Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Assn. Volume 40 Number 2. Feb 7 1977
Stop Press — Workers Still Suffer
Workers Still Suffer
For students the most striking aspect of the 6% general wage order announced last week was that it was made too late to be added to their holiday earnings. The new tribunal would not backdate its application either.
But the 6% order will be of little more use to most workers. It has come after many months of delay and rising prices and does not even go halfway to compensate for the loss in earning power suffered by workers in the current economic recession. It is yet another indication of the government's and monopoly's intention to make workers pay for the recession.
In making the order the new Wage Hearing Tribunal made this policy clear. It raised wages a token amount in order to stifle the massive strike struggle that has arisen in opposition to the continuing drop in people's standard of living. But it made it as low as possible in order to improve the profitability of big business.
"Increased labour costs reduce the profitability and competitiveness of export industries, and higher wage increases may cause a diversion of production from foreign to domestic markets." This reasoning of the Tribunal shows that it expects workers to bear the brunt of the struggle against New Zealand's deteriorating balance of payments. But workers have not created this problem.
New Zealand's economy has been developed as an appendage to those of the major western powers. First Great Britain and now increasingly the United States through their domination of our economy and international trade have made the crucial decisions on our economic development. As a result our economy is forced to take its share of the current world recession. In fact, throught various machinations, the US and the other major powers have shifted some of their problems onto our backs. In particular export markets are being closed to New Zealand goods.
Foreign control means that we have not been able to develop a self-reliant economy. It means that now we have entered an economic crisis mainly through no fault of our own. That crisis has been shifted straight from the major western capitalist powers onto our local capitalists and through them onto the real sufferers — the New Zealand people.
There is no reason why we should suffer from a crisis we have not caused which has arisen from an economic system that we have no control of.
Recent surveys have shown that genuine poverty and its related ills such as malnutrition are sharply increasing. All of us are suffering from escalating prices — even the Cafe is a victim of this.
It is clear that the policy of a 'necessary drop in the standard living' is creating much hardship. Yet this policy drafted by the Muldoon government and representing the interests of the big monopolies which dominate our economy never questions why people should suffer to preserve a system based of private profit.
Crises such as the present one are inevitable under capitalism. A wage cut now to preserve the system will not stop further recessions. New Zealand history shows this is the case.
The trade union movement has already made its answer clear. It is struggling for the rights of its members to live in decent conditions and with dignity. It is opposing the government's attempts to tread in their faces in order to preserve the 'rate of profit'. Both students and workers need to continue this struggle. 'We need more money — make the rich pay!'