic stunt lasted barely a month.

There was no protest action. No marches, No factory occupations. Nothing. Zilch.

For Robert Reid then to appear on the television news last week and huff and puff about the government's inaction on tackling unemployment was a bit rich coming from a senior member of a trade union bureaucracy that has also done nothing about fighting job losses. Perhaps John Key and Robert Reid could get together and swap notes on what they haven't done. Reid, like Little, has turned bureaucratic inaction into a fine art.

Indeed the whole strategy of the union bureaucracy has been to actively cooperate with the government.

It has ensured that job losses have proceeded in a orderly manner. This is was what CTU president Helen Kelly euphemistically referred to last year as helping 'with transitions where saving jobs is not possible.'

The union bureaucracy could and should have put up an effective fight to protect workers from the effects of the economic crisis, but the ugly truth is that the union 'leadership' have failed this test miserably.

Unfortunately, unlike many of the workers they claimed to represent, they won't be signing up for the dole anytime soon.


  1. Union representatives like Matt McCarten are only making the problem worse by pushing for increases to the minimum wage. Sir Roger Douglas has written a bit of material on how the minimum wage is harming our young people.

    You can see his posts here:

    and here:

  2. Right - we will all be better off if employers can pay us less. A bag of peanuts an hour perhaps?

    Roger Douglas is a neoliberal zealot who advocates policies that have clearly failed.

    By the way, in case you haven't noticed, the world economy is in crisis and millions have lost their jobs and homes - thanks to the kind of policies that Douglas and Act promote.


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