COMMENT:

I've got to say I'm surprised by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's attack on The Warehouse today.

She's said publicly that she's "angry" at the red shed bosses for proposing to cut more than a 1000 jobs when she and her Government (according to her) are prioritising keeping as many individuals employed as possible.

The Warehouse group of course also took nearly $68 million from the wage subsidy scheme.

Advertisement

Now I'm guessing that the PM has made a political decision here to do a Shane Jones and try on a bit of big-business-bashing retail politics - but that was a bad call politically.

READ MORE:
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern 'angry' at The Warehouse for axing more than 1000 jobs
The Warehouse to shut North Shore store, 40 staff affected
Covid 19 coronavirus: Warehouse Group proposes axing more than 1000 jobs
Kmart makes move on central Dunedin site Warehouse plans to vacate

Ardern's not Shane Jones wallowing at 2.7 per cent in the polls and desperate for a headline.

She's the Prime Minister - and prime ministerial attacks on businesses should be meted out very infrequently, if ever at all

Already, the PM has a long list of calling out business: The Warehouse, Burger Fuel and Air New Zealand. And that's all just within this Covid crisis.

Yes, this might play favourably with voters at the moment because of the rally-around-the-flag sentimentalism and because plenty of voters don't understand business and seem to think the wage subsidy was intended for The Warehouse itself rather than the workers

But the PM should know better than that.

What she's done here is betray her own fundamental let's-all-work-four-days-a-week lack of understanding of what drives business. She's complained that The Warehouse should prioritise staff higher and focus less on the shareholder.

Advertisement

Well that's not how business works. Businesses are not charities.

The business sense behind that is deeply flawed. Sometimes it's better to cut 100 jobs and save 900 for example, than to keep all 1000 on, risk the business itself - and then lose them all eventually anyway.

Through this public rebuke Ardern's also essentially warned other big businesses to be careful about redundancies lest they also earn one too.

I tell you what, what I'm hearing from those involved in big business in this country is a deep frustration with this Government, their lack of understanding and their tin ear to pleas.

And what just happened will not make that better.

We're going into an economic downturn and we are going to look to and lean on big business to help us out of this.

Advertisement

It'd be in the Government's interests to keep them as friends, not make enemies out of them.

Bad call politically to keep this up.

• Tune into Heather Du Plessis-Allan Drive, 4pm-7pm weekdays on Newstalk ZB.