New Zealand Nurses Organisation

Can We Afford to Pay Teachers and Nurses?

Can We Afford to Pay Teachers and Nurses?

This year has seen a remarkable upsurge in workers’ struggle.  Union members, largely but not exclusively in the public service, are demonstrating loud and clear that they are sick and tired of decades of low wages and precarious conditions, especially with the cost of housing so toweringly high these days.  The level of inequality between ordinary workers and our bosses and landlords has become utterly unsustainable — tens of thousands of people are not prepared to tolerate this anymore.

We have heard, more and more as these workplace disputes have escalated, cries from the government that the pay claims workers — especially primary teachers and nurses — are making are impossible to pay for.  This is not true. The much deserved pay rises demanded by teachers, nurses, and other public sector workers could be paid for, with billions of dollars still to spare, through:

  • Spending just a portion of the $5.5 billion surplus the government recorded in October, which was the biggest surplus since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008; 
  • Taxing the super-rich even slightly — the top 10% of New Zealanders own 60% of the country’s wealth, and would still be filthy rich, even if they were made to pay significantly.

So why is this government, supposedly elected to serve working people, pretending they can’t afford to give teachers and nurses a raise?  Why aren’t they injecting urgently needed money into schools and hospitals put under such strain by years of underfunding?

The answer is that the Labour Party either do not want to or are not brave enough to challenge our rigged economic system.  Keeping public spending low means taxes can stay low, and privatised utilities can outperform cash-starved public providers, benefiting the wealthier classes.  The government are not willing or able to take on these vested interests.

The only way to challenge this system is for working people to come together and build a movement so strong that the power of the bosses, the landlords and the government cannot stop us.  The early stages of this are already happening, with the biggest strikes in decades giving new hope and energy to so many. But we must go further. We must connect currently disparate struggles, and come together to demand higher wages, better conditions, properly funded public services, and cheaper housing.  We need a movement which instead of asking politely for concessions, demands that we put people before profit; that we build a society for the many, not the few.



This article has been republished. You can read the original here.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist.

11 November, 2018

Posted by Elliot Crossan in New Zealand Labour Party, New Zealand politics, 0 comments