Salient. Newspaper of the Victoria University Students' Association. Vol 42 No. 8. April 23 1979
Nothing like acquiring a TV to make you appreciate what's going on in the country. As I sat watching Days of Our Lives last week, the soul searing torment of the dialogue was interrupted by a commercial break. In the commercials, sandwiched between Mac-leans flouride and Signal's strips of flouride, a fresh-faced young woman, explained that the solution to New Zealand's economic problems was "we must export more". Workers were told to do their job "once and do it well" and "if this sounds tough - it is".
While the solution "increase exports" is hardly an original, or particularly contentious solution to our balance of payments deficit, the thrust of the advertising is interesting. It is the workers who are asked to get in behind this great drive. Presumably what is being asked of them is that they increase their productivity.
When workers increase their productivity, one of two thing happens. What usually happens, unless the company is vigorously expanding, as few are at present, is that the size of the labour force is reduced and layoffs occur. Here increased productivity is at the expense of unemployment and at the same time allows the owners to reap the benefits of increased productivity as the wages bill drops but the production level remains constant.
If the extra products are able to be sold, which is implicit in the advertisement, who derives the benefit? Again it is the owners who benefit. This time the wages bill is static, but sales increase.
In either situation, it is easy to see who really benefits from workers doing it once and doing it will - not the workers, not even New Zealanders generally, but rather that small group which own the businesses.
The workers are encouraged to believe that to increase their productivity is to benefit their country. The harsh reality is that they increase their productivity from fear of losing their jobs.
This is not to deny that, if exports were increased, eventually New Zealand as a whole would benefit, as we would be able to pay for our imports. But the route proposed is one which will firstly line the pockets of the capitalists and only secondarily solve some of New Zealand economic problems.
Yet it is easy to see why this route is proposed. In a capitalist country, the Government is limited in the measures it can adopt to stimulate the economy. Invariably this necessitates putting more money in the hands of the capitalists, so they can invest more and the money / investment cycle can proceed with more vigour. Clearly this is a subsidiary effect of these suggestions.
There is another aspect to the question as well. Even when times are good the people who really benefit are the bosses. To be sure in these times workers do not face rampant unemployment, the removal of the subsidies on essential items, loss of [unclear: overti] that is also often essential and they see their wages keep more regular pace with inflation - they are better off than in bad times. Nevertheless the big profits, the real money, goes to the capitalists.
But in bad times, is it the capitalists, who live on the fat of the land in good times, who suffer? No! When times get bad we are told that the only way to make them better is to ensure that the capitalists continue to make money. The way they make these "necessary" profits is by exploiting the workers even harder.
This exploitation, which has continued right through the economic crisis, has taken the form of constantly reducing the value of the workers' wages, and making layoffs and other hardships so common-place they hardly seen newsworthy. Now to cap it all off, workers are being asked to encourage this process. Where once they were raped, workers are now being asked to open their legs and lift their dresses up to make it ea-sir and then say thank you when it's over.