Dita De Boni 's Opinion

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: Just happy to be here

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What, ask for a bigger share? Sorry, but that just isn't the Kiwi way of doing things. Illustration / Anna Crichton
What, ask for a bigger share? Sorry, but that just isn't the Kiwi way of doing things. Illustration / Anna Crichton

My first line of work and first love, vocationally speaking, is journalism, and it is the job I hope to return to one day.

However, like many jobs with ambitious goals that tend to ignore decent hours, it is hard - some might say almost impossible - to combine with the grungy graft of motherhood.

And so, like many of my ilk, I have been forced to seek employment around the fringes of journalism, and it is in these roles that I have learnt some interesting things about the heart of the New Zealand worker.

Several months ago I finished up editing a magazine designed for the staff of Telecom New Zealand. It was a magazine that canvassed some of the issues of the day, profiled workers who did exceptional things, like row the Indian Ocean, and explained some otherwise indecipherable business jargon ("Can I stir-fry an idea in your think wok?" for example).

The daily battering ram that was negative media coverage of Telecom continued outside, while the company continued its daily machinations inside, but it never failed to amaze me how many Telecom employees truly believed they worked for the greatest company ever.

There were the cynical ones of course, but the average worker who talked to me did nothing but wax lyrical.

And communications with workers at other corporate workplaces have generally been the same. Not that these workers are treated particularly badly compared with the rest of New Zealand. To the contrary. And yet, even their actual wages don't come anywhere near those of their offshore counterparts.

As someone coming from media workplaces, I can't relate. Journalists are an uber-cynical bunch, never feel they are paid well enough, and a group gathered together to give their thoughts on their workplace would produce comments ranging all the way from bitchy to moany.

But it seems New Zealanders in general have no tolerance whatsoever for those who would like to improve a sub-optimal workplace. The idea that pay rates don't go anywhere near keeping up with the rate of inflation appears to waft over our heads like so much smog.

That large amounts of corporate wealth are repatriated offshore doesn't seem to bother those who are more keen to finish early on Fridays and take a few days off either side of Waitangi weekend.

Wanting and demanding more seems ungrateful somehow; wrong. And so we see mass public hostility to the striking Ports of Auckland workers, and indifference at the plight of the rest home and meat works schlubs. A general happiness about getting whatever we can get, a few ideas about how to engender better growth that get talked around in circles, but no real demand to hold politicians to account for their economic decision-making. Lots of approving of entrepreneurial spirit, but no appetite to really back those who have it. And a widespread lack of financial literacy.

It's interesting to note that the latest economic forecasts suggest over 2 per cent growth on an annual basis, with growth of 3.2 per cent in 2014. And yet wages will only grow by 1 per cent each year after the increase in living costs is factored in.

Whether this 1 per cent will be enough to keep New Zealanders in both small and large businesses happy and productive enough is yet to be seen. Happy, probably; productive, perhaps - but maybe staying positive is the right way to go.

After all, unless you see yourself mining in Western Australia for the foreseeable future, you might be just lucky enough to keep hold of the job you already have.

ON SHOW
Illustrator Anna Crichton, whose work graces this page every week, is holding an open studio with original works on sale from $30 to $150, as part of the West Artists Open Studio Weekend. Tomorrow only, March 24, at 25 Kopiko Road, Titirangi.

- NZ Herald

Dita De Boni

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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