Bridges v Jones on work-for-the-dole

In Parliament yesterday Simon Bridges question Shane Jones on his proposal for a work-for-the-dole scheme (see Slouches off couches in ‘Work for the Dole’).  Jacinda Ardern joined in, as did Winston Peters whose petty personal attack on Bridges resulted in a reprimand.

“In respect of how many people the programme will deal with, I would point out that it takes 1,250 planters to plant a million trees a day”

“… the first thing that I’ve taken on board is some sage-like counsel: when one front-foots an issue, do not completely shoot one’s own foot.”

“I’m sure that you’ll find there’s a suitable blend of stick and carrot.

To Ardern: “…on matters of nomenclature, what is a name? A rose by any other name is just as sweet.”

 

10. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by his statement, “I am going to take proposals to Cabinet. I’m calling it Work for the Dole”; if so, how many jobs does he expect his programme to create?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Yes, in relation to taking proposals to Cabinet along with the Minister of Employment. In relation to what it will be called, no doubt Cabinet will suitably christen it. In respect of how many people the programme will deal with, I would point out that it takes 1,250 planters to plant a million trees a day. A hundred days’ work—a hundred million a year; times 10—a billion trees.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does he agree with the New Zealand Herald‘s editorial this morning that said his “work scheme deserves a chance” and that “he has the energy and experience to make it work”; and if so, what arguments will he be making to convince his Cabinet colleagues that it’s a good idea?

Hon SHANE JONES: In relation to arguments that I might muster, the first thing that I’ve taken on board is some sage-like counsel: when one front-foots an issue, do not completely shoot one’s own foot.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, does he agree with Barry Soper, who said, “It’s hard to see Jones winning, considering the trade unions are against it.”; and if not, what arguments will he be making to win the unions over?

Hon SHANE JONES: It’s a rather perverse outcome that I should be talking about the unions in my particular role; suffice to say I’m working with the Minister of Employment. Proposals will wend their way through Cabinet, and I’m sure that you’ll find there’s a suitable blend of stick and carrot.

Hon Simon Bridges: What consequences does he think there should be for young people who decline to participate in his programme?

Hon SHANE JONES: Once again, I’m sure that other Ministers belonging to the Cabinet will provide their perspectives and balance my views that I reflect as a Ngāpuhi chief.

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister confirm that we are in total agreement that placing young people in paid, decent employment is an aspiration this Government totally shares?

Hon SHANE JONES: Yes, and on matters of nomenclature, what is a name? A rose by any other name is just as sweet.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, given the seeming consensus on the other side of the House, what is wrong with there being consequences for failing to work?

Hon SHANE JONES: What is wrong is that for nine years, former Ministers on the other side of the House talked a big book and did jack.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Minister backing down on Work for the Dole, meaning many will be destined to meaningless lives on the couch, when he’s spent years on this, and many in the media as well as the general public absolutely agree with him?

Hon SHANE JONES: Once again, prior to Christmas, I’m confident—such a busy schedule in our Cabinet committees—that answers will reveal themselves for the other side of the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister if one of the employment programmes he might contemplate would be training a number of diction trainers so that they could possibly help that member ask questions that are halfway understandable in this House?

Hon SHANE JONES: Not wanting to trivialise—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Sit down! Sit down! You are going to withdraw and apologise, aren’t you?

Hon SHANE JONES: I certainly would never trivialise the House or the House’s man.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon SHANE JONES: I stand, withdraw, and apologise, sir.

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member stands up, and he says, “I withdraw and apologise.”

Hon SHANE JONES: Sir, I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the member’s been absent for some time, but I don’t think his memory’s that bad.

Poverty group: work not a solution, wants ‘unconditional welfare’

In response to the proposal by Shane Jones to get ‘the ne-er do well nephs’ off the couch and into work, Auckland Action Against Poverty says that it will fail to address unemployment.

They suggest that “we need to start thinking towards unconditional welfare and less about work as the solution to unemployment”.

Work-for-the-Dole Will Fail to Address Unemployment

Work-for-the-dole schemes will not lead to training and upskilling of youth, they will instead instill in our young people the idea that low wages and exploitation is all they are worth.

“Work-for-the-dole fails to address the root causes of unemployment and instead allow businesses to profit from poverty,” says Vanessa Cole, Co-ordinator of Auckland Action Against Poverty.

“Work-for-the-dole schemes allow employers to exploit beneficiaries and drive down the conditions of employment more generally.

“These schemes benefit employers, not workers. They allow businesses to have free labour and be subsidised by the government which undermines full-time employment and decent wages.

This is way off on a tangent. Jones was suggesting Government work like planting trees.

“The work-focussed policies of both Labour and National over the past 40 years have led to increased levels of poverty, and have resulted in businesses massively increasing private wealth.

“Work-for-the-dole allows for businesses to continue to make massive amounts of profit while driving down the conditions of employment.

“The nature of work is precarious and insecure. Beneficiaries are being placed in a poverty trap between low benefit payment and low wages frequently moving between the two.

“Work & Income already use work-focussed policy to coerce people into low-waged work which is often temporary and does not increase the wellbeing of the beneficiary.

Low waged work can also be a stepping stone to higher paid work. It’s quite common for young people to start at the bottom and for many of them to work their way up. At least it was.

“Work-for-the-dole schemes internationally have failed to address unemployment and in Australia have actually led to increased joblessness and benefit dependency.

“This is because the job market people are being placed into is inherently insecure and does not offer decent work.

“Both unemployed and employed workers need to have a liveable income. This will actually challenge employers to increase pay and conditions because it removed the coercive incentive to work.

“With the future of work moving more towards precarity, we need to start thinking towards unconditional welfare and less about work as the solution to unemployment.”

So Vanessa Cole is suggesting that unemployed should have “a liveable income” as well as “unconditional welfare”.

She says the work-for-the-dole schemes “internationally have failed to address unemployment” – I’d be interested to hear if unconditional welfare has worked anywhere in the world – but suggests that we should think less about “work as the solution to unemployment”.

Her solution seems to be lots of money with work optional.

Ardern and Jones differ on work-for-dole

On Q&A in the weekend Shane Jones promoted a work-for-dole scheme – see Slouches off couches in ‘Work for the Dole’.

Prime Minister Jacinda is not so keen and says any work initiatives for young people will have to be approved by Cabinet (a number of new Ministers have been promoting policy that hasn’t been ap;proved by Cabinet).

NZH:  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pours cold water on work for the dole

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government’s work scheme to help young people into jobs will not be a work-for-the-dole scheme because they will be paid at least the minimum wage.

And she is not endorsing Regional Development Minister Shane Jones’ wish to compel young beneficiaries into work and cutting their benefit if they refuse, saying Cabinet will work through those details.

Yesterday Jones said he would take four projects to Cabinet for his Working For Your Country scheme before Christmas, which will give beneficiaries a chance to stop “sitting on the couch” and work for minimum wage in industries such as tree planting, riparian planting or developing railway tourism.

“In order to plant one billion trees, in order to deliver on riparian planting, in order to prepare a workforce for recapitalising the railways, the ne’er-do-well nephs will be required to take those jobs,” Jones told the Herald.

“If they are unwilling, then I will spend every thinking and waking moment ensuring they do not fall back on the dole and be permitted to do jack, while the rest of us are out there working.”

But Ardern is not on board with this approach.

…but Ardern told Newstalk ZB this morning that the terminology was wrong because they would be paid a legal wage.

She likened it to Labour’s Ready For Work programme, which targeted 10,000 NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) for six months’ work in Government-supported environmental or community projects.

She did not endorse compelling NEETs to work and cutting their welfare if they refused, saying Labour had not supported compulsion in the past.

Cabinet will work through “the detail of how we encourage take-up”.

Work-for-the-dole had a number of problems, “not least that you’re undercutting people who are in paid employment”.

“If it’s a genuine job, you will be paid a genuine working wage.”

Stuff: Jacinda Ardern backs off work-for-dole scheme, but doesn’t rule out benefit sanctions

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spent her Monday morning managing expectations around Regional Development Minister Shane Jones’ plans to get young unemployed people off the benefit.

While signalling that Jones was speaking about his own ideas rather than Government policy, Ardern wouldn’t rule out benefit sanctions for those who refuse work.

That could be contentious within the Labour caucus, and also with the Greens who promote sanctionless (no questions asked, not pressure) benefits.

1 News: ‘You’re asking me to jump the gun’ – Jacinda Ardern cagey on forcing those on benefits into work

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has backed away from revealing her view on whether beneficiaries should be forced to work for the dole, saying it needed to be decided by a team – not just her.

“I’m not going to pre-empt the decision that has to be made by a collective group of people with all the information in front of us,” she said.

“You’re asking me to jump the gun on a policy announcement.”

Ms Ardern did say that some of the current sanctions on beneficiaries requiring them to seek work are harmful to families.

“Some of them are problematic – some of them actually end up depriving kids of the support they need.”

She said the Ready For Work scheme is not about compelling people to work, but more about “the dignity of work”.

“In the past we’ve had work for the dole schemes where a person will only receive the amount they would on the dole to do a job that is actually a job that would usually attract at least minimum wage,” Ms Ardern said.

“What we are talking about is genuine work, which should lead on to other opportunities, where you would be paid a legal wage.”

Ardern is making a habit of vague statements.

She has a challenge working out a compromise between Jones and his aims, and her own Cabinet. While greens aren’t in Cabinet they may want a say as well.

Slouches off couches in ‘Work for the Dole’

In an interview on Q&A Shane Jones said that he wants to get young people off couches and into work, in what he describes as work-for-dole initiatives. He says that Labour supports the concept but not the name.

One of the key aims as Minister of Regional Economic Development is to get regional and rural unemployed into work, but this will presumably require coordination with the Minister of Employment and the Minister for Social Development.

I’m calling it Work for the Dole. It may be the Work Readiness Kaupapa. But I am not going to remain silent any longer while my young ne’er-do-well nephews in Kaikohe and other places fall victims to the gangs and they’re in Disneyland. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not happening any more.

There could be some delicate balancing between providing incentives and pushing unemployed people into Government work schemes, and what some have criticised as a punitive approach to people on benefits.

SHANE I don’t want people on the unemployment benefit. I don’t want to have to rely on Filipinos to plant my pine trees. These people will be made to go-

CORIN But you’re implying they’re going to be forced to work.

SHANE No, no, please. They’ll be made to go to work, and where it is necessary, to pay them.

This could be challenging, given the resistance by some to move significant distances from their couches to work.

Q&A interview and 1 News report: ‘There will be no more sitting on the couch’ – Shane Jones goes full throttle on work-for-the-dole scheme

The Regional Economic Development Minister announced his proposal in October and says he has held a number of discussions with Labour who are “behind the concept” but admitted they didn’t like the term work-for-the-dole.

“They probably have a slightly different view of the incentives that should be used,” Mr Jones said on TVNZ’s Q+A programme this morning.

Relevant segment of the transcript:

CORIN Give me some examples of how it’s going to benefit a young Kiwi in the regions who’s struggling to get a job, who’s in a depressed area. Tell me how it’s going to help.

SHANE I think that’s a bloody good question, actually. If I take, for example, the $10 million that would be needed to really upgrade connectivity from where, say, the new Hawaiki cable’s going to arrive up to Kaitaia. Unless you have connectivity in the Kaitaias of the world, then the firms that are there aren’t going to flourish, and then that provides an incentive for employment to grow. But I will say something that really bothers me immensely. Throughout New Zealand, we’ve got this category of young men and women called NIETs – not in employment or training. It’s a category that data’s collected from the stats department. Nigh on $60,000 was allocated by Steven Joyce, and for reasons I’ve never fully worked out, not a cracker, a brass razoo, was actually spent. Unless we build programmes actually employing these young men, then the ne’er-do-well nephs are going to disappear consistently-

CORIN So this is the Work for the Dole idea which you raised.

SHANE I love the idea, and by Christmas, I am going to have announced at least four projects. I’ve been counselled by my friends in Labour. They don’t like the term Work for the Dole, and it’s probably going to be called Work Ready.

CORIN What is it? Is it actually work for the dole? Are they going to be working and getting an unemployment benefit?

SHANE Mm. I don’t want people on the unemployment benefit. I don’t want to have to rely on Filipinos to plant my pine trees. These people will be made to go-

CORIN But you’re implying they’re going to be forced to work.

SHANE No, no, please. They’ll be made to go to work, and where it is necessary, to pay them. They’ll have to receive a minimum wage, but there will be no more sitting on the couch.

CORIN How do you force them to do it?

SHANE Just wait and see until my four announcements are out.

CORIN No. Without specifics, it’s a big issue to say you’re going to force those NIETs to actually work.

SHANE Well, I’m not the Minister of Social Welfare, but read my lips – I’m sick and tired of watching the ne’er-do-well nephs sitting on the couch doing nothing, and I, as a Maori politician and a Maori leader, I’m not going to tolerate it any longer. I’m one voice in amongst 20 Cabinet ministers, but read my lips – that is the advocacy I’m going to bring.

CORIN How are you going to get it through Cabinet?

SHANE Yes, it’s obviously a mixture of charm and knowledge, but I’m one of 20.

CORIN Have you talked to your Labour colleagues about this and about how you might be able to do it?

SHANE I’ve had a number of discussions, in fairness to my Labour colleagues, and they’re behind the kaupapa, they’re behind the concept. They probably have a slightly different view of the incentives that should be used, but I’d be nothing other than honest if I didn’t say to you that’s the quality of my advocacy.

CORIN Right, so let’s just be clear here. You are going to push a Work for the Dole scheme through Cabinet. You’re going to try.

SHANE I am going to take proposals to Cabinet. I’m calling it Work for the Dole. It may be the Work Readiness Kaupapa. But I am not going to remain silent any longer while my young ne’er-do-well nephews in Kaikohe and other places fall victims to the gangs and they’re in Disneyland. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not happening any more.