What David Cunliffe told the CTU conference.
You got the sanitised version in the straight press.
Here is what really went down.
Cunliffe to Combined Trade Unions' Conference: unabridged.
9 Oct 2013
I want to acknowledge Helen Kelly, president of the CTU, national secretary Peter Conway, vice president Richard Wagstaff and Māori vice president Syd Keepa. I want to acknowledge and thank all of the affiliated unions and the non-affiliated unions and to reaffirm that as Labour Leader I am here as a totally committed advocate for the capitalist class.
This is one of my first speeches to your crowd, and I want to recognise and thank union offices for your strong support in giving me the opportunity to grandstand here today and hopefully together you can help elect me in just twelve short months’ time.
I want to acknowledge the work of the CTU on the Fairness at Work campaign and particularly on the issue, with the Service Workers and others, of precarious work. We Labour Party mps, employed at the whim of the electorate well understand the nature of precarious work and appreciate your efforts to keep us in close proximity to the big trough.
Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen ( excuse the rather dated and clumsy form of address there, I really don't have the faintest idea what union people call each other these days) during the Labour leadership race I sloganeered about fair labour laws, decent work and better wages.
Today I want to tell you why I believe that task is crucial, what we plan to deliver in Government and how I believe the vague notion of fairness at work is sometimes a handy ideological tool to build a profitable capitalist economy.
Too many New Zealand families are being wrecked by unemployment and by the pressures that are brought about by low wage and insecure work. Not nearly as many as the 4th Labour government hammered, but still, quite a few.
There are few things that can be worse than losing a job or the fear of losing your home, the indignity of not being able to support your family, the uprooting of children from school as you chase lower rents. One of those few things is losing the support of the union bureaucracy just before an election, so hear me out if you will.
From my car window I've fleetingly seen overcrowding in my electorate, where families who have lost jobs are forced to move in with relatives and where we have, apparently,three, four, five children sharing a bedroom because there just isn’t a place for them.
I’ve seen families living in garages and it’s got to stop. One solution would be to kill the families, but that would be socially unacceptable. Hey - lighten up - that was just a little joke. Capitalism requires one of its more extreme forms to impose that quick solution. Anyway, this is not just an Auckland problem. It’s a Kawerau problem, it’s a regional problem, it’s a problem in South Dunedin, where I was yesterday. It’s an all of New Zealand problem. Yes, it is, have you looked in every garage in Remuera and can testify no down on their luck millionaire inhabits one? I thought not.
It’s a city problem and a regional problem. It’s a crisis for the unemployed, it’s a crisis for those in low-wage jobs and it’s also a crisis for the many thousands of New Zealanders who consider themselves to be in reasonably good jobs but who are still struggling to pay the bills.
People who are having to work two or three jobs to make ends meet and who aren’t seeing their kids and their families are under stress.
I want to recognise people like Soesfina Masoe and her husband Salio, who do hard, dirty work cleaning the Police College for just $14.10 an hour.
They work hard. They want the best for their kids. But they aren’t paid enough to make ends meet and their work is insecure.
Soesfina Masoe and her husband Salio are in the same position that workers cleaning our parliamentary offices have been in for years. Mischievous agitators with time on their hands sometimes ask why Labour didn't fix during all the years when last in office. Well, of course the answer to that is so blindingly obvious that it scarcely needs repeating, so away and on to my next point.
Everybody who is working in New Zealand should be able to support a family in dignity.
If you are not aware, Dignity is a smelly little Third world country with fire risk sweatshops and no plumbing. ( Just another little joke there. As if Labour gave a shit about foreign grunts. Back to New Zealand.)
Every New Zealander ought to be able to participate fully in society. We don’t want to live in a country where half the wealthiest New Zealanders don’t even declare themselves on the top tax rate while thousands of families are struggling to feed the quarter of a million children growing up beneath the poverty line. Yes, I'm aware that the rich list grew faster under the previous Labour government. And that the rich poor gap increased faster then too. I just said we don't want to live in such a country. But if the alternative is communism, and, at the end of the day it is, then, want to or not, we'll just adapt to living in such a country.
The ability to get a job, to work hard and earn a fair wage and get ahead is a non-negotiable part of the Kiwi dream.
Have any of you ever had a non- negotiable dream? I can't believe my speech writer stuck that nonsense in. It's a line from one of my poems? Well ok, that's alright then.
And as I go around New Zealand, this is not just an issue for the unemployed.
This is not just an issue for the lowest paid.
As I travel the regions, I see the pain of our widening gaps written on the faces of New Zealanders everywhere.There, that's a better purple prose passage. Even if it suggests we are all suffering equally. Actually its meant to do that. Hear on and you'll see the higher up the chain the tougher life gets.
It’s an issue for middle New Zealand too. People in good jobs and supposedly reasonable incomes who can’t – maybe for the first time -- pay their power bills, struggle to meet the rising cost of food and can’t afford to rent or buy in the overheated Auckland property market.
It’s time we realised this is not just a low-paid worker’s problem, this is a rich people's problem - sorry - I mean its a New Zealand’s problem, and as the leader of the New Zealand Labour Party I commit to you it is a problem we are going to tackle it head-on.
The Labour Government I lead in just one year will deal to low pay.
Labour will immediately raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Why did we not heed Unite union when they demanded that very increase years ago?
Oh just shut up will you. No, I'm not getting into a slanging match just so you can score an academic point. Thanks Helen.
It is not acceptable to have a minimum wage set as low as $13.75 and we will seek further increases to the minimum wage on an annual basis as the country can afford. Afford is the operative word.
We will support the campaign for a Living Wage for all New Zealanders.
Labour will lead by example. We will get our own house in order by ensuring that the Living Wage is paid to every person first working in the core public service.
The cost of this policy has been estimated at around $30 million per annum. We will further refine this and include it in our first Budget. The refinement process may shave a few dollars off what you finish up with in the hand, but it will be affordable.
As we can afford, within a programme of responsible fiscal management, we will seek to extend the Living Wage across crown entities including the health system and the aged care sector. Seek to.
We will also seek to use the purchasing power of the state to create incentives for private sector employers who can become certified Living Wage employers. A bit more of the surplus value that you created will go back to the bosses. Don't bother trying to understand that stuff, its a bit hard and boring.
I know that many employers already believe that this will pay off in terms of the productivity, commitment and retention of their staff and I commend those who are already on board. In fact I commend all employers, and trust that they will see through this next bit.
A Labour Government I lead will scrap National’s unfair employment law changes -- in the first hundred days.
There will be no more fire at will without even an explanation.
There will be no more attacks on collective bargaining, giving employers the right to opt out of good faith process.
There will be no more attacks on vulnerable workers.
There will be no more taking away smokos and lunch breaks.
Under the Labour Government I lead, John Key’s attacks on workers will be gone by lunchtime.
Labour will implement a new employment relations framework based on industry standard agreements whereby working New Zealanders have a real choice to get together and negotiate better pay and conditions with their employers.
We will restore the protections for our most vulnerable workers currently contained in Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act.
We will work to ensure pay equity because there should be not only a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, but the same pay for the same work regardless of gender.
And I commend the work of the Service and Food Workers Union and Kristine Bartlett for taking their landmark case.
We recognise that very often it is women who bear the primary responsibility for childcare. Labour will extend paid parental leave to a minimum of 26 weeks, as set out in Sue Moroney’s Member’s Bill.
We will scrap youth rates because they violate the principle of equal pay for equal work.
And none of that "look- what -could- we -do -we- only- had -three- years" crap.
All the deeds done and dusted before lunchtime.
We may have to pass an Abolition of Lunchtime bill under urgency, but I am sure unions will be mature enough understand that.
The Labour Government I lead will turn back the tide of anti-worker legislation that has been flowing from the Key Government for the last five years.
We will be a Government for all New Zealanders. We'll just govern some classes a bit differently to others.
We will be a true red Labour Party, not a pale blue one. What does that mean concretely, in practice?
Well, when National says they are going to cut workers off at the knees, workers don’t want to hear from us that we would too, just slightly nearer the ankles and with more anaesthetic. So we'll just do it and make sure they don't hear from us about it.
The Labour Party is part of the Labour movement. National is part of the bowel movement. Their dumb arse commitment to keeping superannuation at 65 for all will get our country in the shit.
New Zealand needs a strategic shift in economic management from a cost-based strategy that treats workers as commodities whose cost is to be minimised, to one that sees workers as an integral part of a system that creates high value products and services that can provide a good life for all. Sounds impressive eh? Just means we say we'll be nicer to you and everyone will love each other.
But how did National stuff up so bad?
The current Government has confused low cost and high value. John Key appears to know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.
National has confused increasing the volume of primary commodity production across agriculture and petroleum with a strategy that seeks to add more value to everything we produce.
There is a physical limit to the number of cows we can milk. There is no limit to the amount of science, branding and value we can bring to each bucket. Mind you, we're not about to limit the number of cows being milked as long as there's a buck in it.
So, anyway moving the economy to a cost-based strategy to a value-based strategy requires investment in a highly skilled, highly productive workforce.
No, sorry, I can't be more specific than that.
We will be releasing more details of our economic and regional development strategies nearer to the election.
But today I want to reaffirm to you that we are not just supporting fairness at work with decent work and decent wages because your members like the sound of that. We also believe it is an essential part of a pathway to a high value, high skill economy.
In other words it all comes back to the capitalist economy, which is ours, all ours thank you very much. Don't forget that.
Under a Labour Government I lead, we will build a stronger economy and we will make sure working New Zealanders get a fair share of the benefits. Feckless, unemployed, retired, school age and disabled New Zealanders will get an unfair share.
We want an economy that works for all New Zealanders, not just for foreign multinationals and the wealthiest few. Also for local multinationals and the slightly less wealthy. People like me.
New Zealand will get a new beginning. Kiwis will get their country back. From where, from when, from who? Never mind. And the labour movement will get a Labour Government that will move quickly and decisively to restore fairness and decency to work. Your troops can have all the high sounding abstractions they can swallow.
Our Labour team is gearing up to deliver on these commitments.
We have expanded our Labour portfolio team to include Andrew Little as labour spokesperson, with Darien Fenton and Carol Beaumont taking substantial delegations. Goody twoshoes loyal union office Labourites all, who were rewarded with nice Labour party seats in the house.
See what you get if you behave?
Ok, go thou, and do likewise.