The future of jobs and the role of unions big issues.

It was a tale of two speeches in Auckland yesterday for the Labour Party's new leader.

In the morning, it was Andrew Little, a leader for everyone. In a carefully crafted speech to business leaders, he presented Labour as the party for the future, be it unionist, non-unionist, individual contractor, small business operator, chief executive (only the fair ones), techno-entrepreneur, in fact for every person who earns a living honestly and is not a currency trader for Merrill Lynch.

In the afternoon, it was Andrew Little unplugged and strident at the Unite Union conference, an off-the-cuff speech to the low paid, the exploited and the militant.

The tangible policy from the morning speech was a commission headed by finance spokesman Grant Robertson to look at the future of work and base an economic plan on it.


The strong signal from Mr Little was that Labour must represent all working people, in all their manifestations, not just working-class people, although the word "class" was not mentioned.

It was an accident of timing that on the very day he was signalling the party needed to modernise its cloth-cap image, he should be invited to speak at Unite, the most militant of modern unions. There were liberal references to "mate" and "brother" from Mr Little in the question session that followed.

"Will Labour outlaw zero-hour contracts?" one delegate asked directly. Getting rid of them is a new campaign for Unite.

Mr Little had already criticised zero-hour contracts in the morning speech as a disturbing trend.

"Zero-hour contracts" give employers the right to tell employees from week to week how many hours they will be working, if any at all - hence the word zero.

Watch: Little: Key 'Cannot tell a straight story'