Jobs policy to be announced at Labour conference

  • 06/11/2016

Labour leader Andrew Little is expected to announce a new policy on jobs as he ends the party's annual conference.

The leader's speech is set to be the highlight for hundreds of delegates who gathered in Auckland for the three-day event.

Employment has been a major focus throughout, with the launch of the party's Future of Work Commission report on Saturday providing more than 60 policy recommendations.

Among them was a proposal to provide six weeks' free training to employees made redundant by technological advances and automation, and a levy on businesses who turn to overseas skilled workers to resolve shortages rather than training people in New Zealanders to do the work.

It's not clear whether Mr Little's policy announcement will adopt one of the recommendations.

Finance spokesman Grant Robertson indicated proposals around education and training would likely take priority.

"We think the initiatives in the education and training area are very, very important because they are the ones that we can do now to help prepare for the future," he said.

However BusinessNZ says Labour's proposal to tax employers would be a blunt instrument that would not fix the problem of skills shortages.

"The underlying problem is that many employers can't get New Zealand staff, whether skilled or unskilled - and if they can't get them, they can't train them," says chief executive Kirk Hope.

He says the proposal raises the issue of whether small businesses have the capacity to deliver training.

A subsidy for businesses to build capacity for training might be more practical.

"New Zealand businesses are practically all small businesses and they are not set up to be training establishments," he said.

Business appreciates that a large number of young people are not in employment, education or training.

"However, taxing small businesses because they can't find New Zealand staff does not help this and other issues involved in the complex area of skill shortages," he said.