Overwhelming Support For Community Wage

  • Peter McCardle

Employment Minister Peter McCardle said today he is surprised that the Auckland District Council of Social Services at this stage appears not to support the Government's strategy in getting jobseekers active. He said "It has misunderstood the detail and intent of the changes I am making, but that is in contrast to the support the policy has gained nationwide.

"Fundamentally, there is simply no point in having people between jobs sitting at home doing nothing. I believe there will be enormous benefits in having them take part in constructive and positive activities.

"After the Community Wage is introduced on October 1, no one will be forced to take up work, to train, or to take part in an organised activity if that activity is unsuitable, or if there are reasonable impediments, such as child care obligations," Mr McCardle said.

"The Government is laying the groundwork for job creation by businesses through its economic policies, but it also wishes to help jobseekers use their time between jobs as productively as possible.

"The Community Wage projects will upskill people, and give them essential skills to prepare for future paid work. No one will be allowed to use jobseekers on the Community Wage, nor to take over paid work, or displace paid workers.

"Although I plan to get as many people as possible at any one time into some kind of work or other activity, that will only happen so if something suitable is available locally.

"And work will only be one option under the Community Wage. The other alternatives are training, or organised activity which will benefit jobseekers. Contrary to what the Council appears to believe, the Government intends to put jobseekers into genuine training and work experience opportunities during which they will maintain or improve their current skill levels. The Community Wage encompasses good quality training, including TOPS courses, which have proved their worth over many years.

"Often what prevents an individual getting work is a lack of basic and useful skills which large numbers of jobseekers lack, such as knowing the most successful techniques of looking for work, how to make the best impression in interviews, or how to write a CV. Learning those skills will be among the activities that jobseekers may be required to take part in, and it may be for only a small numbers of hours.

Mr McCardle said anyone taking part in work will be covered by health and safety protection.

The Council objects to the sanctions which are are part of Community Work projects, but the Minister said they are not new. "Sanctions have been part of earlier work schemes including Community Taskforce. And of course sanctions exist for paid workers also. Anyone who does not turn up for work as required will face repercussions.

"Sanctions will only be used where there is clear refusal to take part in what is considered to be a suitable and acceptable activity, and which will benefit them improving their work and/or personal skills.

"I have travelled extensively around the country talking to community leaders and found overwhelming and enthusiastic support for the Community Wage. Just this week the mayor and senior managers of Manukau City Council gave their personal support, and told me how much they it will contribute to their region.

"An increasing number of schools and organisations across New Zealand are benefiting from our jobseekers doing community work. Community Taskforce numbers have increased at any one time by around 200 per cent in the last year, and those numbers are expecting to continue to grow rapidly into next year", Mr McCardle said.