Greens propose Minister of Manufacturing

Green co-leader James Shaw has announced that the green Party “will establish a Minister of Manufacturing in Cabinet”. They would need at least Labour’s support to do this and Labour has indicated they would back it.

A Minister for Manufacturing

To better represent the interests of manufacturers and ensure they thrive.

The Green Party will establish a Minister for Manufacturing in Cabinet, to better represent the interests of manufacturers and ensure they thrive.

This announcement is about creating well-paid, clean-tech jobs for the future, right here in New Zealand.

I wonder what their position would be on less well paid, less clean-tech jobs.

Manufacturing innovation is a critical part of our transition to a clean, low-carbon economy.

For manufacturing to thrive and take advantage of new technologies like 3D printing, we need leadership across the whole sector now. National hasn’t shown this leadership. We hear more from National about deep sea oil drilling and dairy farming than we do about clean-tech, high value-added manufacturing.

High-value manufacturers create well-paid jobs and enable us, as a country, to earn our way in the world.

Shaw gave more details in an email:

‘Made in New Zealand’ is a label that says a lot about quality and value. A strong and successful manufacturing sector is essential for a high-value, clean-tech economy – creating new jobs and raising incomes.

I’ve just announced that, when we’re in Government, we’ll appoint a Minister for Manufacturing.

Currently, manufacturing is the second largest sector in the country, employing 244,500 people and contributing $22.7 billion in GDP. And, it is an important part of our future. Aotearoa New Zealand’s ability to make the transition to a clean, low-carbon economy will depend on innovation in the manufacturing sector.

But this is also a time of huge risk to the sector. New technologies offer incredible promise but also carry the threat of displacing jobs on a massive scale.

Now, more than ever, we need leadership – at the top table – to get ahead of these trends, to take advantage of the opportunities and to manage the risks.

The National Government has got a Minister of Racing at the Cabinet table – but no Minister for Manufacturing. Around that Cabinet table, they have overseen the loss of 17,500 jobs in the manufacturing sector.

The Green Party will provide leadership in Government to turn this around and build up good, well-paying jobs.

The manufacturing sector needs an advocate at the highest levels of government, securing a fairer share of government resources, to ensure the sector thrives, diversifies, and adds value to our exports.

I believe that New Zealand can be an amazing place to do business and a great place to make great products again

Last term Greens with Labour (and Mana Party and NZ First)  had an inquiry into manufacturing that resulted in Manufacturing: The New Consensus A Blueprint for Better Jobs and Higher Wages(PDF)

There was union involvement in this, with E tū saying that they drove it:

In 2012 we drove the Parliamentary Inquiry into Manufacturing, convened by Labour, the Greens, NZ First and Mana in response to the manufacturing crisis in New Zealand.

The final report recommended strong government action on the high New Zealand dollar at the time, buying Kiwi made and investing in research and development to drive innovation.

And the First Union applauds Green’s manufacturing announcement:

A union representing working people in the wood, textile and food sections of the manufacturing industry is applauding Green co-leader James Shaw’s announcement that the party will appoint a Minister for Manufacturing in a future government the party is a part of.

‘New Zealand needs a manufacturing industry that offers secure work and well-paying jobs. But the sector has been taking a hit after years of neoliberal policies. In the last few months our union has been dealing with dozens of redundancies in the textile industry,’ said FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid.

‘A Minister for Manufacturing is good for working people and good for business. We need an economy that works for everyone and that means growing the manufacturing sector. Not everyone wants to be an IT consultant.’

‘FIRST Union has been advocating for a Minister for Manufacturing for several years, most recently at the Green, Labour and New Zealand First’s “Manufacturing Inquiry” in 2013.’

So the Green proposal seems to be a joint Green/Labour/union policy.

However at the time of the inquiry  manufacturing performance in New Zealand improved and has remained at some of the best levels for the past ten years according to the Business NZ Performance of Manufacturing Index for New Zealand.

The sector has been in expansion in almost all months since October 2012. Manufacturing PMI in New Zealand averaged 53.11 from 2002 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 62.77 in June of 2004 and a record low of 36.08 in November of 2008.

Here is the Manufacturing PMI for the last 10 years.

ManufacturingPMY10yrsJune2016

Why do we need a Ministry of Manufacturing other than to promote Green and Union policies?

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Union wants 40% wage increase

Perhaps unable to negotiate higher wages with employers the FIRST union wants the government to do their work for them by increasing the minimum wage 40% to $20.65 by 2018.

One News reports Union wants a 40 per cent minimum wage boost.

The FIRST union, which advocates for 27,000 finance, industrial, retail, stores and transport workers wants the current rate of $14.75 increased to $20.65 in 2018.

It wants the government to hike the rate in three steps, starting with a $1.75 rise to $16.50 this year.

“A 25 cent or 50 cent increase won’t cut the mustard for working people and their families,” said the union’s general secretary Robert Reid.

He says the increase in the wage would help boost and cut inequality.

Reid wants these stepped changes to the minimum wage:

  • Current – $14.75
  • This year – $16.50
  • 2017 – $18.46
  • 2018 – $20.65

Perhaps this is in response to and despair at Labour announcing they want to pile money into free tertiary education, which is targeted at a different demographic to many of the First union members.

Union members are not seen as being in the magic middle New Zealand vote bucket.

FIRST Union (Wikipedia):

FIRST Union is a national trade union in New Zealand that was formed on 1 October 2011 by the merger of the National Distribution Union and Finsec.

FIRST has a membership of more than 26,000 and is affiliated with the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions. It is also affiliated to various international federations through its five sectors; Finance, Industrial (Textile, Clothing, Baking, Wood, Energy), Retail, Stores (distribution and logistics) and Transport.

FIRST is not affiliated with the New Zealand Labour Party, but former NDU secretary Laila Harré did serve as leader of the Internet Party in 2014.