FIRST Union Budget 2020 comments from Dennis Maga, General Secretary
"Today’s ‘Workers Budget’, set against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, has succeeded in its immediate aims of supporting businesses and New Zealand workers who are facing the greatest uncertainty of their lifetimes."
"An extension to the wage subsidy scheme was crucial and will help to support many of the small and medium businesses that may struggle to get back on their feet over the coming months."
"We welcome the significant investments in housing, training and redeployment for New Zealanders, and are pleased that the Government has both eyes on the recovery of our workforce."
"We would have liked to see more explicit support for vulnerable workers who can’t necessarily return to work at present and aren’t always being supported by their employers to stay home and protect themselves and their families."
"But it is unfortunately clear that the Government is turning its back on more than 300,000 migrant workers in New Zealand by refusing to activate Section 64 of the Social Security Act and extend welfare benefits to those families when they are part of a developing humanitarian crisis."
"It is also clear, given the Deputy Prime Minister’s regrettable and xenophobic comments earlier this week that migrant workers should "go home", that New Zealand First is the handbrake on a progressive Government and a progressive Budget in 2020 that truly provides for those most in need."
"Many migrant workers are home in New Zealand; they have been here decades and contributed billions to our economy. They call New Zealand home. Eighty thousand migrant workers, at least, will renew their visas this year."
"Mr Peters and his allies and donors in the business community have relished relatively cheap, highly-skilled migrant labour, and it has helped to build their multi-million dollar businesses. They are now casting them aside."
"Now that those families are being told to apply for emergency Civil Defence support - a few cans of food and the promise of accommodation that is reportedly yet to materialise in many cases - and a major coalition partner in our Government appears to be blocking emergency support for those who were in work before the pandemic."
"These people cannot "go home", despite the fact that it is election year for New Zealand First, and so they need our support and compassion. The fact that Mr Peters could bail out the racing industry this week to the tune of over $70m while his party rejects support for migrant workers in this Budget is particularly galling."
"For nation-building projects on the scale required to pull New Zealand’s economy back from the brink, highly-skilled migrant workers in the construction industry will be crucial."
"For our health system to be resilient and ready for potential future clusters of Covid-19, we need a qualified medical workforce that New Zealand graduates alone simply cannot provide - our health system would not be up to this challenge without our migrant workers, and it never has."
"And agriculture - a key pillar in our economy - relies heavily on migrant workers, who will be an integral part of the rebuilding process."
"This Budget could not have answered every question or anticipated every future problem that will be caused by the pandemic, but it has unfortunately overlooked a looming crisis. The Prime Minister must justify refusing to activate a clause in legislation that was explicitly designed for this kind of situation."
"If New Zealand First is the reason for this, she should say so."
"FIRST Union’s overriding concern is that important and urgent legislation such as Fair Pay Agreements also appear to be being held up by a minor Government coalition partner. More than ever, it would make sense to be planning for sector-level agreements for workforces like supermarket staff, bus drivers and cleaners."
"They deserve universal protections as essential workers, and they are entitled to consistent and fair wages across their sectors that will truly reward them for putting themselves at risk during this pandemic."
"More than ever, it is the time to be thinking big - about reinvestment in our major infrastructure, nationalisation of key public services, the end of poorly-planned PPPs that have never returned the value they promised and have, overall, diminished the working conditions of New Zealanders."
"And that kind of thinking will require bravery and compassion. It remains to be seen how much of that exists outside of the media conferences and around the Cabinet table."