Month: November 2022

Stuff union members take strike action over pay offer

Journalists at the larger Stuff newsrooms across Aotearoa have voted to take strike action starting this week, to push for a decent pay rise in their new collective agreement.

The E tū members will take several two-hour strikes this week, including today, and members have also voted for a 24-hour stoppage at a time to be determined next week.

Stuff members have voted to reject the company’s pay offer and to continue to seek a deal that addresses cost of living increases this year. Members’ concerns centre on paying their rent, mortgages, paying their bills, and being able to afford family life.

E tū delegate and Wellington-based Stuff journalist Tom Hunt says the members don’t feel valued.

“The company’s behaviour has been an insult to the journalists it claims to be so proud of,” Tom says.

“Journalists have shared heart-breaking stories of how low pay is affecting them. We are hearing of one having to eat baked beans three nights a week and having to hold off on having children because they cannot afford it.

“Nobody got into journalism to get rich, but they expect to be able to cover the basic costs of living. Staff are leaving in huge numbers for better paying jobs. Those still here are getting increasingly angry and frustrated with a company that seems not to care.

“The increase we are asking for is only to match the cost of living increases – we will still be no better off in real terms.”

E tū organiser Michael Gilchrist says while Stuff has agreed to establish a stepped pay scale for members with annual progression through the steps, this will only be a significant improvement if cost of living increases are also addressed.

“The benefit of what we’ve negotiated so far depends on ensuring that members’ pay is not continually eroded by inflation,” he says.


For more information and comment:
Michael Gilchrist,
021 586 195

Members will take part in rallies in Auckland, Hamilton, and Wellington on Wednesday 30 November from 3-3:30pm.

Blog: Four Years is just the start if Tiwai Point closes

By Craig Renney, CTU economist

Reports prepared for Invercargill City Council don’t usually make the news. But when they attempt to understand the possible impact of the closure of Tiwai Point, heightened media interest[1] is understandable. The report[2] highlights the outsized importance of the site to the local economy and community. More than 2,000 people rely on the plant for direct employment or as part of its supply chain.

The good news according to the report is that should the plant close in 2024, it would not have the catastrophic economic impact that many might worry about. The report itself says that the jobs losses could be ‘absorbed’ within just four years. The authors in their evidence to the council reportedly suggested that it could be even quicker than that “based on the way things are at the moment it might be one to two years because things are running that hot”.

If it were that straightforward it would be a great outcome. But sadly, the closure of Tiwai Point would likely create an impact that would be felt for more than one generation. The optimistic analysis above is based on the loss of 2,264 jobs being replaced by the 620 jobs currently being created in manufacturing and construction a year in Southland. The loss of Tiwai would almost certainly reduce the number of jobs being created in the region – meaning those replacement jobs just wouldn’t be there.

The report also shows that around 97% of the jobs at Tiwai would be lost in Invercargill. Southland is a big place – so do we really think that jobs being created in Te Anau are replacements for jobs lost in Invercargill 155km away? It’s much more likely that the jobs being lost would have a devastating local effect on Invercargill, while employment created in Gore would make little if any real impact.

The report also misses one of the biggest impacts that major job loss has on local areas – which is on wages. When workers lose their jobs, the next job they get is often paid less as it is not a great match for their skills, or comparable wages aren’t available. In the economics trade, we call this ‘wage scarring’. Wages at Tiwai are high – and often much higher than that available outside. The scale of that wage scarring when 2,264 people are suddenly chasing every available job would be enormous.

Two other assumptions that drive the four-year replacement forecast are worth unpicking more. The report uses jobs being created in manufacturing and construction as substitutes for the jobs being lost at the Tiwai site. In reality, there are likely to be significant differences in the skills needed in these jobs – ‘manufacturing and construction’ is a really broad part of the economy. This means that the workers from Tiwai wouldn’t easily slot into these jobs. That is likely to slow the transition into employment for newly unemployed workers.

The second assumption inherent in that four-year projection is that the closure wouldn’t have any spillover effects on the local economy. Significant local job losses are often associated with the loss of jobs in sectors not directly associated with the industry being closed. The loss of a big factory harms local shops. On local restaurants. These second-round effects are particularly pronounced when the employment loss is geographically concentrated, which would be the case at Tiwai. It wouldn’t just be 2,264 local jobs being lost – it would be many many more.

This isn’t to criticise the authors of the report – it’s just that way too much weight is being put on analysis that isn’t designed for that purpose. What we shouldn’t do is relax. Whether Tiwai Point stays or goes, there is much work to be done to make sure that Invercargill and the Southland economy have a positive future.

We should use the time that Tiwai is still here to build the high-wage, high-skill economy needed outside of the smelter. The more high-quality jobs that are here, the lower the impact of closure would be. We should be getting alongside the workforce and unions at Tiwai, ensuring that workers have the skills that will be needed whenever the site closes. We should be ensuring that the site is cleaned for future use, using a local workforce. That would be truly delivering a ‘just transition’ for that community.    

Much of that work is going on right now. Everyone from the Southland Just Transitions Project, Murihiku Regeneration, to Ngāi Tahu is working together to tackle the issues of when Tiwai Point finally closes. But instead of thinking that this is a problem that can be solved between Rugby World Cups, we should instead be delivering a productive, sustainable, and inclusive economic plan for Tiwai for the next thirty years.