Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Shearer waves flag of patriotism

Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Getty Images
Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Getty Images

Labour leader David Shearer is beating the patriotism drum, repeatedly using the word in a speech in which he set out new policies, including giving jobs to New Zealanders rather than cheaper migrants.

In a speech in Christchurch yesterday, Mr Shearer said the rebuild of the city was an opportunity to employ and train NZ workers but there was a risk it would be squandered because of cheaper migrant labour.

He used the word "patriotic" five times during the speech, in which he set out new policies, including making it harder for employers to take on migrant workers and ensuring migrants could not undercut NZ workers on wages and conditions.

Another "patriotic" policy was to make it easier for domestic businesses to get Government contracts over overseas companies even if it cost more.

Mr Shearer said although there was a need for migrant workers in some sectors and in the rebuild of Christchurch, "we also have a responsibility to New Zealanders who need work and skills".

"I want to be confident the rebuild isn't used as an opportunity to bring in workers prepared to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the minimum wage simply to undercut competitors."

He said that had been seen in the aged-care sector and foreign fishing charter vessels. "We need to be patriotic, because the other option is a one-way ticket to Australia."

He also said current requirements for employers to try to find New Zealand workers before migrants were lax and often only required a boss to show it had been advertised.

Instead, Labour would require bosses to work with agencies, industry groups and Work and Income before approval was given to employ a migrant. Immigration NZ could also force employers to train New Zealand workers in return for being allowed to bring in migrant labour.

He said Labour would also make it easier for local companies to get Government contracts, following the example of countries such as Singapore, Australia and the United States.

The changes would mean that local businesses could beat cheaper international bids if there were wider benefits other than price, such as job creation.

Another policy would include requiring businesses with Government contracts to train one apprentice for every $1 million investment.

Mr Shearer said that policy would start off in the construction sector and extend to others where it was considered useful.

'Patriotic' policies
Require employers to actively work with agencies and industries to find New Zealand workers before they can get approval for migrant workers.

Prevent the use of migrant workers to undercut wages.

Require employers with migrant workers to also train NZ workers.

Require businesses with Government contracts to train workers (initially only in the construction sector).

Benefits other than price to be considered when giving out Government contracts, such as job creation.

Tenderers have to provide list of NZ suppliers used.

- NZ Herald

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