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Long-term Unemployed Given Work Or Lose Dole Jolt

Howard's End

Long-term Unemployed Given Shift Or Lose It Jolt

By Maree Howard

While Labour politicians prance the world's stage lauding New Zealand's human rights record while condemning American for its invasion of Iraq with no UN mandate, at home the Government's new "Jobs Jolt" policy announced yesterday, has flushed international law in the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights down the toilet. Maree Howard writes.

Shift or lose the dole was Social Services Minister Steven Maharey's message to beneficiaries yesterday - and that looks like including those who are also sick or an invalid.

But Article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights says;

(1) "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right."

(2) "The steps to be taken by a State Party to the present Convenant to achieve the full realisation of this right shall include technical and vocational guidance and training programmes, policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment under conditions safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual."

"....safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual" and what about " which he freely chooses or accepts..." Oh, Really!

Now the Court's have already said that when New Zealand signs-up to UN Covenants, Conventions, Treaties and Declarations it creates a legal obligation because it signals to the world and to its own people that it intends to abide by them.

OK, so let's look at a scenario.

Jim and Jenny are both aged 56, and they've both been made redundant from their job's in, say, Auckland. One worked in Government and the other worked in private enterprise.

They've both got good skills and experience but they still couldn't get another job. Probably through age discrimination what is pandemic in this country.

Their homes are freehold but it's simply costing too much to live on the dole. They decide to sell up and move to a lower-cost region to survive - there are thousands who have done this. But they've both been unsuccessful in getting work in their lower-cost region.

Now Mr Maharey changes the rules and says:" In some cases, it will mean for a person whose shifted to a small area where they can't get a job that we've tried our best for them but we know there's a job somewhere else, then they're going to have to take it."

OK Mr Maharey, how does that meet New Zealand's international legal obligation to ensure that people must be able to "freely choose or accept" a job?

And will the Government pay the difference in detriment if Jim amnd Jenny have to then sell their home at a loss in the lower-cost region and move to a higher-cost area. If not, why not?

There is a fundamental principle in New Zealand's legal and democratic system and that is - "Equality under the law" Are some New Zealander's now going to be treated unequally by the Government?, Mr Maharey

And will you guarantee that their wage in this forced job will be a liveable wage - or is this "Job's Jolt" policy just a ploy to force down wages for all New Zealand workers across the board.

And let's look at Jack the painter who is aged 57.

He's got severe arthritis in his knee and he can't kneel or climb ladders anymore to paint. Jack's dying to get back to work but he's on a sickness benefit to survive.

But there's one more problem for him. His doctor referred him to the hospital but four surgeon's have said they won't operate and give him a knee replacement because - wait for it - he's too young. They say 60 would be the age to do it.

Can you believe that?

It seems that a knee replacement lasts for about 15 years and then has to be done again. So, rather than do it now and help Jack to return to work and a less painful life, the surgeon's have said wait until you are a bit older - presumably, because by the time it has to be done again in 15 years he will be close to being dead so why have to do it twice - let's wait awhile.

So Jack still resides on the sickness benefit, desperately wanting to work , but can't. Is Jack being helped by "the system" - Nah!

He's apparently been to his Labour-list MP in the Wairarapa but no joy. Who cares about Jack? - nobody it seems.

The purpose of the law is not to cause justice to reign - the purpose of the law is to prevent injustice from reigning. This so-called 'progressive' Labour Government needs to learn that lesson.

Ho Hum, it looks like the Court's and the Social Welfare appeals tribunal's will become even more over-burdened.

Personally, I don't believe there are major skills shortages at all. Sure, there are shortages in some - and I repeat some - areas, but it's not generic across New Zealand's working population. Otherwise why are 40 and 50 year old's still crying out for jobs

A tax cut across the board to get New Zealand growing again might have been a better solution rather than a cynical attempt to introduce a policy to drive wages down - because, in my view, that's what this new policy will do.

And no people, I'm not receiving any benefit whatsoever so I have no self-interest in this. I just despise injustice.

© Scoop Media

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