Working for the future with our Runanga

Convenor of the Te Runanga o E tū, Sharryn Barton (third from left), pictured with some of the members of E tū’s Runanga. Sharryn is also part of the CTU Runanga group, which participates in the Future of Work Forum

Creating decent work and a world in which all workers are valued for their contributions is a future that Sharryn Barton would like to see.

Sharryn, the convenor of Te Runanga o E tū, and E tū co-president Muriel Tunoho are part of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) Runanga on the Government’s Future of Work Forum.

Set up in 2018, the Forum is a tripartite group made up of Government, business, and unions to plan and then create the future of work in Aotearoa. The Forum looks at how we can have a decent future in the face of climate change, globalisation, and technological advancements.

Sharryn says having Runanga from different unions in the forum is important, as it means all workers can be represented.

“When changes to the economy and employment happen, Māori workers are affected. Just like in 1991 when the Employment Contracts Act came in and led to widespread redundancies in industries like forestry and the freezing works.

“Today, many of our people work in industries like cleaning, security, and care work. But everything’s going to be digitised, so we’ll be training everyone up to work in a digital world,” she says.

“That’s ok, but we still have to have work that workers enjoy doing. And we’re still going to need jobs like cleaners and security guards.”

Some jobs aren’t seen as important, even though their value is clear, Sharryn says.

“A job is about more than pay and the role that you do. It’s about valuing the contribution that everyone makes to their community and environment – be it as a doctor, a nurse, or a cleaner.”

However, Sharryn says, jobs need to be decent jobs with room for family life, with workers able to do one job – not two or three – to make ends meet.

“I think we need to reprioritise our values and decide: what are the things that are really important to us? What do we do to build a healthy and sustainable future?

“The greatest asset is the people – you can’t make money if you haven’t got the people to produce the product.”

See the ‘Future of Work Tripartite Forum’ on for more.