WINZ: Poverty and Pep Talks

Yesterday I attended a ‘work for you seminar’ at the WINZ office on Queen Street, central Auckland. After the usual waiting around for 30 mins we went into the work seminar room. To my horror I look up and see an supposedly inspirational quote from Margret Thatcher on the wall…

“I do not know any one who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near.”

The gall, the hypocracy, the sheer arrogance of it all. Thatcher, the woman whose policies deliberately fostered mass unemployment in Britain, and whose government ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands, being used as part of a pep talk to convince us unemployment was somehow our fault.

To suggest that us in the room hadn’t worked hard enough already! To imply that it was our fault we had no work, we hadn’t worked hard enough. To suggest this from a quote of the British Prime Minister who was responsible for dramatically increased unemployment, smashing unions and decreasing wages. This idea that hard work gets you to the top is one that once again transfers blame onto individuals where the problem truly lies at the core of capitalism, the never ending drive to increase profits. The idea is one which is used by the Work and Income offices to push us into low paying work dead-end work. Work hard enough at a minimum wage job and somehow you will get “pretty near” the top? Poverty wages and long hours are there to keep us at the bottom.

I heard a job that pays $18 an hour for 4am starts 30km out of the centre city described as a ‘really great opportunity’. That’s not even a living wage.

Then my thoughts led to the Queen, that woman who started from such awful circumstances and clawed her way up to the top through sheer hard work. What a joke! Most of those ‘at the top’ were born with golden spoons in their mouths. They began in this supposed race with a massive head-start.

Thatcher’s presence in the WINZ office tells us plenty about their politics and priorities.

Unemployment sits around 6% in New Zealand. Over 100 000 lives blighted by poverty and joblessness. Some jobs have hundreds of people apply for just a few positions going. Something is very wrong in New Zealand – and it is not in the attitudes of those made jobless. Give me a break WINZ!