As we emerge from the COVID crisis, Working Life asks Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff how we should rebuild for a brighter future
We want to emerge from COVID better than we went into it. There has been too much inequality and we have had too many people in precarious work. We also need safer sick leave standards for everyone.
We need to look more broadly at our economy, to build industries we need, and retire industries we don’t. Economies that are doing well take a planned approach and put people first.
To ensure a Just Transition we want people to be supported through those changes, with the provision of social insurance and training for those who are made redundant .
It’s easy politically to put everything back to what it was, but we need to be courageous.
The CTU has been part of a Future of Work Forum with Government and Business NZ. What can you tell us about those talks and how COVID has affected the discussion?
The tripartite forum was established 18 months ago to look at significant changes coming in the world of work, due to climate change, technology, and globalisation. COVID has really accelerated the need to get our heads around that.
How do we transform New Zealand to a high skill, high wage, low carbon economy that produces good things for people – that meets social needs through social infrastructure and public services.
We also need an economy that has good work for people. Work should be a place for people to gain a sense of value and pride.
The Forum has jointly proposed industry training and transformation, and social insurance. There’s been good dialogue, even if we don’t agree on all the details.
What’s your view on the Government’s economic response to COVID-19 so far?
We welcome the Government’s continued commitment to wellness and the scale of the $50 billion recovery response. It needs to be massive.
We support investment in protecting jobs by extending the wage subsidy, and creating new opportunities for people through training and apprenticeships.
But we need to do more, including a social insurance model like ACC, where when you go off work sick you still receive 80 percent of your salary.
The benefit system is too tough. We must do more to ensure that those receiving benefits can live a decent life. We need to bring in the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group.
It’s time to break from a business-centred approach to involve a wider range of people, including unions, business and Māori, so we all have a say in where we are going and how we will get there.
To support the CTU campaign on sick leave go to www.together.org.nz/safer-sick-leave