Sunday, August 15, 2010

Move towards individual and local self determination, not away from it.

So who among you would disagree that Laila Harre has done a credible job with the transition of workers to the super city. I was a sceptic at the time but she appears to have done a good job of constructive engagement.
Harre, 44, was handpicked by transition agency boss Mark Ford for the role as "human resources and change manager". He knew her from his time as chief executive at Watercare, when she was on the Auckland Regional Services Trust that appointed him. Her critics will no doubt say she's getting out before the real hurt is felt - by those who have no jobs in the new council, those who have to swallow big drops in pay and conditions and those forced to travel to the other side of town to keep a job.

I saw an opportunity to practise what I preach as a unionist and that is to harness the benefits of worker participation, union protection, constructive engagements with management and implementation of change - and I think that's what we've been able to achieve."

The problem I have with the Super City setup is this. (my emphasis)
The Government is looking for efficiency gains and middle-management staff on individual contracts are the most vulnerable.
To what extent have staff on individual contracts been disadvantaged in favour of union members. Be clear that I have no problems with the efficiency gains per se. The issue is that larger organisations deal with larger organisations more readily. For the sake of stability the transition managers obviously made a deal with the PSA to preserve union jobs. So the super city dealing with the PSA and outsourcing to larger companies will leave the more entrepreneurial minded individuals on personal contracts out in the cold. Be under no illusion, this is a move towards a more corporatist society. The individual and the local community have less power, not more.

I begin to see how the UK Conservative policy of moving money and responsibility back to Councils can be used as the basis to spur a huge number of entrepreneurs to take the decision to go out on their own and set up their own business on the basis of a solid contract to supply services in a local area. A central or Super City government official with a budget of billions will want to deal with a representative of a large union or corporate. This has happened in Auckland.

The workers and managers of a large corporate are not entrepreneurs, even if they may like to think of themselves that way. Too many are process driven bureaucrats with an eye on their bonus and the next meeting rather than genuinely innovating. It is important to the distinguish between the likes of Tesco and Wal Mart who live or die by satisfying the consumer and those who grow rich on their government contacts and contracts.

The American system of local elections for judges sheriffs et al means there is strong local accountability. The more I see and think about the difference between the actions of Hide and National in Auckland and Canterbury and compare them with the actions of UK Conservatives the more I see how the New Zealand path is wrong.

No comments: