MoBIE a costly experiment at workers’ expense
Darien Fenton | Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 12:59
The subsuming of the Department of Labour (including Immigration NZ) into the mega ministry, MoBIE, is a costly experiment that will come at the expense of a focus on workers’ issues, says Darien Fenton.
“In the last year, nearly $3 million was spent on redundancy costs alone in the Department, adding to the nearly $4 million cost on redundancies in the previous two years.
A further $250,000 was spent on consultants and contractors to advise the Department of Labour on the merger. This is in top of the $10.5 million spent on contractors in the 2011/12 year - an increase of $4.7 million in just one year.
“If we could be confident about real improvements, it might be one thing, but the Labour Department is a rump of its former self in this new “business facing Ministry”.
“What used to be a dedicated department responsible for promoting productive employment relationships, enforcing workers’ employment conditions and rights, parental leave, minimum wages and wider labour market issues is now part of a group called “Labour and Commercial Environment” which also includes a focus on consumer, trade and international issues.
“What's worse is the restructuring is far from over. The health and safety regulator will be moved into a separate agency as recommended by the Pike River Mine Commission and that is an essential move. But it should have been obvious to the Government some time ago that the barely visible health and safety function in MoBIE would have to be changed.
“It will only be a matter of time until the labour function is restructured again, because enforcement of labour standards is bound to be weakened inside the a bureaucracy the size of MoBIE.
“We’ve seen enough of exploitation with foreign fishing crew and migrant workers. Many other labour rights abuses go unchecked by immigration as well, and monitoring and enforcement seems to be on the wane.
“This is an expensive change that will be paid for in a lack of independent and expert advice to workers and employers in the labour market,” says Darien Fenton.