I didn’t think it would happen so fast! News today that the pay packets of the lower paid workers are already shrinking in current conditions. The Herald says:
“A new survey of pay rates shows a dramatic deterioration for those at the bottom of the heap, while rates for skilled workers are outpacing rampant inflation.”
The figures are alarming, and confirm some anecdotal evidence we’ve heard that things are already starting to bite in the ‘secondary labour market’.
Basically, to understand what’s been happening in NZ employment relations over the past 20 years you need to understand that there are two ‘worlds of work’. You’ve got the better paid, higher skilled workers enjoying job security and better conditions in the primary labour market, and lower paid workers with crappy work conditions, casual and irregular hours, less job security in the secondary labor market.
For the latter, think domestic industry in particular, focussed on cost competition: restaurants and cafes, small shops, rest homes, petrol stations, cleaning contractors, etc. Workers in these industries also have lower rates of unionisation.
Invariably, they’re the ones who suffer first and suffer most when the economy sours. And so it is this time. An analysis of 73,000 jobs listed on the Trade Me website shows that, “comparing the first half of this year with the last quarter of last year, … average pay rates had gone up by 3.7%.”
But that’s only good news for primary labour market workers:
“The unskilled groups at the bottom of the heap went backwards in nominal terms before even taking the annual inflation rate of 4% into account.
Kitchen staff were the worst paid at $28,831 and went down from $29,625 while waiting staff wages fell to $30,296 from $30,826, caregivers to $30,894 from $31,967, shop assistants to $31,668 from $32,565 and cleaners to $31,704 from $31,964.”
And National wants to strip these workers of their protections against arbitrary employers for the first three months of employment, leaving them to their own devices in a declining job market. It took years for these workers to recover from the full-scale assault under Ruth Richardson & Jenny Shipley, with the ECA/benefit stand-downs delivering a fearful left-right jab. Shameful.
Postscript: Obviously, the Herald haven’t been to Zimbabwe or even the US recently if they think that we have “rampant inflation”. Rampant Heraldese perhaps? What’s their game?
Update: The Standard posts in a similar vein.
Tags: Workers' rights