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It's been another bad week for the Government. John Key must be feeling some pressure from Phil Goff on rising joblessness.
Hearing abstract employment figures normally goes over the heads of most of us. But there's something scary about learning that 1000 workers each week are now having to sign up for the dole.
Until the change in government we were used to hearing that employment was at record highs. Employers were even screaming for more migrant labour to fill the gaps. It seems amazing that in just a few months our unemployment numbers have reached the highest level this century, with no immediate end in sight.
Unlike other world governments, our Prime Minister and his Cabinet are still true believers in the discredited nonsense that the market will somehow correct itself without any government intervention. Even the United States, where these neo-liberal ideas came from, is pouring massive amounts of public money into the economy to stimulate demand and keep people in work. The last thing they are thinking about is paying off debt. Yet we are moving in the opposite direction: cutting costs and paying off our creditors.
The Treasury made a sensible pre-Budget suggestion that our Government stimulates the economy by giving $1200 each to beneficiaries and superannuitants, on the basis this group would spend it on local goods and services.
I'm sure everyone would have done so and taken pride they were helping save someone else's job. That alone would have done more to protect local jobs then just about anything else. However, it seems ideology and sucking up to international credit agencies is more important.
Laughably, as its concrete example of helping job security, our Government points to its much-heralded subsidy for workers who large employers may otherwise make redundant.
Initially they crowed this would save more than 20,000 jobs. The reality is that after several months and several million dollars, it may possibly save 350 jobs.
That's less than the number of workers who will sign up for the dole on Monday and Tuesday this week. Ironically, unemployment has increased by 20,000 since then.
When Goff mocked the Government over this farcical outcome he must have panicked Key into needing to come up with some meaningful employment initiative. Why else would the Government announce on Thursday a new deal with McDonald's, claiming it would create thousands of new jobs?
Unfortunately for them it's simply not true. The Government is either deliberately misleading us or it is stupid. I have been the union advocate for McDonald's workers for several years and know this scheme is just a rehash of the same deal that McDonald's and others signed up under Labour.
Frankly it's somehow insulting that any government feels it's okay to use taxpayers' money to subsidise a successful private business. It's nothing more than shareholder welfare. In fact in the past year McDonald's and the other fast food companies' profits have increased and all of them are opening up new outlets.
These companies pay the minimum wage and don't have a problem recruiting staff. Their only problem is they can't keep them. Whoever in McDonald's managed to persuade the Government to give them our money deserves a bonus. But I'd be interested to know how much tax money we intend to pour into the coffers of the golden arches to pay for things McDonald's would do anyway as part of its normal business.
It seems the only post-Job Summit initiative the Government has come up with is paying McDonald's to train its staff to flip burgers. Like the bike trail, it seems more of a public relations gimmick.
I can't help feeling the Government's employment strategy consists of crossing their fingers and hoping for the best.