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Working people fear for their future and New Zealand’s

Mood of the workforce survey 2024

The sixth annual CTU Mood of the Workforce survey shows working people are very worried about their incomes and rights under the new Government and fear the country becoming more economically and racially divided.

Figures from the survey, which gathered 2000 responses in less than a week, show that more than two-thirds of working people feel that new Government’s policies will make it harder to meet cost of living pressures. More than three quarters of respondents believe that the new Government’s policies will make it harder to secure a fair pay rise.
Many respondents voiced concerns that the current government does not represent their interests with some respondents raising fears that economic and racial division will increase as a consequence.
CTU President Richard Wagstaff says the results show working people are feeling insecure at work. “The feedback from this year’s survey is that many people are worried about the future of their jobs and well-being of their families.
“It’s clear the rushed and backwards looking repeal of employment legislation passed without consultation has signalled to working people that the Government does not care about their interests or the interests of most New Zealanders.
“These concerns are held across all age and gender cohorts in the results and are consistent across union members and non-union members.
“Both the survey responses and the comments indicate that many people feel they have fallen behind in the past year and that they expect this to get worse.
“Reading through the hundreds of comments it’s clear that people want real change in New Zealand’s political and economic direction toward increased fairness and investment in people and their futures. That’s something all parties, in government and opposition, need to listen to.”
The results of the survey are available here

The following is a selection of representative comments from the survey
Q: Do you have any further comments about the last 12 months of your work life?

  • work don’t even come out with enough money to relax always stress about work money cost of living is just ridiculous
  • Working harder and still struggling to meet every day basic costs.
  • We were lucky to have a significant pay rise a few months ago. If we hadn’t we’d have fallen well behind cost of living
  • The sheer amount of extra work with no possibility of paid overtime means I, and many colleagues, do free overtime because we care about our customers so much and don’t want to fail them-meanwhile no extra staff are hired in the areas that need the help. More recently, management ‘bullying’ and veiled threats to job security.
  • The repeal of Fair Pay Agreement legislation by the new government is a major blow to worker rights and fair pay. The living wage should be extended to all workers in the cleaning industry.
  • The last 12 months doesn’t cover the lasting effects of covid on my workplace. It has been 4 years. I am a cleaner in a hospital and when covid happened, the workload increased, the support decreased (our managers discovered they could give extra work to us over email), and despite our company earning billion dollar profits from their sites all over the world, we are still under-resourced.
  • The failure of getting pay equity resolved has meant no security with wage increases in my employment
  • The change in gvt has made the most difference . Felt like good faith bargaining and respect has gone no impartial gvt. Now its going through the motions. Don’t speak up to landlords ,bosses because unsure of outcome.
  • So much uncertainty, especially working for government. It has been super stressful
  • Our standard of living has definitely declined over time. We are now all working longer hours at the minimum pay rate as a flat rate. Every employer stresses a desire to improve health and safety and work conditions, but generally it is only a token nod and profit margins are paramount in employers consideration. As a result more and more employers are using backpackers and R.S.E. workers to the disadvantage of local people. Shops are closing their doors because local people have to cut back on spending thus on a wider scale our national economy is on a downward spiral.
  • Just a lot of uncertainty
  • Inflation has eaten away at any surplus income i used to have. We are a 2 income family and now we struggle. So unfair that we are left to fend for ourselves with the government taking more and more away rather than supporting / assisting us.
  • Job insecurity is always undermining satisfaction
  • Job insecurity has significantly increased and with it has come reduced opportunities to undertake certain work-related activities that strengthen my work, e.g. able to attend professional development opportunities. This is due to rising costs and increased debt for my organisation.
  • I work in mental health. I am concerned at the level of burnout I see in those around me, the growing number of vacancies that cannot be filled, the negative impacts this is having on those of us who are left and what all of this means for New Zealanders generally, given our country’s mental health crisis is steadily increasing
  • I am past retirement age and finding keeping up with work expectations is becoming harder. I would like to retire but cannot afford to do so, and I am not sure whether I will ever be in a position to retire.
  • Only pay rise is when minimum wage goes up
  • A recently negotiated collective agreement has led to a slowing of the erosion of our pay and conditions however our pay is still going backwards in real terms
  • I work in Australia under a collective agreement
    It’s not perfect and has been degraded over the last 5 years
    But still miles ahead of what we see in NZ
  • I think I’m doing better than a lot of people, even though things aren’t great for me. I’m really frightened about the changes that are happening, they are actively disempowering me and driving us back into low wage economy status, undoing all the steps that were being taken towards trying to encourage employers to invest to improve our productivity. It’s so discouraging.

Q: Do you have any further comments about the impact the new Government will have on work issues?

  • While it is still early days for this government, it appears that all the power has been given to the employer. The 90 day trial period supports those employers that have weak employment processes in place. It is like if they don’t know the calibre of the prospective new employee, then why hire in the first place.
  • I wish they would focus less on culture wars and more on equity across the board. E.g. the research on UBI has been clear for years. Comments like “bottom-feeders” worry me hugely; there’s no compassion or empathy for anyone less fortunate.
  • It feels like they are old school and not Interested in future proofing Aotearoa for the future generations!
  • I feel that ACT and NZF are playing a race card and pandering to a racist right ring and Christopher Luxon lacks the backbone to bite back
  • I am horrified at the changes they’ve made under urgency for the first 100 days. Abolishing fair pay agreements indicates they don’t care about workers, they’re trying to start a race war with their te Tiriti changes and I’m appalled at their racism. Tax cuts funded with smoking law repeals, are horrifying and will cost a lot of New Zealanders a lot of life, money and health in the long run.
  • We were all lied to regarding tax cuts. They are only going to landlords. Also axing smoke free legislation and opening up fossil fuel drilling shows that the Govt is bereft of principles and essentially corrupt
  • Yet again this government is so out of touch with working people
  • I think they don’t really care about low to middle income earners
  • Repeal of fair pay agreements is a horrible step backwards. It allows the most vulnerable workers to be exploited by bad faith employers.
  • Still waiting for the policies being rushed through parliament which will actually put more money in people’s back pockets.
  • They seem to be undoing a lot of the progress made over the last few years, in regard to worker’s rights and the environment.
  • To be fair it is early days, but it’s hard to see how the government’s proposals will actually help with the cost of living or improve the quality of life for regular New Zealanders. The culture war type rhetoric against Māori, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the LGBT community seem to be a distraction from this government’s lack of helpful policies for regular New Zealanders.
  • This is not the government for Aotearoa. It is a government for big business and corporations.
  • This Government, in a very short time, has proven to be the most divisive elected in New Zealand history. I fear for our nation’s future social cohesion and economic wellbeing.
  • They all used smoke and mirrors to cover their true agenda during election campaigning. They all pretended to be there for Joe Average, so far nothing in their 100 day plan is there to help Joe Average. The first 100 days goes to the already wealthy, or to undo years of progress.
  • Overall the new government has been unable to give many concrete answers as to their plans and the motivation behind them as well seemingly only enacting changes that will lead to worse outcomes for those less privileged and better outcomes for those already more privileged
  • It seems the coalition has delivered the worst of all 3 parties’ policies. There does not appear to be any “moderating” influence from NZFirst. Feels like we’re heading back to the dark ages where the privileged continue to reap benefits and unique place and contribution of tangata whenua is ignored or abused. So very sad.
  • I am worried for people already struggling in our community and fear it will only get worst under this government
  • A lot of short sighted decisions which will increase current cost of living crisis, not solve anything for ordinary New Zealanders
  • I am extremely concerned about the changes they are making to workers’ rights, and also about their highly racist policies that are sending us so far backwards in terms of the progress we have made in recent years. 

Commentary and notes on methodology
The sixth annual mood of the workforce survey was conducted between 3 January and 10 January, 2024 and had 1,990 recipients.
The survey is based on people who respond to an email to a random selection of 50,000 people from the CTU’s Together email list. This is a database of people we have had contact with over the last seven years via petitions, parliamentary submission calls, community events, and fundraising for community causes. They have given previous permission to be contacted by the CTU.
Reports from previous year’s surveys are available below: