Decent Work in infrastructure
When the COVID-19 crisis hit New Zealand, infrastructure once again showed itself to be the backbone of our society. Telecommunications – from power generation to lines networks – continued to power the nation during lockdown. Children could learn online, families stayed in touch, some worked from home – all connected through this crucial infrastructure.
We could physically distance and avoid panic when essential services like food, packaging and other essential goods continued to be produced, packaged, and delivered to us at home.
Yet key companies in New Zealand’s infrastructure system are considering cutting jobs or contracting this work out, just when we need to ramp up projects to achieve Decent Work.
This isn’t just because of the COVID-19 crisis. Infrastructure and manufacturing are often hardest hit with restructuring and redundancies, meaning decent jobs disappear and our working communities are faced with uncertainty.
What we need right now is a just recovery, which is inclusive and creates decent jobs in our communities.
Workers in infrastructure, including extractives and engineering, will organise and campaign together across E tū and in their communities to achieve Decent Work post-COVID-19.
What we need to achieve Decent Work for Infrastructure
Infrastructure workers involved in planning for all transitions in their industry
Transitions as a reaction to COVID-19, or to other environmental or economic shocks, will continue. We need workers’ voices at the table now to design and contribute to change that includes plans for cleaner, safer processes, and for infrastructure that contributes to a better society. Worker engagement is fundamental to ensure justice in transitions.
Government investment in infrastructure
Funding for infrastructure is key to ensure workers have job security beyond ‘shovel ready’ projects. Strong social procurement practices are a great tool to ensure companies that receive taxpayer funding, do the right thing by their workforce and their communities. The Government must ensure companies are obliged to provide meaningful work and decent jobs, with worker-designed Just Transition agreements to ensure income security.
Training and development for infrastructure workers
We need funded training for infrastructure workers. We need portable, flexible, nationally recognised qualifications that will enable workers to apply old skills in new ways, to learn new skills, and to be recognised for the contribution their skills bring to the workplace and to society. To achieve this, workers need funding to enable their involvement, through their union, in Workforce Development Councils and Regional Skills Leadership Groups.
Excellent health and safety conditions on the job
Community health and wellbeing in infrastructure means excellent workplace health and safety: trained, democratically elected worker health and safety representatives, the right processes co-designed by the workforce on the ground, and the right equipment. Truly decent workplace culture means workers are involved in solving health and safety issues, as well as learn and develop processes for the safety of all workers. All workers deserve to go home to their families safe and healthy. Now is the time to engage on what respectful practices should be, so we are ready for the next disruption.
Stand up with the manufacturing industry
The links between infrastructure and manufacturing are crucial. Any uncertainty for our members in manufacturing leads to uncertainty for infrastructure. We must jointly ensure our New Zealand manufacturing industries thrive in the post-COVID-19 economy so we have the materials to achieve Decent Work together.
Workers’ wages leading the recovery
Union members in infrastructure can work together tosecure good wages, decent jobs and to end inequality. We need a strong and growing union in infrastructure with industry agreements and support for a Living Wage for all workers, so that working conditions and standards are maintained across manufacturing.