Sunday, July 31, 2011

Productivity vs Morality

If I hear one more politician harp on about productivity I'm gonna have to poke their eyes out.

Productivity has become the new catch phrase for anyone wanting to talk economics and it seems that you just can't be taken seriously unless you mention productivity.

The problem seemed to start when National and Act started the '2025 Taskforce' whose aim is to show how we can close the wage gap with Australia by increasing productivity. That's right, not by increasing wages, but by increasing productivity. There is another name for this - Magic.

'Watch as wages increase by the shake of my wand'

Foolishly the opposition parties drew themselves in to the debate to the point where they had to mention productivity increases anytime they mentioned any other means of raising wages - like raising wages for instance. Both the Greens and Labour are guilty of being suckered in to the great productivity debate. Even the Council of Trade Unions is guilty of pandering to the 'productivity' brigade, stating that we need to "lift productivity and ensure the benefits flow on to both jobs and incomes". All this leads to ridiculous situations like Phil Goff stating in a speech "I note the facts on productivity that the CTU has published. These show that since 1980, labour productivity in New Zealand grew by 82 percent. But average ordinary time real wages in that period have grown by only 18%". His solution - increase productivity! Of course only "while making sure working people enjoy a fair share for their labour".

But this is the problem. All this talk of productivity is just a smokescreen to not have to talk about the real issue - low wages. The real reason that we now have a wage gap with Australia is because our unions were essentially destroyed during the 80's and 90's and our Award system, which set minimum pay and employment conditions for each industry, was removed. This did not happen in Australia. As clearly noted above, wages have not increased at the same rate as productivity. Not only that but our productivity over the same period was higher than Australia's. We are now in a situation where people are working harder for longer hours, just to try and get by. Meanwhile large companies are making increased profits every year, by increasing productivity, but not increasing wages. There is also another name for this - robbery.

The new CEO wasn't one for subtlety

The reason all this talk about increasing productivity bothers me so much is that I see the effects of 'increased productivity' every day. I've seen Bank workers break down in tears because they are working under such pressure, meanwhile the Banks are making staff redundant and making record profits. I've seen Hotel cleaners working three jobs just to feed their families. This is the human face of 'increasing productivity'.

Somehow morality and ethics just don't seem to matter when it comes to business. It's as if they are not compatible. What we need is a good dose of 'shock therapy' to set things right.

So here's my solution. Along with GDP we should also record GDM - 'Gross Domestic Morality'. This will be a measurement of all businesses in NZ and whether they are acting morally. Companies would be marked down for the following types of things: Not increasing employees wages to at least match inflation; making staff redundant while being profitable; seeking to remove current terms and conditions of employees etc etc. Each business would be given a positive or negative score and then all the scores compiled in to one. If the overall score is positive, then we can talk further about whether or not there is any room to increase productivity. However if the score is negative, then everyone is banned from using the words 'increase' and 'productivity' in the same sentence. In fact, an automatic go slow will be put in place in every workplace until the GDM returns to positive. Let's see how quickly we close the wage gap with Australia then.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Rich Men Don't Rape

Media outlets around the world are now gleefully reporting that the rape case against Dominic Strauss-Kahn (affectionately referred to as DSK by the media) is falling apart. Not due to a lack of evidence; not due to the Hotel Maid pulling out of the case; not due to any valid reason actually. No, the case is falling apart because Strauss-Kahn is rich and powerful and the Maid is not.

And the media goes along for the ride. Wouldn't it be nice if journalists for the corporate owned media had some integrity. Wouldn't it be nice to open a paper and read an article that went something like this:

"The rape case against Dominic Strauss Kahn is in danger of falling apart as Strauss-Kahn mounts a multi million dollar campaign to try and discredit his accuser.
Although the evidence clearly points to sexual assault: A distraught woman, a man with a history of sexual violence, injuries to the vagina of the victim, semen linked to the accused; Strauss-Kahn's crack legal team and a troop of private investigator's, including ex-CIA agents, will be trying to prove that the Maid, while working under the intense time pressure's and scrutiny that Hotel cleaner's work under, decided to stop work for a while to have violent consensual sex with a lecherous old man.

They will try and pull off this mammoth task by doing the only thing one can do when rich and powerful and accused of rape and all the evidence points to your guilt: They will buy their way out. Millions of dollars is being spent trying to discredit the victim and intimidate the prosecution in to dropping the case. Unfortunately for the defence team they can't find any holes in the actual rape case. That's because Strauss-Kahn is most likely guilty. Instead they are having to resort to trying to destroy the Maid's reputation by showing a dishonest past. So far the best they can do is show that she knows someone in jail, and didn't tell the whole truth on her asylum application when entering the US. As time goes by the stories will get more extreme though and it's already been enough though for the prosecution to get nervous. They don't have millions of dollars to spend proving the case and it won't take much for the case to get pulled."

The message to women is clear. Rich men don't rape. Sure they might force a woman to have sex against her will, but a few million dollars later the word 'force' will read 'entice' and the words 'against her will' will read 'consensually'. It's all semantics when you have enough money and power.