Monday, December 01, 2014

The future of work

Today Andrew Little, Leader of the Opposition, gave a speech about what he says will be “a signature piece of work for the parliamentary Labour Party over the next two years”: The future of work. It was a very good speech.

I have the benefit of almost always reading such speeches rather than watching them, as I did this time. I think it’s a benefit because I can consider carefully what’s said, but then also go back and double check that I heard correctly, or to easily quote from it for this blog.

But whether watched or read, such speeches have moments or phrases that particularly resonate for is. In this case, for me, one was this: “We’ve forgotten our economy is meant to be about people, and as a result more and more people are being left out. Their efforts aren’t being rewarded.” This is both a description of what’s gone wrong, as well as a reflection of core Labour Party values. I appreciate it on both scores.

But the speech was much more than that—it was also a commitment to the people of New Zealand, to understand what they want and to fight for them. It begins with the realisation that the nature of work has already changed, and is continuing to do so. Any government that bases its economic policies on what’s been true for the past 25 years—or ten—cannot hope to deliver for workers in this century.

So, Andrew Little announced that “Labour will establish a Future of Work Commission to work with New Zealanders over the next two years to develop policies for creating more jobs, creating better jobs, and getting New Zealand ready for the economic challenges of the next twenty years.” They’re going to consult widely, and will listen to ordinary New Zealanders, as well as experts, academics, business leaders—in short, everyone who has a stake in preparing us to deal with the changing nature of work.

This is something that only Labour—founded as the party of labour—can do. National is too laissez faire when it comes to economics, to willing to let “the market” deliver—well, whatever it wants to. All to often this hands-off approach has meant rising inequality, lowered opportunities and increasing poverty. Labour is far better suited to do something to actually start to fix the problem, and not just pretend there’s nothing wrong.

Andrew Little’s speech was a good start on focusing Labour on re-connecting with ordinary hard-working New Zealanders, while remaining committed to core Labour Party values.

I look forward to seeing what’s next.

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