On Firstline this morning, John Key tried to compare National’s and Labour’s policies by saying “You can’t grow the economy when you restrict labour laws.” His meaning is clear: Labour’s policies on work and wages won’t grow the economy, National’s will.
It’s not just a nonsense, it’s scary.
Ignore the fact that raising the minimum wage, as Labour will, doesn’t cost jobs and can actually help companies expand markets. Ignore the fact that inequality is lower and the middle class are better off when unions are stronger in the workplace. Ignore the fact that Labour’s policy for manufacturing is in line with the best thinking worldwide for building a strong economy on a foundation of complex value-added products which support high-paid, skilled jobs.
What John Key is saying is, “Hey, hardworking New Zealanders. You know how you keep getting more productive even though your wages don’t keep up? Under my government, you’ll get more of that, and as long as companies have record profits and their CEOs keep inflating the ‘average wage’ I’ll say it’s good news.”
It’s not just unrealistic, it’s pessimistic – if you assume Key means what he says. Here are some other ways of looking at it:
“We can’t grow the economy if your boss has to pay you enough to live with dignity.”
“We can’t grow the economy if you’re protected from being fired for no reason in your first 3 months on the job.”
“We can’t grow the economy if you’re allowed to have a tea break.”
“We can’t grow the economy if you join unions and bargain for decent pay rises.”
No wonder Bill English couldn’t come up with a single new idea to boost our economy; apparently the only way National knows how to make growth happen is by grinding hardworking New Zealanders further down into the mud.