Pacific Nations Adopt New Zealand’s 90s Model
Pacific Nations Adopt New Zealand’s 90s Model – With Similar Results
The radical reforms imposed on New Zealand’s state sector in the late ‘80s and early 90s are being introduced in other Pacific nations with disastrous effects, say delegates at a conference of public service unions taking place in Auckland this week.
The Public Service International Oceania regional conference was attended by leaders of public service associations from Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. They shared their experiences of the consequences of privatisation, deregulation and globalisation on their countries.
Most reported lower living standards and the removal of employment rights through individual contracts. Job losses through restructuring have led to increased emigration levels in smaller nations, some losing almost half their population in recent years. Those who are working do so for longer hours and less reward.
In many smaller Pacific nations, government has been the main employer, said Paul Slape, secretary of the Australia Services Union and convenor of PSI Oceania. “Without the private infrastructure in place, restructuring is simply leading to high unemployment and the erosion of labour standards. It is undermining communities and breaking down social cohesion.”
Conference attendees agreed that it was not realistic for their nations to isolate themselves from the effects of living in a global economy. “Indeed they welcome benefits such as better communication and access to education and information. But without a guarantee of internationally accepted labour standards, any potential benefits will be lost.”
Paul Slape said it was heartening to note that, in at least two Pacific nation, unions have been approached by international bodies like The World Bank and the IMF for their views on restructuring plans.
“Unions are part of the global world and have a responsibility to use their influence to ensure minimum labour standards exist so communities can benefit from globalisation rather than be undermined by it.”