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Invest in workers

Invest in workers

New Zealand’s economy is feeling the effects of more than a decade of failure to invest in the skills of its workforce, says the country’s largest union.

EPMU national secretary Andrew Little said that a Ministry of Economic Development paper out today highlighted the fact that New Zealand needed to improve its productivity levels.

“This news should hardly surprise us,” Mr Little said.

“In the 1990s we ignored human capital. Not only did we dump the highly successful apprenticeship system of training, we also adopted a low-wage incomes policy. Real wages have fallen and many of our most skilled workers have moved overseas to get better pay and conditions.”

Mr Little said that employers were now having real trouble recruiting and retaining skilled labour.

“Strenuous efforts need to be made to ensure the current momentum in workplace training and industry skills is maintained,” he said.

“However, employers must also now recognise that there is a premium attached to retaining and recruiting skilled labour – including higher wages and good and fair workplace relationships.”

“Employers have a choice between panic reactions to the situation or to work constructively with responsible unions.”

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