Should New Zealand Adopt Saudi Arabia-Style Imported Slave Labour?

New Zealand employers might as well admit it – if they don’t want to pay a living wage, they can just as well go back to importing slaves

Today’s most shameless example of corporate propaganda masquerading as journalism comes, as it often does, from Stuff. The article discusses the subject of whether New Zealand’s welfare system is too generous and whether this is responsible for the difficulty that employers are currently having retaining staff.

What distinguishes the corporate whores like Susan Edmunds – who write pieces like this – from people who used to practice what was known as journalism is that, here, no effort is made to provide any kind of balance to the piece.

The only people quoted in the piece are business owners and right-wing thinkers, such as the Chief Executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association. Nowhere are any worker’s representatives or even any workers given a voice.

The obvious rebuttal to the slant of this piece is to point out that the free market dictates that if you can’t get workers then you have to pay better wages, so that employers are themselves to blame if no-one wants to work for them.

In 2001, I worked at a variety of bars and cafes in Christchurch to save money for a move to Northern Europe. At the time I was generally paid $8 an hour, as that was the minimum wage at the time.

Later that year I was working in Sweden, where they paid me $22 an hour for equally unskilled work and apologised for it being such a low wage.

When I was in Northern Europe, I was surprised to learn that they do not have minimum wage legislation. They were surprised to hear me tell that such an implicit deal is not universal.

My stories about being paid barely enough after tax to buy a Big Mac after an hour’s work were met with surprise – after all, isn’t New Zealand supposed to be a wealthy country?

The reason for this is cultural: it’s not culturally permissible in Northern Europe to employ a person to work full-time for you and then to not pay them enough money to live on.

Kiwis don’t afford each other the same degree of respect. Ultimately, the reason why there has to be minimum wage laws in New Zealand is that in our culture it’s not considered immoral to pay someone less than they can live on for their full-time labour.

This is even though such an arrangement is the norm in societies where the interactions between employer and employee are between free men. New Zealand has been influenced by the master-slave employment relationship that characterises the New World of which we are a part. We have been influenced by America, Australia and Brazil.

The reason why Bill English lies about how all Kiwis are on drugs is so that his owners in the National Party membership can import third world workers on temporary visas to work for wages that Kiwis know too well are unfair.

In terms of profitability, there’s not that much of a difference between a slave who can be beaten at a whim without consequence and a worker on a temporary visa who can also be abused without consequence because if they complain about it they will get sent home. Because the former is illegal in New Zealand our employer class has to settle for the latter.

All of this raises a question.

In Saudi Arabia they have solved this problem by importing a slave class (that now outnumber the native Saudis by over two to one, just like in ancient Rome). It’s easy to get into Saudi Arabia as a worker from Pakistan, Bangladesh or the Philippines – it’s just that you have no rights and can be disposed of at any time.

A similar arrangement would suit the mentality of New Zealand employers down to the ground. After all, if you don’t want to pay your workers enough so that they can eat and send their kids to school with shoes on, why not just import slaves?

Perhaps all Kiwis can agree that, if our economy won’t work without a steady supply of fuel in the form of cheap temporary workers who get disposed of as soon as they get sick or complain, it’s best that we use foreigners for the purpose?

Making slavery legal again in New Zealand would also make it possible for the New Zealand middle class to have domestic servants, which is, after all, the fantasy of every National voter.

1 thought on “Should New Zealand Adopt Saudi Arabia-Style Imported Slave Labour?”

  1. We already have a Saudi style slave class. They’re the backpackers and temporary migrants coming under the RSE scheme.

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