University vs school of life: Starting all over again

Last updated 09:30 23/01/2013

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I came from the era when the apprentice system was demolished under the guise of freeing up business from being constrained after hiring one and being stuck with them, then the apprentice leaving their employment as soon as they finished their training. We had enough skilled tradies not to notice and they stilled received a decent wage so they stayed around. I had dropped out of school due to being sick and was now stuck with no way to up-skill.

Then I was stung by the benefit cuts where I lost 65 per cent of my weekly rate as I was 20 and single. I was working for free to learn a trade as I couldn't get an apprenticeship. I had to give it up.

I watched as the employment contracts act came in to being and most workers rights were eroded, leaving us with the ability to 'negotiate' individual contracts, which usually went: "I have this work for you at this rate per hour." Your negotiation was to take it or leave it. Still, pay rates compared to living costs weren't bad so we all went along with it, albeit miffed as to how we could potentially be made to work a 14-hour shift without breaks and not be compensated. Still I took work so I could live, eat and survive.

As time went on, big business moved in, small local firms lost out, wage rates stagnated and we all went along with it hoping that it would leave us in a better place. Things did improve as I managed to get on some government training schemes from not having any qualifications and landed some prime contracts that paid well but were short lived. I married, had kids and built up my own business. After a time I opted to retrain at my own cost and started working. Still, base pay rates stagnated at minimum rates

But then I got sick with cancer, lost my job ($2000 - $3000 a month in the hand for 30-40 hours a week) and had to start again. Now I don't have sick leave, don't get holiday pay, work three jobs (to give us the lifestyle my kids deserve), two of which pay minimum wage. I like each job and have no ill feelings to my employers as they too are in a tight spot and I am still learning the relevant skills I need to do the jobs.

I say bring back local industry by awarding contracts to Kiwi owner-operated businesses in the area the services are required, increase the minimum wage, and increase training spending, making it compulsory for wages to be increased by the level of training, ability and experience a worker has. By putting money back in to the local industry and workers, the money gets spent in the local community and businesses and they in turn are able to flourish and put back in to their local community.

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Big business should stop using agencies to supply casual labour one day at time when you need them for a week -you'll get more out of them as they will be happy. One of the most demoralising ways to earn an income is to wait by the phone to hear if you are working and not be even able to leave to go for walk with your kids.

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