Prime Minister Bill English has smeared beneficiaries, claiming that many fail drug tests. He made the same claim in 2012. Again, he has provided no hard evidence - because there isn’t any.  But that hasn't stopping English kicking some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

SCAPEGOATING PEOPLE who have little political power is always a favourite tactic of politicians, and the Prime Minister's latest attack on beneficiaries and the unemployed is another attempt by Bill English 'to play to the gallery' and shore up his Government's support in an election year.

English has claimed that overseas workers are needed to fill jobs because too many of our local jobless are sitting around, taking drugs. Although he says that he "hears from two or three employers a week who say Kiwis can't pass a drug test" English has provided no hard evidence for his claim. It's all anecdotal, all hearsay.

But this is not the first time English has made this claim. In 2012 he said had received many complaints from employers in his electorate who had told him 'they often can't employ our own locally unemployed young people because they can't pass a drug test."

The Combined Trades Union sought information from the Ministry of Social Development about how many complaints it had received from employers about young beneficiaries failing drug tests. They had received none.

In 2014 the NZ Herald reported that of the 8,001 beneficiaries sent for jobs requiring drug testing, only 22 tested positive to drug use or refused to take tests.” This worked out at 0.27 % of beneficiaries tested. 

And in 2015 there were 31,791 referrals for drug testing yet there were only 55 drug-related sanctions during the same period - only a 0.17 per cent fail rate.

However, working on the principle of never allowing the facts to get in the way of some good beneficiary bashing, John Key told Radio New Zealand in 2016 that New Zealand was forced to rely on overseas workers to fill jobs because some Kiwis lacked a strong work ethic and because some problems with drugs.

“Go and ask the employers, and they will say some of these people won’t pass a drug test, some of these people won’t turn up for work, some of these people will claim they have health issues later on,” he said.

A year later English is repeating the same old lies in an effort to defend a low wage economy where jobs have become increasingly casualised and insecure. If employers had their way ordinary people will continue to work harder for less, generating more profits, wealth and power for those at the top--that is a dynamic built into capitalism.

Three decades of neoliberal policies, under both National and Labour Government's, has seen an marked increase in low wage and insecure jobs.

Chloe King : The problem is low wages.
In 2016 blogger Chloe King, a low wage worker herself, responded to John Key's attack on the unemployed. She wrote:

"I want to be very clear here: I support immigrant workers. I embrace the diversity they bring to Aotearoa. I stand firm in solidarity with them for many reasons, the most important being that the migrant workforce is often subject to low wages and exploitation, which are things I also have plentiful and painful experiences of.

But what I do not embrace is John Key pitting workers like myself, someone on poverty-level wages, against cheap-labour migrant workers to perhaps further suppress wage growth and help his corporate mates get richer."

As Chloe goes on to say:" The problem with New Zealand’s work economy is not our being lazy or drugged workers who lack work ethic. The problem is low wages. The problem is a rise in a culture of precarious and casualised work that has created structural unemployment and job scarcity."

The solution is clear: we need highly organized, militant unions that will fight for workers’ interests inside and outside of the workplace, and we need a real political alternative, a new political party, to provide an alternative to the neoliberal narrative because neither the Labour or the Green's are interested in providing it.


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