The myth of hiring on merit: James Shaw at the CTU conference

Green co-leader James Shaw announced at the CTU conference last week that in any future government, when the Greens are at the Cabinet table, at least half of their seats will be filled by women.

Cue the #manban headlines.

hermione unimpressed clap

But seriously, Shaw showed some good, clear thinking here on an issue which so often gets swamped with #notallmen whining or #butwhataboutmerit or #reversesexism!!!

Take a look at our current Parliament which is seventy percent male. Or Cabinet, which governs the country, also seventy percent male.

No one seriously thinks all those guys are there because they’re the best of the best, or that they’ve all got so much more merit than any female politicians.

The reality is that it’s a traditionally male institution.

There were legal and social barriers preventing women from entering. And those overt barriers are gone but many subtle barriers remain.

And just to really reach the psyche of ~middle New Zealand~ (I’m joking, James, you’re doing good work here) he goes for the king of metaphors:

I’m going to steal a trick from our friend John Key here – this is his only trick – and use an All Blacks analogy.

Imagine if we had a coach who almost always picked players from only the North Island, or only the South Island to join the squad.

And they said ‘We pick whoever is best for the team,’ but the team kept losing all its matches.

How long would the nation put up with that? I think you could measure it in seconds before everyone said, ‘This is stupid. This isn’t working. You need to pick players from the whole country.’

That’s what’s happened with the representation of women in politics for decades.

And it isn’t working.

It’s trite but it’s true. You have two options: either admit you think women as a group aren’t as good as men as a group, or acknowledge that there are barriers – human-made, inorganic barriers – to women’s advancement on a par with men.

Or as Catherine Delahunty put it:

The right to strike

The right to strike is recognised internationally as a fundamental workers’ right – though it’s not universally respected, like many other basic human rights. Global union IndustriALL notes five reasons why workers need the right to strike:

  1. Striking is a last resort but sometimes the only tool for workers to protect themselves.
  2. To avoid being at the complete mercy of employers.
  3. To give more of a balance between worker and employer power.
  4. Without it, more and more governments will ban industrial action and punish people who dare to strike.
  5. Most strikes are over pay and better working conditions. Without the threat of strike action, corporations will be able to make bigger profits, while working conditions will get worse.

In honour of International Right to Strike Day tomorrow (18 Feb), the CTU is inviting Kiwis to send a message to 20 of New Zealand’s biggest businesses telling them to call out their association’s participation in the global campaign to remove the right to strike.

Back in 2013, National had the nous to trash Jami-Lee Ross’ thoroughly Orwellian-named “Continuity of Labour” Bill, which would have allowed employers to lock out workers and bring in volunteers or contractors to replace them, effectively destroying the power of strike action. The bill was apparently driven up through the National Party’s ranks, and was heavily endorsed by many members – but the government could see it was a step too far, and canned it at first reading in order to get their more “technical” law changes through – including the removal of basic guaranteed rest breaks.

As the third-term desperation sets in, I’m not sure they’d do the same thing again. A fourth term’s never out of the question but with the wheels already falling off the SkyCity “deal” and the Mike Sabin issue denting the PM’s credibility with the press gallery, it’s got to be looking further and further out of reach. So who knows what they’ll try to get through while they’ve got the chance?